Angola accused the Democratic Republic of Congo of changing their common land border, an area rich in oil and diamonds, and said it rejected the move.
Angola and the DRC have each been racked by decades of war, leading to confusion over the exact location of the border. A three-day meeting in Luanda of officials from both countries ended yesterday with no immediate solution to the dispute.
“In regards to the border, the DRC authorities have made a unilateral change. That is an attitude that our government rejects,” Emilio Guerra, Angola’s Ambassador to the Congo, was cited by state-owned Jornal de Angola as saying yesterday.
“We think the (border) delimitation cannot be made unilaterally. Both parties have to sit down.”
The area boasts deposits of oil and diamonds. Hundreds of thousands of illegal Congolese diamond miners have been expelled from Angola, amid accusations of brutality. In October the Congo responded by deporting over 50 000 Angolans from its territory.
The DRC has accused Angolan troops of trespassing onto its territory and of brutality towards illegal Congolese miners in Angola. It has also recently accused Angola of stealing its oil from offshore oil wells near its coast.
Oil at centre of dispute
Relations between Angola and Congo have otherwise largely been cordial. Angola’s emergence from decades of war has allowed the government to exploit the country’s natural wealth in oil and diamonds. Congo also has vast mineral wealth but it has been less successfully exploited.
Angola pumps most of its oil from wells off the coast of Cabinda a northern enclave separated from the rest of Angola by a strip of Congolese land while mineral-rich Congo has no offshore operations of its own.
Congo’s Oil Minister Rene Isekemanga Nkeka recently told Reuters most of Angola’s offshore oil production in Cabinda rightfully belonged to Congo.
The move to claim Angolan offshore oil fields comes as Congo’s economy is suffering from a worldwide drop in demand for its mineral exports, its main source of foreign currency.
Angola and the DRC said in a joint statement after officials from both nations met in Luanda that it was urgently necessary to “activate joint mechanisms already in place to properly deal with matters of bilateral cooperation in the oil sector”.
In 2007, Angola and the Congo signed an agreement to extract oil from a maritime zone of common interest but they have yet to implement the accord. Both sides plan to meet next year to implement the deal, according to the joint statement.
Guerra said, in comments to Jornal de Angola, that both nations would continue to work out their differences but said he did not expect an immediate solution to the border and oil dispute.
“We think that the DRC is going through serious moments of military instability,” he said.