Angola and DRC Shoving Match Leaves Citizens With Bruises

October 16, 2009

So it basically goes like this: Angola starts to kick out Congolese citizens living in Angola, almost 18,000 since July. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) says “for reals?” and shows a bunch of Angolan citizens to the door, well, border when it launches its own repatriation operation. So then Angola says “oh, yeah?” and increases the pace of expulsions of Congolese. The DRC says, “yeah,” and sends more Angolans over the border, approximately 28,000 since August. Angola says…well, you get the point.

Angola and the DRC have a long history of porous borders with refugees crossing back and forth escaping internal conflict, citizens looking for employment and best of all, politicians dabbling in each others internal conflicts. But the violence and disregard for the lives of those involved in this latest tit for tat is seriously uncool.

Angolan police, immigration officers, citizens and soldiers have been accused of beatings, sexual assaults and stealing the possessions of the Congolese they are expelling. “The deportees have nothing with them, everything was taken; there are cases of violence, rape and sexual abuse,” said a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Additionally, the large number of expelled persons gathering at each side of the border is a concern due to the high potential for a humanitarian disaster caused by insufficient food, water and sanitation facilities.

Angola and the DRC supposedly kissed and made up on Monday, saying “we are totally sorry and we are totally going to stop giving each others peops the boot,” or something like that.  But just because the politicians have agreed to stop pushing each other around, or actually to stop pushing each others citizens around, doesn’t mean all causes for concern are over.

“[T]here were fears that the latest round of deportations might have fanned lingering animosity between Angolans and Congolese living in each other’s countries. ‘There are fears of xenophobia – that’s the real danger now. We are worried this [situation] might explode.'”