Strike hits DR Congo over Rwandan police accord

Strikes hit several towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday over a security memorandum with Rwanda that opens the way to Rwandan police deployment in the troubled region.

The accord, signed this month between two countries’ police chiefs, names the eastern DRC city of Goma as a location where Rwandan police could be deployed to help fight cross-border crime, AFP reported

Relations between the DRC and its neighbours Rwanda and Uganda have been darkened for years by those countries’ perceived roles in stoking violence and resource looting in eastern DR Congo in the 1990s.

Schools, shops and filling stations were closed on Tuesday in several towns of South Kivu province, including the local capital Bukavu, in response to a call for a general strike to protest at the agreement.

The stalls in four major markets were closed, the roads were mainly empty and the few schoolchildren who had gone to school had been sent home, according to the report of AFP.

“None of the schools opened today. We have asked teachers to stay home to respect the call to strike by civil society,” said Jacques Cirimwami, head of the provincial union of Catholic teachers.

There was no boat traffic from the port of Bukavu on Lake Kivu for Goma, in neighboring North Kivu, said Prudent Mpama, who heads a local association of lake shippers.

Rwanda’s police say that the memorandum is an initiative for stepping up bilateral cooperation against crime, notably cross-border “organized crime and terrorism” and smuggling in drugs, weapons and counterfeit currency.

They deny that it includes any provision for cross-border deployment by Rwandan personnel.