The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

  • Cross Border Trade Facing Continuous Barriers

    RWANDA’S Trade with other countries continues to face unnecessary barriers placed on the two major routes in East Africa that most of the country’s goods pass through. The so-called Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) are placed on the roads to Mombasa, Kenya from Kigali and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from Kigali. These are the two major routes Rwanda’s exports and imports pass through.

    Studies show that the Tanzanian corridor has the most NTBs while the route to Mombasa via Uganda has the least barriers. In the Tanzanian route, traders as well as transporters decry the numerous police roadblocks, bribery, weighbridges, and insecurity along the way especially during the night and lengthy customs procedures.

    On the Kenyan side via Uganda, barriers that exist include cargo theft, weighbridges and stringent limits of heavy loads that trucks should not exceed while on the Kenyan roads. All of these contribute negatively to Rwanda’s trade where the cost of doing business becomes extremely high thus reducing the nation’s competitiveness.

    Vincent Safari, the former Director of Trade and Advocacy at the Rwanda Private Sector Federation(PSF) who is currently the Coordinator of National Monitoring Committee(NMC) on elimination of NTBs under the Ministry of Trade and Industry recently showed that NTBs in the East African Community(EAC) include lack of implementation of EAC harmonised documents which delays trade, lack of harmonised procedures manual which impedes on clearing of imports and delays in transit bonds cancellation which increases the cost of transit.

    He also said that there are numerous institutions involved in testing goods and this increases time on the road, which delays delivery of goods.
    He said that on the Tanzanian route or the so-called Central Corridor, a survey conducted by the Private Sector Federation and the Ministry found that weighbridges on the road had increased from five in 2008 to eight in 2010 while on the Kenya-Uganda side which is known as the Northern Corridor, there were seven weighbridges on the Kenyan roads and three on the Ugandan side.

    Safari said that there were an estimated 30 police roadblocks between Kigali and Dar es Salaam and 36 between Mombasa and Kigali. These cause delays in transport and result into cases of bribery. Kenya and Uganda also have seven procedures for issuing work permits and this affects businesses. A business takes between one to five months to acquire work permits for workers sourced from other EAC countries. Lack of interface within the customs systems in the revenue authorities of the partner states is also seen as a challenge as it delays clearance of goods under customs control and it increases the cost of doing business and loss of market opportunities.

    Traders also decry of port charges and customs working hours that are not harmonised across the EAC states. They say there is n inadequate police escort mechanism and this results into loss of business/cargo. The infrastructure such as roads and accommodation facilities are also still a challenge especially to frequent travellers like truck drivers.

    All of the above threats increase the cost of doing business in the region. Trade Mark East Africa, a not-for-profit organisation that supports regional integration says that exporting a container of goods from Rwanda costs US$3,275 while importing it costs US$4,990. It says if all the potential threats are put aside, Rwanda could be saving US$42.1 million a year based on 2010 calculations. If the cost of imports and exports goes down by 20 percent, the country could save US$51 million every year.

    The increased cost of doing business in Rwanda has prompted the Government and the PSF to move faster and establish the National Monitoring Committee (NMC) on the elimination of NTBs. The committee, which has been in place for quite some time, however, has not been performing as expected because of lack of strategy, resources and organisation.

    The NMC is being revived but it could have less impact again. This is because most of the NTBs are not in Rwanda but in the neighbouring countries. The committee does not have legal powers to hold these countriesb that do not eliminate barriers accountable. What the committee will be doing is to list and monitor the NTBs but it does not have the powers to order their removal.

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  • South African Airways extends launch

    SOUTH Africa’s national carrier has postponed the re-opening of the Kigali route to January 2012 – cancelling an earlier launch that had been planned for October 31 this year.

    SAA said some before the first date elapsed that the Johannesburg-Kigali-Bujumbura route will return on January 17. Despite frosty relations between South Africa and Rwanda, SAA indicated the changes are motivated by business factors. The route was suspended about three years ago as SAA reorganised its business to focus more on profitable routes.

    “We have seen more demand from both recreational and business travellers for expanded routes and travel options and this move helps meet that demand,” said Theven Krishnam, SAA’s head of Australasia. “Rwanda is growing as an economic and cultural as well as tourist destination…” he added.
    The return route from OR Tambo International Airport to Kigali and on to Bujumbura will be served by the A319 aircraft that carries 120 passengers. There will be three flights per week. Clients can book on the maiden flights from the SAA website and other reservation agencies.

