Tuesday, 24 March 2015

New 'visa' fee to Burundi irks Gisagara residents

Border residents in Gisagara District have expressed concerns over a newly introduced fee for people travelling to Burundi, which they say has limited their movement to the neighbouring country.

This follows a decision last month by the Burundian local authorities to introduce a fee of FBU700 (about Rwf350) for anyone entering Burundi through porous borders.

A pre-existing arrangement between Gisagara and Bugaburo commune in Kirundo Province allowed border residents from either side to cross using national identifications.

However, those on the Rwandan side say they were surprised when they started being charged for every trip they made to Burundi, something they say has inhibited their movement.

The most affected are people who go to Burundi via the Akanyaru River, mainly at Rugasa and Rutagara docks.

“We at first thought there was a security issue in Burundi. Once one reaches the bank of the river on the Burundian side, they are requested to present their ID and the FBU700 charge. Then you are given a receipt,” said Alexis Ntagengwa, a resident of Mamba Sector, Gisagara District

This, he said, is affecting cross-border trade.

Joseph Nzaramyimana, a Rwandan from Kabumbwe Cell, Mamba Sector, and a member of Umutekano Kabumbwe, a cooperative operating canoes that help people cross the river, said the visa problem is limiting movement.

“Before, Rwandans from Gisagara were travelling to Burundi freely, upon presentation of a National ID. But now any Rwandan going to Burundi is requested to pay the FBU700 visa fee,” he said.

The Gisagara District mayor, LĂ©andre Karekezi, said the affected people were mostly from Gishubi and Mamba sectors.

“We have talked to our counterparts in Burundi and they promised to scrap the fee because it is hindering movement of our people,” he said.

He added that one of the local leaders in Kirundo Province told him that the fee was introduced by a private association charged with developing communities around porous borders but the official told him that they had since ordered the association to scrap it.

The fee does not apply to people using the official border points, according to an official from the immigration directorate, at Akanyaru border post.

Source: New Times


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