KATUNA/RUBAVU – The Democratic Republic of Congo border with Rwanda is under heavy security and surveillance as movement across the frontier is very restricted.
The Rwandan authorities are worried that the highly contagious Ebola virus can cross into its territory, thus Rwandans citizens have been advised against travelling to both DRC and Uganda unless it’s very urgent.
Witnesses say fears of the Ebola virus have brought border traffic between Rwanda and the DRC to a virtual standstill.
Long lines and lengthy delays at the border crossings have left many traders frustrated, but officials say health checks are necessary to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
The government has not said the border is closed. However, it is urging its people not to enter the eastern DRC, where the Ebola virus has killed more than 1,800 people over the past year.
Dr. Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister of Health, is encouraging Rwandans not to go to DRC and Uganda, and instead to find other ways to do their business in the country.
This stance goes against advice from the World Health Organization.
Dr. Kasonde Mulenga Mwinga, WHO country director, supports a flow of people to the member country to be able to address the response that is needed there.
The Rwandan and Congolese health ministers met Tuesday to discuss measures to stop the Ebola outbreak from spreading.
Afterward, they said they resolved to enact ways that allow for smoother border crossings while taking “very strong measures to keep the epidemic at bay.”
For Congolese officials, Rwanda’s response is not only based on health grounds but also for security reasons.
According to an anonymous source, some Rwandan army personnel have defected into Congo, and Kigali doesn’t want a repeat of that incident.