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Rwanda, DR Congo sign three bilateral agreements

Ministers from Rwanda and the DR Congo on Saturday, June 26, signed three key bilateral agreements as the two countries look to further enhance trade and diplomatic ties.

This happened during a bilateral meeting held between President Paul Kagame and his host, Félix Tshisekedi, at the Goma Serena Hotel, in Goma, capital of DR Congo’s North Kivu Province.

A bilateral investment treaty, a double taxation avoidance agreement, as well as an MoU on a mining concession, were the three agreements signed by the two countries’ Ministers and witnessed by their respective Presidents at the hotel located on the shores of Lake Kivu.

The agreements were signed shortly after the two leaders held a tête-à-tête that lasted nearly an hour, inside a white tent.

Afterward, the presidents held a joint press conference in which they emphasised the need for enhanced bilateral cooperation for the benefit of the two countries’ people.

Kagame said they had broad and productive exchanges on issues that will benefit their respective citizens.

“We signed a number of agreements and I believe this is just the beginning. There are many areas in which we can cooperate to build a solid relationship, but also a basis for cooperation,” Kagame said.

Among others, Tshisekedi noted that they are keen on checking non-tariff barriers and fraud in an effort to improve cross-border trade.

Kagame was on Saturday received by Tshisekedi, in Goma, as he paid a reciprocal visit following the latter’s visit to Rubavu, Rwanda.

On Friday, Tshisekedi was received by Kagame at La Corniche One-Stop Border Post. The two Heads of State then proceeded to tour the City of Rubavu and assess damages caused by recent earthquakes which followed Nyiragongo volcanic eruption. 

In Goma, the Presidents also visited areas damaged by the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption before they held bilateral talks. 

Mount Nyiragongo in eastern DR Congo, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It erupted last month, sending panicked residents of the city of Goma fleeing to other places in their country as well as into Rwanda.

Last month, an evaluation of the situation by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA),  following the eruption of Nyiragongo, ruled out an explosion of gas on Lake Kivu.

Strategic trading partner

The DR Congo is Rwanda’s strategic trading partner, being the main destination for Rwanda’s informal exports.

In the recent past, both countries have been, among others, exploring opportunities for joint investment projects and strengthening trade of goods and services between the two countries.

Early last year, President Tshisekedi met Rwanda’s then Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, along with Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Vincent Biruta, in Kinshasa, to discuss ways in which the countries can increase their economic and trade ties. 

Discussions at the time were in line with the vision shared by President Kagame that Intra-African trade be pursued in view of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) start of trading launched earlier in January 2021.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, trade between Rwanda and DR Congo had been growing at a double-digit rate, annually, since 2012.

In April 2019, national carrier RwandAir launched its maiden commercial flight to DR Congo’s Kinshasa’s Ndjili International Airport boosting business and strengthening commercial ties between the two countries.

Peace and security

Besides enhancing bilateral economic and trade ties, ever since he came to power, Tshisekedi put emphasis on peace and security.

His vast country is home to militia groups including those that originated from Rwanda. Intelligence officials from both countries regularly share information as the Congolese army continues to battle these militia groups.

Tshisekedi on Saturday stressed that the two countries have lost so many years due to tensions and instability, noting that “enough is enough.”

It is time to enjoy the fruits of peace and security, he said.

“We won’t stop here. This is just the beginning. My principal priority is to develop fraternal relations with our neighbours. We have so much to gain by working together,” Tshisekedi said.

During his term, among others, Tshisekedi particularly decided that the east of his vast country must be purged of the FDLR, remnants of the genocidal army and militia that perpetrated the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The Congolese army has in the past two years moved in decisively and battled anti-Rwandan militia including the FDLR and other splinter groups based there.

President Kagame noted that his Congolese counterpart “put a sense of urgency” to the problem of security and instability that has been going on for years.

Hundreds of militia fighters were captured and repatriated to Rwanda while others were killed in battle with the Congolese army. Hundreds of their civilian dependents have also been returned home, rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

“The lack of security, peace and stability cannot be things that are going to be permanent,” Kagame said, explaining why the two countries resolved to cooperate in dealing with root causes of insecurity and instability.

“It is easier if all of us work together.”

Source: The New Times

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