Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo – In the first bilateral meeting organised in Kinshasa following tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a delegation of Rwandan senators travelled to the DRC capital for a three-day friendship visit to the Congolese Senate, under the auspices of AWEPA.
Discussions between senators have been hailed as positive progress in what has often been a delicate diplomatic relationship between the DRC and Rwanda. Tensions were exacerbated between the two countries by a worsening security environment in the DRC, when armed group M23 rebelled in late 2012.
The Rwandan delegation, composed of two members of the Foreign Affairs commission, was led by Hon. Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo, President of the Senate of the Republic of Rwanda.
Following the visit of members of the Congolese Senate to Rwanda, from 6 -8 May 2013, this visit was facilitated by Hon. Alain Destexhe and Hon. François-Xavier de Donnea, respectively political coordinators for the Rwanda and DRC programmes of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA).
During discussions, Hon. Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo and Hon. Leon Kengo wa Dondo, President of the DRC Senate, agreed to resume parliamentary diplomacy and parliamentary friendship groups as of 2014, with the meeting venues alternating between the two countries.
Among other objectives, the meetings addressed security, peace and economic activity of the two countries. The forum favoured continued discussions between the Foreign Affairs commissions of each senate, thus setting the ground for a dynamic partnership between the two senates. Their aim is to strengthen existing cooperation mechanisms and foster a permanent parliamentary dialogue in the interest of both countries. Constructive and reconciling dialogue based on mutual trust and understanding is therefore a precondition.
Rwandan and Congolese Senators reviewed the conclusions of their meeting in May and debated important matters of bilateral economic cooperation, as well as peace, security and stability in the Great Lakes region. They also examined matters pertaining to the implementation of the African Union peace framework signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, early this year. The meeting also highlighted the importance of bordering countries stimulating their routine discussions as a means to tackle the lack of forums for bilateral dialogue.
Senators also paid attention to key but stalled projects of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) and underscored the importance of organising another meeting with parliamentarians of the countries that are members of the CEPGL in Gisenyi (Rubavu), Rwanda, in December 2013. This meeting would take place again under the auspices of AWEPA.
Another positive outcome of this visit is that H.E. Joseph Kabila, President of the Republic of the DRC, and Hon. Nkawukuliryayo, President of the Rwandan Senate, had a one-on-one meeting.
Thanks to the support of Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs of Belgium, AWEPA will continue facilitating bilateral and multilateral parliamentary meetings to ensure constant dialogue to spur parliamentary ties and support peace and security in the Great Lakes region.
Photo credit: Patrick Luabeya