KINSHASA - Congo’s government accused Angolan authorities of violently expelling thousands of its citizens during a crackdown on artisanal diamond mining, but Angola said it had acted lawfully to protect is resources.
Congolese migrants and officials have said dozens of people were killed during an operation by Angolan security forces and an allied ethnic group this month. Angola denies this and says many Congolese migrants left voluntarily.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government “condemns the human rights violations and the loss of human lives provoked by the expulsions,” spokesman Lambert Mende said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The dispute comes at a time of worsening relations between the government of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and its erstwhile close ally.
Two decades ago, Angola stepped in to rescue Kabila’s father, then president Laurent Kabila, from a Rwandan-backed rebel assault.
But Angola has recently become frustrated by Kabila junior’s handling of several crises, including instability caused by his failure to step aside when his mandate ended in late 2016, and a conflict in Congo’s Kasai province that sent thousands of refugees over the border.
Mende said about 28,000 Congolese had been “brutally” expelled, in violation of an agreement between the two countries on freedom of movement.
Angolan Police Commissioner Antonio Bernardo dismissed the accusations of violence on Wednesday, and said that the border agreement only allowed for visits up to 48 hours.
“Angola is a sovereign country,” he told Reuters. “The defense of sovereignty necessarily includes the safeguarding of national security, the protection of its natural resources.”
He said the Congolese migrants were residing in the country illegally, and had already received “selfless assistance” despite their status, and had left of their own free will.
Angola has in recent weeks stepped up efforts to tackle diamond smuggling and raise more revenue from the lucrative sector.