In shops and restaurants as well as in villages in Rutshuru territory of North Kivu province, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), commercial transactions are conducted in the Ugandan currency, the shilling. The local currency, the Congolese franc, has been relegated to the second position and it is commonly used around administrative offices.
1,000 shillings, 5,000 shillings…, prices are displayed on different products in markets just like in shops in Bungana, one of the two border posts in North Kivu province, near the Ugandan border.
“Here in Rutshuru, the practice goes several years back, even before the arrival of CNDP rebels (National Congress for the Defense of the People) and later the M23 rebels,” a money broker tells Xinhua.
“But the practice has evidently accentuated following the arrival of pro-Rwanda and pro-Uganda rebels who have been directly or indirectly controlling the region,” he said.
BETTER PRICES IN SHILLINGS
With the Congolese francs, one can hardly buy any product, especially those imported from Uganda. In most cases, people are forced to exchange their Congolese money into Ugandan shillings before buying at a better price. “With the shillings, the price is affordable, but if you come with the Congolese currency, the price is higher,” said Agnes Mbarushimana, a shop keeper.
“Even pupils are not spared. School fees has to be paid in Ugandan shillings, because if you pay in the Congolese currency, the fees is much higher,” However, one school administrator noted that the situation had been forced on them by the socioeconomic context they operate under.
EVERYONE HEADING TO UGANDA
In the nearby Busanza locality, which also borders Uganda, the population lives a Ugandan lifestyle.
“Here, everyone operates like a Ugandan. Beer, food and other manufactured products come from Uganda, something that forces us to keep more Ugandan shillings than Congolese francs, which may not be used in buying anything,” said Juvenal, a youth who plies Ishasha-Kisoro-Kampala route.
The people in the locality have gradually started watching Ugandan television stations that use Luganda (Uganda’s national language) and English.
Each passing day, this situation continues without worrying anyone. The Congolese economy services charged with the responsibility of fixing prices and ensuring respect for the local currency seem to be absent or inactive.
The only savior at the moment is the continued payment of civil servants in the Congolese franc, something that may not be assured for a long time in a zone with no banking institution.