Kinshasa, DRC — A MASS deportation of Congolese nationals from Angola, apparently to ease the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in prisons, among other reasons for expulsion, is fuelling a humanitarian catastrophe in Southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Neighbouring Angola has in recent years deported thousands of nationals from the troubled neighbouring country, including 19 000 that have been expelled this year.
Most of those deported had been imprisoned or were undocumented.
Authorities in Angola have released nearly 1 900 people in pretrial detention to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 scourge to the nation’s prisons.
While this has helped ease congestion, it has come at a detriment to DRC, particularly in the region of Kasai, where thousands have since 2016 fled militancy.
Angola has also expelled Congolese migrants, many of whom were working in the informal mining sector in the northeast of the country.
A group of international experts appointed by the United Nations (UN) has expressed concern the reverse exodus is causing.
“There is a serious humanitarian crisis there (Kasai) due to the massive return of several hundred thousand Congolese nationals,” the duo of experts have told the Human Rights Council.
“The problem is compounded by a difficult political context, with several provincial assemblies and governments in crisis,” experts, Bacre Waly Ndiaye (from Senegal) and Sheila Keetharuth (Mauritius) lamented.
DRC’s Directorate General of Migration (DGM) reported that the deportations from Angola correspond to an average of 70 Congolese deported per day.
More than 2 700 people have arrived in different localities of Kamonia territory in the Kasai provinces since August.
This has coincided with the inter-community conflict, charecterised by violence at the border between the territories of Demba in Kasaï Central and Mweka in Kasaï.
Thus, those that had sought refuge in Angola have been forced to flee again upon returning to DRC.
Over 25 600 people have been internally displaced in recent weeks.
Humanitarian organisations have documented two deaths, five cases of sexual violence and 25 injuries.
This happens at a time DRC authorities have not implemented recommendations by human rights experts in previous reports.
These include the disarmament of all militia members, freeing of women taken hostage by the Bana Mura militia and judicial reforms.
Geographically, the Kasai region is the size of Germany (357 386 km²).
Violence initially flared in August 2016, triggered by tensions between customary chiefs in Kasai-Central and the government, then led by Joseph Kabila.
Kabila was in power from 2001 and 2019, a period coinciding with existing intercommunity tensions in Kasai.
Militias, armed groups and security forces are running battles in Kasai.