The recent discussions between Rwandan and DRC senators have been hailed as good progress in often fractious relationship between the DRC and Rwanda.
A group of senators led by Senate President Jean Damascène Nkawukuliryayo were in Congo for three days to discuss security, peace and economic activity of the two countries.
According to Senator Jean Damascene Bizimana, chairman of the Foreign Affairs commission, the basis for the 3-day trip was to examine matters pertaining to the implementation of the African Union peace framework signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, early this year.
The framework aims at finding ways of bringing peace to eastern DRC. The DRC, according to the Addis accord, has the primary responsibility of pacifying its volatile east, particularly by talking to rebel groups fighting the government. Neighboring states, including Rwanda, are required to help by not getting involved to stir up trouble in the already wrecked region.
“We agreed on some things but disagreed on others. The DRC senators accused our government of supporting the M23 based on various reports by the UN Group of experts and other human rights organizations but we have sent detailed rebuttals on those reports, which we showed them,” Sen.Bizimana said, adding that despite such disagreements, the dialogue helped a lot in pacifying relations.
The meeting also underscored the importance of neighboring countries reviving their routine discussions at border regions to help get rid of the harmful suspicions and falsehoods propagated by lack of a forum to discuss any issues.
In the past few weeks, some heavily armed Congolese soldiers have been arrested after being caught on Rwandan territory and sent back to the DRC. The soldiers claimed that they did not know that they had crossed the border and were on Rwandan territory.
President Kagame said during a press briefing that he did not think that the soldiers had crossed the border with knowledge or approval of their government, and that he assumed it was a simple mistake on the soldiers’ part.
Among other things, the Congolese Senate has agreed to set up a committee to look into matters pertaining to the welfare and possible homecoming of hundreds of Congolese refugees hosted by Rwanda, “a very positive development and crucial step forward,” according to Sen. Bizimana.
During the Kinshasa session, both parties agreed to resume parliamentary diplomacy meetings – alternating in either countries – at once every semester or more if necessary. The Rwandan delegation requested that the next meeting be held in Rubavu, where the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) headquarters are based, in December.
The meeting in Rubavu, it is hoped, will allow the lawmakers to better examine challenges and possible solutions to the two countries’ joint cross-border development projects including hydro-power generation on Rusizi falls, and the Burundi-DRC-Rwanda road network.
Rwandan and Congolese Senators paid attention to, among others, three important but stalled CEPGL projects: the Great Lakes Development Bank (Banque de Développement des Etats des Grands Lacs, BDGL); the agronomical and zootechnical research institute (IRAZ); and the energy development arm of the bloc (CINELAC).
The implementation of mutual projects has stalled as there has been no momentum from the three countries, due to political divergences and poor coordination.
Most of the blame for the projects failure is currently put on President Joseph Kabila, the current CEPGL Chairperson, who has failed to organize the habitual sessions of Heads of State that guide and direct project execution. Therefore the Rwandan Senators requested their Congolese counterparts to help advocate for such a higher level meeting to be arranged.
However, what Sen. Bizimana calls another added advantage, is the fact that Dr. Nkawukuliryayo met with President Kabila for a one-on-one chat. This paper tried raising the Senate President on what they discussed but he did not answer his known phone by press time.
“When there are high-level meetings, like this, it is a sign that there is a good chance for resolving issues. It is usually a critical step towards finding solutions,” Sen. Bizimana said.
During the May visit, DRC senate president Leon Kengo wa Dondo agreed with his Rwandan counterpart to ensure constant dialogue on matters of mutual interest so as to spur parliamentary ties and help resolve regional conflicts.