There has been some trouble brewing over the past few months in Bas-Congo and Bandundu provinces. As previously reported here (check out the following CS posts: this and this), tensions have been running high between Angola and Congo over the past few years, with a thorny oil dispute simmering, mutual expulsions of citizens and incursions into Congolese territory.
And it’s not just Angola. This year has seen a deterioration in relations between Congo-Brazzaville and Dr Congo. Brazzaville has two major Kabila enemies under lock-down: Udjani, the leader of the Equateur rebellion of last year; and General Faustin Munene, the leader of this half-existing rebellion from Bandundu this year.
Here are some recent events in that neck of the woods:
- November 2010: Soldiers ransack a munitions depot in Kikwit (Bandundu province) and steal some guns that are later recovered. Some reports link this attack to Gen Faustin Munene, but there is little further insurgent activity in the area.
- December 2010/January 2011: Over 100 rebels, allegedly linked to Gen Munene, but also possibly to FLEC (Cabinda separatist movement), were allegedly arrested in Bas-Congo by Congolese security services.
- January/February: According to local authorities, around 800 Angolan soldiers crossed the border in Bandundu province and began disturbing the population in Kasongo-Lunda.
- 1 March: Radio Okapi reports that a dozen Congolese have been taken hostage by Angolan police men in Nkamuna, 60km to the east of Matadi. They suggest this is a regular occurrence, a way to make money for the Angolans.
- April: According to the Catholic charity Caritas, 5,397 Congolese were deported from Angola to Kasai-Occidental in just over two weeks.
- May 4: Okapi reports that Angolan soldiers have entered Congolese soil in several places along the border to hunt down FLEC rebels in Nkamuna as well as Tshela, 200km west of Matadi. Other Angolan troops were sighted in Mbata-Yema, also in Bas-Congo.
- May 10: Civil society organizations denounce Angolan military operations in 12 villages against FLEC, displacing 18,000 people.
Angolan incursions are apparently happening frequently along the border, and expulsions of Congolese have also been ongoing.
We should remember that Bas-Congo was one of the most restive provinces in the Congo around the 2006 elections, when acolytes from Bundu dia Kongo clashed with security forces, leading to the killing by the latter of scores of people. Also, Kabila is understandably concerned with keeping cordial relations with his neighbors in the run-up to the elections, especially since there have been rumors that Vital Kamerhe might have received backing from Angola, and that armed opponents (ramshackle as they may be) have been using Brazzaville as a rear base.