What you need to know:
- Traders say the two countries should harmonise their differences before the situation worsens.
City traders yesterday expressed fear over Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) cancellation of RwandAir flights, saying the move is likely to stifle regional trade.
The chairperson of Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), Mr Thadeus Musoke Nagenda, said the two countries should harmonise their differences before the situation worsens.
“It’s unfortunate because we are organising a business summit in DRC. Though there are other players in the region’s aviation sector, the suspension of RwandAir means that travellers won’t have a variety from which they can choose,” he said yesterday.
“It’s likely to disrupt businesses in the region because the moment there are few players then others could choose to take advantage of that void and come up with higher fees and of course what affects Rwandan traders affects other traders in the region too,” Mr Nagenda added.
Following the cancellation of RwandAir flights, Rwandan authorities issued a statement, apologising to their customers.
Authorities also said RwandAir decided to cancel all flights to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Goma with immediate effect.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience and disruption this may cause to our customers and we will waive change of reservation fees and offer re-issues or refunds for those affects. RwandAir always puts the safety and security of its customers and crew as their number one priority,” the press statement reads.
The Congolese government alleges that the Rwandan government supports M23 rebels in the country’s east, citing military equipment apparently found, along with testimonies from locals and images captured by soldiers.
According to media reports, DRC also accuses Kigali of frustrating a peace process being mediated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is currently the president of the East African Community (EAC).
Mr Nagenda noted that the ongoing brawl between DRC and Rwanda undermines the objectives of the EAC.
“What affects Rwanda could spill over to the entire region and this will definitely have a great impact on regional trade and security. We believe that the two countries will resolve the issues soon,” he said.
Last month, DRC officially joined the East African Community, becoming the seventh member. Other members include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi committed to maintaining relations based on peace and security for all, and also supported intra-community trade.
On May 28, the Rwandan government accused the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) of allegedly launching multiple rockets on Rwandan territory.
“FARDC attacked Rwanda Defence Forces along our border, and two Rwandan Defence Forces soldiers were kidnapped while on patrol. We have since located these two soldiers: CPL Nkundabagenzi Elysee and Pte Ntwari Gad being held by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda [ FDLR] in Eastern DRC,” Rwanda alleged in the statement.
Though analysts predict that DRC’s cancellation of RwandAir flights could affect other aviation players in the region, Uganda Airlines head of corporate affairs Rahim Shakira said “it’s too early to comment on the issue”.
Ms Rahim noted that the DRC-Rwanda brawl is a sensitive matter that can only be discussed at the highest level.
“I have not come to think about it but that’s an issue between DRC and Rwanda because for us we have a permit to operate in DRC and I really don’t see where Uganda Airlines comes in. It’s really too early for us to divulge into such issues and as a young airline we can’t get involved in that now. But we are working normally,” Ms Rahim said.