DR Congo immigration officers harass us – traders

Traders on tricycles cross the border between Rwanda (in the background) and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Petite Barrière border post in Goma on November 19, 2022.  PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Some civil society organisations and legislators in DRC accused Uganda of supporting the rebels, an allegation Uganda denies.

Ugandan traders are finding it harder to get visas from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to operate businesses in the country after Congolese immigration officers imposed stricter regulations.

Several Ugandan traders said Congolese immigration officers ordered them to present Congolese nationals as guarantors as a requirement to get visas.

A Ugandan, who preferred anonymity because he could be targeted in DRC, said: “We are being subjected to harassment in the Congolese immigration offices. They abuse us, claiming that we want to go to their country to spy. So these days they tell us to present two passport photographs that are left with the immigration.”

The source added:  “They also demand that your Congolese agents or business partner comes in person at the immigration centre as guarantors, that if you disappear in their country, he or she would be the one to be arrested.”

There are many Ugandans who travel to DRC to deliver goods and do business.

Uganda was exporting goods worth $580m (Shs2.1t) annually before 2020. Most of the goods exported to DRC went through Mpondwe, Bunagana, Goli, Ishasha and Kitigoma borders.

Since the renewal of fighting in eastern DRC between the government forces and the M23 rebels, activities at three key borders have ceased. M23 rebels have continued to advance towards Goma City at the same time cutting it off from supplies from Uganda. This has a negative impact on Uganda’s export as it tries to recover from economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Some civil society organisations and legislators in DRC accused Uganda of supporting the rebels, an allegation Uganda denies.

Ugandan business people have been using other available roads through other countries.

Another source said the Congolese officials accuse them of trafficking firearms to DRC and spying.

“It is harder for a Ugandan to enter DRC, especially at Kasumbalesa, a Congolese border town with Zambia.

The situation is toxic. We don’t know when this situation will end,” the Ugandan said.
Some of the Ugandans are truck drivers operating in the region while others are business people in Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, but sell or deliver goods to DRC.

The State minister for Regional Cooperation, Mr John Mulimba, said he hasn’t received any complaint about the harassment of Ugandans in the DRC.

“I have just got it from you. That (harassment) could amount to non-tariff barriers, which is not allowed in the East African protocols. They (Ugandan traders) should lodge a formal complaint and we follow it up from there,” Mr Mulimba said yesterday.

Efforts to get a comment from the Congolese authorities were futile by presstime.
Mr William Busuulwa, the chairperson of the Uganda National Transport Alliance, said he had received several reports of Ugandans in the transport sector being harassed by the Congolese immigration officers.
 

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