COVID-19: DRC nationals blocked from returning home

By Nicole Kamanzi M.
On 11 May 2020 at 11:36

Congolese living or working in Rwanda are protesting a decision by provincial authorities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to block them from returning home though being given a green light by their country’s Embassy in Kigali and Rwandan authorities.

About 300 Congolese had convened at the One-Stop Border Post between Rwanda and DRC, in Rubavu district on Saturday, on their way home but were refused entrance by the Congolese immigration authorities. Similar scenes took place in Rusizi district as some Congolese citizens were returning to the city of Bukavu.

The stranded citizens said that the arrangement for them to be repatriated back home had been made earlier and supported by Rwandan authorities through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation while the DRC Embassy in Rwanda had given them a letter authorizing them to return home.

Even after getting cleared by Rwanda’s immigration, they were denied entry by Congolese border officials; later on, Sunday morning, half of those who had been sitting in at the border were granted entry but more than 150 are still stranded.

One of the affected people, who identified himself as Jean Claude Beya said that they were surprised by the decision to deny them a right to return home, weeks after requesting to be allowed to go back to their country following the measures put in place by the Rwandan government to fight the New Coronavirus outbreak.

“We have been planning our return for days, in partnership with the embassy in Kigali. We made our case known that since work came to a stop due to the lockdown; life had become difficult for us with no income,”

The border cities of Rubavu on the Rwandan side and Goma on the Congolese side, as well as Rusizi in South Western Rwanda and Bukavu in Eastern DRC, share a lot in common with people on both sides co-existing, some working in one city and sleeping in the other.

However, the outbreak of New Coronavirus has affected life in the border towns, with Rwanda opting to close all borders and imposing a lockdown while DRC too limited movements to contain the spread of the virus.

The affected categories of people include Congolese who lived and worked in Kigali as well as those who live or worked in the border towns.

Rwandan authorities and immigration had cleared the people to return to DRC but sources say the Governor of North Kivu ordered the blockade of returning citizens.

“While other countries are repatriating their citizens, we are being denied our right to return home,” Mundapeke a Congolese national said, adding that other people who were caught on the other side of the border while in Rwanda lamented about their businesses in Goma being affected.

Rwanda and DRC currently maintain stable and friendly relations since President Felix Tshisekedi’s ascent to power, with both countries vowing to work together to enhance trade and bilateral ties.

Congolese in Rwanda are protesting a decision by provincial authorities in eastern DRC to block them from returning home