KISORO: Security authorities in Kisoro district have decided to shift clearing and immigration services from the Uganda- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border of Bunagana to the Uganda-Rwanda border at Chanika following traffic blockage along Bunagana-Rutshuru-Goma route resulting from the clashes between DRC forces and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in Rutshuru territory.
The rebels overrun the Bunagana border inside DRC on Monday forcing 172 Congolese soldiers to flee to Uganda. This has interrupted business inside DRC. Some of the immigration offices are currently home to the rebels. Most of the cargo trucks destined for DRC are stuck on the Uganda border.
A URN reporter toured Bunagana on Wednesday and found most of the clearing, customs, and immigration offices closed.
He also saw some of the trucks driving back to Uganda. Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Hajji Shafique Ssekandi Ssengoba told URN that they decided to move the clearing services to the Uganda-Rwanda border of Chanika in consultation with higher government authorities.
This means that truckers will drive 114.7 kilometers from Bunagana-Chanika-Gisenyi to Goma city and another 69.3 Kilometers to access Rutshuru town from Goma instead of only 89.3 Kilometers from Buganagana to Goma.
Ssekandi said they reached the decision after realizing that even if drivers and other travelers are cleared from the Ugandan side, they will not get help from the Congolese side. He noted that their decision is also aimed at reducing the risk at the border since some of the trucks are transporting inflammable products like petrol and gas.
Ssekandi said that drivers who are able to drive through Chanika via Rwanda to Goma and Rutshuru are now free to start the journey.
Fred Lubega, one of the truck drivers said he drove from Kampala to-Bunagana on his way to Goma on Monday but found the situation fragile. Lubega said even though traveling via Gisenyi in Rwanda is very far and will increase the costs, he will use the route and wait for the situation to normalize.
Pépé Mikwa, a socio-economic actor in North Kivu province expressed fear that the capture of the Bunagana border by the rebels may constitute a source of income for them. Mikwa said that the rebels may use the border to collect revenue and generate money to fund the war, which has the potential to suffocate business between Bunagana and Goma, adding that it will be a real shortfall for the future budgets of the DRC.
Addressing the media on the Congolese side of the Bunagana border on Tuesday, Major Willy Ngoma, the M23 spokesperson insisted that their aim was not to capture the Bunagana border but they acted out of provocation and shelling by the government troops. He revealed that although they have no intentions of following the government troops that were manning the border and crossed to Uganda, they will not hesitate to fight in self-defense once attacked.
He explained that M23 is only fighting because of the failure of the DRC government to fulfill the promises in the 2013 peace agreement, discrimination, and maladministration.