Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola agreed yesterday to suspend a wave of deportations that has seen tens of thousands of foreign nationals expelled from the two countries in recent months, Congo’s information minister said.
Angola said that Congolese authorities had in recent days deported more than 20 000 Angolans living in Congo in retaliation for Angola’s expulsion of illegal Congolese diamond miners, Reuters reports.
“An agreement has been reached by the two heads of state. The operation has been suspended by both sides until further notice,” Lambert Mende said following high-level talks between the two central African neighbours in Congo’s capital Kinshasa.
Angola has regularly deported Congolese miners from its territory in recent years in round-ups that humanitarian agencies say have been marked by widespread human rights abuses, including rapes, beatings, and looting.
Congo began forcibly expelling Angolans mainly from its western Bas-Congo province several weeks ago. Many of them were refugees from Angola’s 27-year civil war, who, Angolan officials said, had lived in Congo legally for decades.
The tit-for-tat deportations are the latest indication of strained relations between the two nations, former allies during a 1998-2003 war that sucked in many of Congo’s neighbours.
In a move that diplomats say has angered officials in Luanda, Kinshasa has begun rebuilding ties with eastern neighbours Uganda and Rwanda, which both sent troops to fight against the Congolese army during the conflict. And, earlier this year, Congo accused Angola of illegally pumping millions of barrels of oil from its territorial waters.