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14 Oct 2009 15:51
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said it had agreed with Angola to halt tit-for-tat expulsions of each other’s citizens as victims here on Wednesday told of being subjected to brutal rapes and lootings when they were thrown out by Luanda.
Aid agencies have expressed concern about the expulsions that have left tens of thousands of people homeless on both sides of the border in recent weeks.
Kinshasa’s Communications Minister Lambert Mende late on Tuesday announced the end of the deportations which according to the United Nations involves 20 000 Angolans, and about 18 000 people going the other way.
“The expulsion measures against Congolese and Angolan nationals have been suspended by the two presidents,” said Mende.
The move follows a meeting of foreign, interior and defence ministers of the two governments in Kinshasa on Tuesday, according to DRC’s Foreign Ministry.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last week that most of the Congolese expelled from Angola had fled to Bas-Congo province on the Atlantic coast, almost all of them arriving in August and September as the expulsions intensified.
Among them was Bibi, who said she and other women in her cell had been raped after being rounded up for deportation by Angolan police.
“Police woke me up at 4 o’clock in the morning, they ripped up my residence card and took me to a cell where I was raped, along with other women,” said the 23-year-old who had worked in a market in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda enclave.
Nicolas Ndaye, a computer engineer, said he had a “very bad memory of the Angolans” after his three-year stay in Cabinda.
“I’ve travelled all over the world but what I lived through in Cabinda was hell, and yet there I was training computer technicians, invested $3 200, and I have a consular card.”
“I’ve lost everything, except what I’m wearing,” after being thrown into a truck packed with other Congolese and deported, said Ndaye, adding that he had been separated from his family.
During his deportation, he had counted “six dead, people who were thrown off a vehicle moving at high speed towards the border”.
“My wife told me about the mass rape of women in the cell where she was being held before being deported.”
Ostensibly an operation to crackdown on illegals dubbed Operation Clean Up, Angola targeted migrants mainly from DRC and the Republic of Congo, the two nations that surround its oil-rich Cabinda enclave and cut it off from the rest of the country.
Kinshasa responded in kind the following month, September, focusing on Angolan migrants.
Both countries say only illegal immigrants were targeted.
However, Jean-Claude Molo (35) said: “Police told me they didn’t care about my residence card. They stripped me, took my shoes off, and took 7 000 kwanza [about $60 in Angolan currency] before dumping me in a cell.”
Molo is now one of thousands of residents crammed into a makeshift camp in a car park in Yema, on the Congolese side of the border with Cabinda.
Desperate deportees have been arriving here in their hundreds in recent days, traumatised by the alleged brutality of the Angolan security forces.
Bibi, sheltering in a hut made of bamboo and palm fronds in the car-park, said: “Bandits tipped off the police where the Congolese were living, whether they were illegal or not, and we were stripped of our belongings.
“I would have lost my life if I had tried to hang on to anything.
I saw people being beaten up and dying for their belongings.”—AFP
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