The situation at the DR Congo-Rwanda border is tense as hundreds of Congolese began crossing into Rwanda for their safety early Thursday morning.
Bukavu, a border town with Rwanda has been declared as a ‘Dead City’ by civil society organisations following Wednesday’s violent demonstrations which involved looting and vandalism.
Bukavu Mayor, Filemon Mulolo, insists, “Nothing big happened.” But reports say businesses are closed. No open shop and a few people are seen walking on the streets, except the mobs.
As for Goma, another DRC town bordering with Rwanda’s Rubavu district, situation worsened Thursday morning after three people were reportedly killed during a violent uprising.
Deadly protests have been ongoing for the past week in DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, following a proposed bill to postpone next year’s presidential elections for three years.
President Joseph Kabila is serving his second and last term which ends next year. The bill, proposes conducting a census before elections first.
A national wide demonstration has been characterized by angry mobs demanding the bill be thrown out of parliament because it is a “plan to extend Kabila’s rule”.
Sylidio Sebuharara, KigaliToday corespondent in Rubavu says the riots in Goma this morning triggered a massive panic as police swept on the streets shooting live bullets and tear gas.
He witnessed hundreds of Congolese, with bicycles, mats, and sacks, women carrying crying babies fleeing into Rwanda.
Two students and a motor-taxi rider reportedly died on spot, as hundreds squeezed themselves through a narrow boarder fighting to crossover into the Rwanda side.
Local authorities have asked Rwandans living near the border to remain calm.
Sheick Bahame Hassan, Rubavu district mayor said, “We told them to do their business in Goma town, not beyond. Because going into the villages can expose them to unexpected repercussions.”
A similar message has been sent to Rusizi residents. However, the borders between the two countries remain open.
Some Congolese have reportedly started seeking a temporary stay in Rwanda, as they wait for the situation to stabilize.
Meanwhile, informal pathways across borders with DRC were all closed. Rwandans were advised to use regular border posts for business.
Rubavu mayor said Rwandan security forces were alert in case violence triggered a spilling insecurity.
“We just remind our people that our army is firm to defend the country’s sovereignty in case someone attempts to threaten it,” he said.
Additional Reporting by Dan Ngabonziza