Recently there has been a steep and sudden increase in Congo visa fees for Rwanda visitors and other tourists making the Democratic Republic of Congo an even more remote tourism destination.
Following recent unsuccessful attempts to enter Rwandan territory by Congolese troops, which met with a resolute response by the Rwandan army and once more exposed Congo as a hostile aggressor, has the regime in Kinshasa now resorted to other measures to hit at the Land of a Thousand Hills.
It was learned yesterday that Congolese immigration at the main border crossing from Gisenyi to Goma imposed hefty fees on Rwandan traders and visitors, with the cost ranging from 30 US Dollars for students to 250 US Dollars for traders. Similar measures were already taken at the border post between Kamembe and Bukavu, seriously impacting on cross border trade.
Local contacts in Gisenyi immediately laid the blame squarely on the regime across the border, claiming it was a reaction to their failure to intrude into Rwandan territory and now using Visa fees to hit out at Rwandans, some 30.000 a day usually crossed from Gisenyi into Goma. Wrote one regular contributor from there in response to a request for a comment: ‘There is a mechanism under the Great Lakes region economic cooperation, whereby the imposition of Visa fees should be handled through a bilateral meeting. This has not taken place, this was a unilateral move by Congo. They should remember that their imports and exports to and from Eastern Congo depend on open borders and the free flow of trade.
Their main entry points are in Goma and then in Uganda from either Ishasha, Mpondwe or via Arua. Imagine every one of their truck drivers has to pay 250 US Dollars when entering Rwanda enroute to Mombasa? That could derail their entire supply chain by then, it seems the regime does not think with their brains’.
Notably has in particular RwandAir benefited in the past from a sharp increase in passengers coming from Eastern Congo and flying from Kamembe via Kigali to other Eastern or Southern African destinations, and as far as Dubai.
It is this rise in traffic which is a major reason for the number of frequencies between Kigali and RwandAir’s only remaining domestic destination after flights to Gisenyi had to be suspended following security incidents from across the border in Congo. Perhaps it was in consideration of such circumstances that the Rwandan authorities were slow in reciprocating with a similar rise in fees at the Bukavu border crossing but this latest affront may well now trigger a wider response, based on the principle of reciprocity.
Foreign visitors are already paying high Visa fees when entering Congo from Rwanda and Uganda, something which has affected in particular Uganda and Rwanda tours which are the two neighboring countries to the Virunga National Park and to the Nyiragongo volcano.
Not to mention the general security situation in Eastern Congo not being conducive to regular tourist visits. Militias roam the region almost at will; tolerated by the regime in Kinshasa and unchecked by the UN forces which have more often than not been accused of covert complicity in letting in particular the genocidaires continue their campaign.