Tensions remain high between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as insecurity in eastern DRC continues fueled by fighting between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army.
As the adage goes, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Today, thousands of people have been displaced, lost property and some have lost their lives.
Yet despite ongoing diplomatic efforts to quell the violence, insecurity remains. For citizens of both countries caught between the conflict, the disruption it has caused is overwhelming because it has upended their lives.
Right before the border between Rwanda and the DRC was closed in May, cross-border vendors selling mostly vegetables and fruits in Rubavu and Goma neighborhoods told stories of vandalism and theft directed specifically toward Rwandan vendors.
This case is particularly unfortunate because thousands of cross-border traders, predominantly women, rely on selling food items in Goma markets to feed their families.
Also, Congolese of Rwandan origin continue to be a target of hate speech, discrimination and now many are increased worried that they may lose their lives.
Worse still, Rwandans living in Goma say when protests break out, it is dangerous for anyone who speaks Kinyarwanda or is perceived to be Rwandan to leave their homes, for children to attend a school, or even for families to attend church. Some say their family members have gone missing for months.
Clashes between Rwanda and DRC are not new, but the bond between both countries’ citizens has endured. DRC has been ranked by the Central Bank as Rwanda’s top agriculture and food export destination in Africa.
While both countries appear to be committed to resolving the outstanding issues with several bilateral talks ongoing, securing lives can not wait until political differences are resolved.
Every effort must be made to ensure the targeted attacks including hate speech against Congolese of Rwandan origin are halted immediately to avoid an escalation that could lead to more lives being lost. Both Rwandans and Congolese deserve peace.
Their governments must take all the necessary steps to ensure that peace prevails. While both governments have maintained that they are committed to resolving their differences as demonstrated by their attendance of the several meditation talks hosted by the African Union and the East African Community, citizens of both countries are eagerly waiting for action.
For them, there has been too much talk. The crisis is taking too long, and the longer it takes, the more difficult and longer it will take for them to recover from the crisis.