Some residents of Rusizi town and Kamembe border who used to survive up on commercial activities by crossing the border expose issues relating to extreme poverty caused by the new coronavirus that locked the border.

Olivier Bigirimana is a driver who used to run his activities at Rusizi border to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This man was a driver and used to earn after driving traders who purchase goods from DRC.

He told The Express News that COVID-19 Disrupted their living status as the borders are closed.

“The jobs we used to survive on were stopped; many of us used to work at construction sites, both potters and traders lost their daily works. This issue brought a big challenge of providing for families although the government tries to support vulnerable people with part time jobs in VUP.” Bigirimana said.

Bigirimana said that they have a hope that the borders will be open to allow citizens on the border continue activities by respecting the preventive measures against the pandemic.

Lesson learnt from the lockdown

“I learnt that saving is the most important thing in life, I took a lesson that I will save Rwf500 when I earn Rwf1000 so that I can be able to survive during such difficult situations.” He added.

He requests the government of Rwanda to open the borders according to the extent to the pandemic status.

Bigirimana said that coronavirus deprived farmers the rights to have good costs of their harvests as they send them to their clients in DRC and receive money later, where sometimes they send the amount that is not under consent.

“They can send for instance Rwf5000 while they have agreed to send Rwf10,000. This is an issue we used to experience and it is a loss because we do not meet physically with the buyers.” He noted.

The loss in Fishing

Bigirimana said that fish traders do not get benefits after the government allowed fish men to resume activities as the movements are still interrupted by Covid-19.

Gaspard Niyibizi, a motorcycle driver working in COMORWA cooperative said that one of the issues that interrupted the economy in Rusizi district is collaboration between the borders and residents.

“We used to transport Congolese and Rwandans and earn money, lack of such opportunities disrupted economic development for the residents and neighbours of the border. The issue became worse for motorcycle drivers because the lock down took a long period and we suffered from hunger while we had saved some money,” he said.

Niyibizi worries about the education of children of the people of Rusizi district especially motorcycle drivers as the lockdown put them into extreme poverty.

“I learnt that the government is a good parent; I also learnt that prevention is better than cure because the lockdown reduced the spread of the new coronavirus, last, I revealed that saving must be at the fore-front to prepare the good future.”

Pheneas Tuyishime, another resident of Rusizi district said that their daily survival was cross border trade.

He said that their rebuilding can base on collaboration of borders and residents.

“We got losses because borders are closed, we send our goods in DRC but they do not pay us, our activities were interrupted.” He said.

He noted that they are still facing losses after the lockdown, requesting the government to try all possible ways to open the borders.

Pierre Sibomana, is a motorcycle driver based in Rusizi town I&II.

“Since the fresh outbreak, we faced various challenges, we passed five months in the lockdown, after the lockdown, we resumed work but with many challenges including taxes without earning, penalties, etc. Without having Congolese movements we still lack money. Many business operators at Kamembe border used to work with people from DRC, for motorcycle drivers we could earn over Rwf6,000 per day but now we earn between Rwf2,000 and 3,000.” Sibomanma said.

“Our work was definitely interrupted, it becomes worse when they request us to pay much money for the driving authorizations of over Rwf20,000.” He added.

He said that he learnt an important lesson of saving as such a pandemic can come again. “Another thing I learnt out of the pandemic is to respect authorities.” He noted.

Euphrem Kayumba, mayor of RUSIZI district said that the district decided to stop the movements of goings and comings of people between Rwanda and DRC to reduce the quick spread of covid-19.

He said that before the pandemic, they used to have at least 22,000 people who cross the borders per day, where some of them could make two or three movements to DRC depending on kind of their businesses.

“We also had Congolese who came to buy goods in Rusizi town, since then, all these movements stopped and we established other strategies to prevent citizens from contaminating COVID-19 while also setting the measures for continue selling food stuffs where traders could bring goods together and send them to DRC, So, the pandemic interrupted the businesses as it only remained 30 out of 150 drivers who used to transport the food stuffs in DRC.” Kayumba saids.

He added that the impacts of covid-19 did not only affect cross border traders, but also small business operators.

“Due to the lockdown, small business operators were also affected by the pandemic as they used their capital for daily survival during the lockdown.” He said.

He said that the district is doing research to know the entire loss caused by COVID-19. The mayor said that fishing was also stopped to prevent citizens from being contaminated.

Coping with the impacts

The mayor of Rusizi district said that they are working with the citizens to further prevention measures by reminding them to abide by prevention guidelines.

“We continue doing advocacy for people whose businesses were stopped due to the pandemic, we thank our government that set strategies to allow people get loans from microfinance institutions on low interest rates, anyone who was affected by the pandemic has to fill some documents and go to request loan from the banks, we continue encouraging them to know this initiative, we will put in efforts to ensure that citizens have some occupations for their wellbeing.” He added.

The Express News

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