    SAA – considered a prime carrier on the African continent, is a publicly listed company with the South African government also holding a stake. Kigali and Pretoria are silently embroiled in a spat following the attempted assassination of exiled ex-army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa. Rwanda denies any role.

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  • Another Burundian Govt official named in FDLR racket

    The husband of Burundi’s police chief, Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya, is the latest Burundian official to be named as facilitating the activities of the Rwandan FDLR rebels, The Chronicles can reveal. Mr. Nepomuscene Masirika, a senior official with the Burundian disarmament commission, is the contact person of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in Burundi. Through Burundi, the rebels are able to transit their minerals to the international markets. The Burundi route is also used for provision of supplies including arms.

    Details about Masirika’s collaboration with the FDLR rebels are published in the latest UN investigation on armed groups in the region which was submitted to the Security Council December 30. But it was difficult for the UN panel to find hard incriminating evidence.
    “While, according to diplomatic and political sources, Masirika continues to be in contact with FDLR, the Group has not been able to verify any concrete material support between him and the Rwandan rebels,” says the report.

    Masirika is apparently a former senior officer in the Rwandan ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government. It is not clear if he is Rwandan or Burundian, and no details are available on the history of his marriage to Burundi’s top police officer. Masirika uses the false name of François Niyibitanga in Burundi, according to the report.

    When contacted about the new revelations, Burundi’s envoy in Kigali, Amb. Remy Sinkazi said he was even unaware about the UN report. “I need to read the report first, consult with my government and then get back to you,” said Sinkazi in a phone interview with The Chronicles on Friday. What is clear is that his wife Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya was a senior commander in the CNDD-FDD rebel group of current Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza. Since Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, she has held senior security-related positions.

    Masirika is the second official in President Nkurunziza’s government to be linked to the Rwandan rebels. In 2009, the same UN panel named General Adolphe Nshimirimana, Burundi’s intelligence chief as providing logistical support to the FDLR. Nshimirimana and the Burundian government vehemently denied the allegations. As indication that relations have never been better, several Rwandan dissidents have been rounded up in Burundi and handed to Kigali without any due process of the law. Notable among them is jailed opposition politician Deogratias Mushyayidi.

    President Kagame and his Burundian counterpart remain very close, at least from the regular visits each pays the other.

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  • EALA seeks amendment of EAC treaty to enable universal suffrage

    The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has proposed the amendment of article 50 of the EAC Treaty to allow members of the regional assembly to be elected by the electorates instead of national parliaments.
    The five East African countries will start applying uniform rules and procedures for electing members to the regional House from next year if the heads of states approve the proposal. The proponents of the amendment say it avoids recent expensive legal suits. EALA members said the move was aimed at increasing people’s participation in the regional law making body. The Assembly has since last week been meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi.

    Currently, nine members of the EALA are selected from each national parliament of the five EAC member states. The proposed law, which aimed at reducing the influence of the national parliaments in the affairs of the regional assembly, has also fixed the EALA term at five years and introduced the 30 per cent gender rule for its membership.

    The regional MPs currently enjoy a five year term but EALA itself has had no definite life span or guideline on replacement of old members, a lapse that has often led to longer recess periods. The bill proposes 90 days as the maximum period within which the national parliaments must replace EALA’s retiring or outgoing members.

    EALA Speaker, Mr Abdirahin Abdi, said in the House on Friday last week that already the Assembly had submitted its proposals to the EAC Council of Ministers for a decision. “The Assembly is of opinion that members of EALA should be elected by the people in their respective countries.

    But the decision to amend the treaty is in the hands of the Council of Ministers,” he said. The proposals were submitted last year.
    Meanwhile, the Assembly has been informed that plans are underway to upgrade the troubled EAC passports from regional to international status.
    Starting 2012, the passports will be printed on a wider scale and will operate within the whole region, alongside the national passports but the internationalisation of the same could be before the end of next year, the EAC Parliament heard last week.

    Addressing the EA Legislative Assembly plenary session, the chairman of the EA Council of Ministers, who doubles as the Burundian EA Affairs Minister, Ms Hasfa Mosi, did not offer a definitive month when the passports would start operating beyond the region. “The task force made the case studies from Belgium and Italy and found no legal requirements to internationalise the EA passports,” she said.

    The process started in 2005 with the council of ministers directing the secretariat to work out a way of internationalising it, and a task force of immigration experts was also put in place to design it with security features but later stalled as they waited for Rwanda and Burundi to include their security features. Also known as the new-generation passport, it will appear in Diplomatic, Service and Ordinary categories.

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