By Arnoldo Vieira
The continued mass expulsion of Congolese migrants from Angola could trigger a renewal of inter-ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai Province, VOA Radio reported.
“DRC security forces allegedly have subjected migrants to extortion and illegal taxation upon arrival in the town of Kamako,” VOA Radio quoted Ms Ravina Shamdasani, the UN human rights spokeswoman, as saying.
“Given the continued presence of armed groups that are split along ethnic lines in the Kasais, we are warning of the risk of inter-communal violence if the situation is not handled carefully by the authorities” Ms Shamdasani was quoted.
“Failing this, we fear we could see a repeat of the cycles of terrible violence that erupted in the Kasais in 2016,” she was further quoted.
VOA Radio quoted the UN Human Rights chief, Ms Michele Bachelet, as calling on the Angolan government to halt the expulsions, while urging the DRC authorities to protect the returning migrants from exploitation and violence.
Thousands of returnees have so far crossed to the Congolese side from Angola as the latter enforces an exit order against migrants.
There have been reports of violent clashes in some areas of Angola, even as Luanda confirmed that about 380,000 illegal migrants, mostly from DRC, had left the country in less than a month during a massive operation targeting diamond smuggling.
Last week, AFP quoted migrants who had crossed back to the frontier DRC town of Kamako as saying that their houses had been burnt by police and gangs of Angolan youths, and some had been attacked with machetes and beaten as they fled.
Mineral-rich Angola attracts hordes of Congolese as it is relatively stable and offers better employment prospects.
DRC has an abundance of mineral wealth but is rocked by unrest unleashed by rebel groups and militias from within and neighbouring nations such as Uganda and Rwanda.
Angola and DR Congo share a 2,500-kilometre land border, the longest in Africa.
The central DRC’s Kasai Province has seen a major spike in violence since September 2017, leaving at least 400 dead in an uprising that erupted when government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu.
Nsapu had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila./TheEastAfrican