Rwanda’s border city Rubavu which is always bustling with activity as both Rwandans and Congolese engage in several cross border transactions, remained busy despite the scheduled meeting between leaders of the two countries.
The visit of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila was not announced in the media until a few minutes to the scheduled arrival. There was visibly tight security from the previous day, indication that a high profile event was about to take place in Rubavu.
Locals from both Goma – which directly borders Rubavu, and the Rwanda side were using petit barrier – a smaller border crossing. It is largely used by informal traders.
Shortly before noon, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo was already at the Grand barrier border with the Rwanda team including the Governor of Western Province, Caritas Mukandasira. There were officers from Police and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF).
A long red carpet had been rolled on the tarmac as plain cloth and uniformed security agents manned several positions. A guard of honour was all set – waiting to grant the Congolese leader full state honours.
President Kabila – clad in a navy blue suit and a sky blue shirt, walked all the way from DRC territory accompanied by a massive delegation and FARDC special forces. He was last in Rwanda on an official working visit in August 2009.
“Before crossing over to Rwanda, Kabila received a rousing welcome on the other end,” Kigali Today reporter at the border said. “Goma residents clad in DRC flag colours welcomed him with loud chanting, singing and cultural dances.”
There was excitement among Rwandan media stationed at the border when they saw a small drone buzzing in space on the Congo side. It was picking live images of goings-on back to Congolese state media.
The armed Congolese special forces escorted their leader up to the last point of the Congolese territory where the Red carpet was rolled from into the Rwandan territory.
Under the scotching sun, a smiling Kabila with loosened jacket buttons stopped for a few seconds, and extended his hand to greet Minister Mushikiwabo. Kabila walked on the red carpet led along by Mushikiwabo. She introduced the Rwandan officials.
Kabila was driven to Kivu Serena Hotel by vehicles with Rwanda registered number plates. President Paul Kagame was at the hotel waiting for his Congolese counterpart.
While at the hotel the two leaders held bilateral talks and shared lunch. Although there was no scheduled press conference, the two leaders had an impromptu session with the media.
In the joint press conference, President Kagame responded to several questions from Congolese journalists while President Kabila only responded to one question on the issue of negative forces still operating in his country.
The two presidents hailed the progress gained in efforts of eradicating negative forces including the Democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR. The militia group executed the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda and fled across.
In a joint communiqué, the two sides noted that during their closed-door discussions, they explored several topics regarding mutual interest and agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation , particularly in areas of cross-border trade and energy, specifically in the extraction of methane gas in lake Kivu.
In May this year, Rwanda officially unveiled its KivuWatt Power Plant which generates 26MW of electricity from methane gas extracted from lake Kivu. The target is to generate 100MW for decades.
“To our neighbours and friends, if you wish to put the plant to scale to serve both Rwanda and DRC, you are most welcome,” Kagame said in May.
When the two sides met today, they agreed that a joint technical team will begin its work before the end of August.
On cross border security situation, both sides stressed there was need to establish a strong mechanism for timely sharing of intelligence. DRC and Rwanda already have an intelligence sharing mechanism under regional auspices involving several other countries.
President Kabila was accompanied by Alexis Tambwe Mwamba (minister of Justice), Atama Tabe (Defence minister), Martin Kabwelulu (Minister of Mines).
The Rwandan team included; Louise Mushikiwabo (foreign Affairs Minister), James Musoni (Infrastructure minister), Germaine Kamayirese (minister of state in charge of Energy at the Ministry of Infrastructure).
At about 4PM, President Kabila and his delegation were driven to the border – this time not by Minister Mushikiwabo, but Kagame himself. They both walked on the same Red Carpet which Kabila had used earlier. They could be seen enjoying each other’s company.
Kabila crossed back into DRC ending the one day working visit.