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Cablegate: Embassy Kinshasa Team Visits Bas Congo to Discuss

VZCZCXRO7734
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1096/01 3501328
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161328Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0435
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2307
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0806
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNSAD/SADC COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KINSHASA 001096

AIDAC

AID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA- CCHAN, ACONVERY, KCHANNELL, RKERR
AID/W FOR DCHA/FFP- TANDERSON, NCOX, TMCRAE
AID/W FOR DCHA/OTI- KHUBER
AID/W FOR AA/AFR, EARL GAST; AFR/EA RHELLYER, KDESGRANGES
NAIROBI FOR USAID/OFDA/ARO- GPRATT, SKHANDAGLE
NAIROBI FOR USAID/FFP- DSUTHER
KAMPALA FOR MLARSON-KONE
STATE FOR PRM WHENNING; S/WI; AF/C
ROME FOR USUN FODAG- RNEWBERG
GENEVA FOR NYKLOH
NSC FOR PMARCHAM
BRUSSELS FOR USAID JADDLETON
NEW YORK FOR TMALY

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM EAID PREF PGOV KWMN PREL AG CG
SUBJECT: EMBASSY KINSHASA TEAM VISITS BAS CONGO TO DISCUSS
EXPULSIONS OF ANGOLANS AND CONGOLESE

REFS: (A) KINSHASA 948 (B) KINSHASA 775

KINSHASA 00001096 001.2 OF 004


1. (SBU) Summary: An Embassy Kinshasa team comprised of two
political officers, a representative of the office of the defense
attache, and a USAID/OFDA representative visited the province of
Bas-Congo on November 3-4 to look at the humanitarian situation.
Angola has expelled approximately 140,000 illegal Congolese
immigrants from its territory in various waves since December 2003.
The number of expulsions a day from Angola reached a peak of 3,000
expellees in September 2009. In August, the GDRC retaliated by
expelling Angolans, many of whom had long-standing refugee status,
from Bas Congo Province. By the end of October the DRC had deported
30,000 Angolans. Although both Angola and DRC decided in October to
suspend expulsions, illegal immigrants from both sides continue to
cross the borders. The number of crossings, however, has
drastically decreased to less than ten per day. Some people
expelled from Angola and the DRC have apparently returned to where
they were deported from, resuming daily activities. Most of our
Congolese interlocutors pointed to 2010 elections in Angola as the
factor behind Angola's decision to expel DRC citizens. As of now,
the situation appears to be more of a political rather than
humanitarian problem. End summary.

2. (U) An Embassy Kinshasa team comprised of two political
officers, a defense attach representative, and a USAID/OFDA
representative visited the Bas-Congo Province on November 3-4. The
purpose of the visit was to assess the situation and provide
recommendations for humanitarian assistance, if needed. The USG
delegation met with the province's Vice Governor, the MONUC
Provincial Team, local NGO representatives, including those working
on sexual violence and human rights, the Provincial Director of
Migration, and residents of Songololo and Kimpese, including
expelled Congolese and Angolans. This report focuses primarily on
the humanitarian aspect of the situation.

Background
----------

3. (U) The Government of Angola started periodic expulsions of all
foreigners living or working in Angola without legal status in
December 2003. The majority of people that have been expelled from
Angola are DRC citizens, mainly from the provinces that share
borders with Angola including Bandundu, Bas Congo, Kasai Occidental,
and Katanga. The expulsions have been in waves with over 140,000
Congolese expatriated since 2003. Until recently, the most affected
DRC provinces had been Bandundu and Kasai Occidental (ref A).
Starting in June 2009, the number of people expelled into Bas Congo
gradually increased and reached a peak of 3,000 persons a day
between late September and early October. These recent expelled
Congolese used to live in Cabinda district, M'banza Congo in the
Uige Province, and Soyo in Zaire Province of Angola.
QUige Province, and Soyo in Zaire Province of Angola.

4. (U) The Congolese expelled to Bandundu and Kasai Occidental were
mostly people involved in illegal diamond mining (ref B). However,
the new waves of expellees arriving since January 2009 in Bas Congo
had been involved in a variety of activities, including small
business and farming in Angola. Immigration officials register only
people who cross the official border posts, admitting that the exact
number of people expelled and entering Bas Congo remains unknown.
Since January 2009, the immigration office in Bas Congo has
registered 85,000 Congolese expelled from Angola.

5. (U) The GDRC decided in August 2009 to begin expelling illegal
Angolan citizens residing in the DRC. Many observers considered
this decision retaliation for the sudden repatriation of thousands
of undocumented Congolese migrants working in Angola. The majority

KINSHASA 00001096 002.2 OF 004


of Angolans in Bas Congo have been living in DRC fo decades, many
with refugee status, after fleeing Angola's protracted civil war,
which ended in 2002. The tit-for-tat expulsions raised concerns of
a humanitarian catastrophe, if further and accelerated expulsions
continued.

Expulsion of Angolans
---------------------

6. (U) According to Songololo and Kimpese residents, many Angolans
living in the region were frightened, not only by the DRC decision
to expel them, but also by fear of violent retaliation by expelled
Congolese. As a result, many illegal Angolans rushed to the
Congolese immigration offices and requested to be deported as soon
as possible, while the legal residents requested government
protection. At the beginning of deportation, the DRC assisted 624
deported Angolans with transportation from their villages to the
borders. However, this assistance was discontinued in September, as
the number of Angolan candidates for deportation increased. As of
November, the immigration office of Bas Congo had recorded the
return of about 30,000 Angolans to their homeland.

7. (U) According to MONUC, the expulsion process of Angolans went
peacefully with little or no incidents. In one exception in
October, after crossing the border, angry expelled Congolese wanted
to retaliate by attacking Angolans living in Moanda, but they were
stopped by Angolan soldiers (military instructors at Kitona camp)
who fired shots to prevent the attack.

Reasons for Expulsions
----------------------

8. (SBU) When asked, the vice governor and human rights
representatives believe the GoA consider most Congolese in regions
bordering Cabinda to be supportive of the rebel Front for the
Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC). The vice governor
speculated that Angola wants the DRC to pay for its support to
former UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. Many Songololo and Kimpese
residents believe that Angolans are unhappy with Congolese who fled
Bas Congo to look for jobs in Angola and ended up as criminals. Our
interlocutors, including expelled Congolese, believe that the
expulsion is mostly driven by upcoming elections in Angola. As
Congolese immigrants overwhelmingly support the opposition UNITA,
they are not often welcome during election periods.

Abuse Committed during Expulsion
--------------------------------

9. (U) In Songololo, expelled Congolese interviewed reported to
have been physically abused by Angolan authorities during
deportation. Some women claimed that Angolan law enforcement
officers raped them either during arrest or while in temporary
detention. Several women interviewed burst into tears when asked
about their ordeals in prison before being deported. According to
expellees, deportation did not depend on the legal status of the
Congolese, all Congolese living in a targeted neighborhood were
QCongolese, all Congolese living in a targeted neighborhood were
subject to deportation. Resident cards held by Congolese were
destroyed by Angolan authorities. Massive extortions were committed
where people were stripped of all their belongings. Angolan
authorities purposefully ignored the closest borders and selected to
drop Congolese at borders that were as far away from where they were
arrested as possible (200 kilometers in some cases). According to
the Congolese authorities, some expelled people appeared at the
borders with gunshot wounds in need of immediate medical attention.
Most of these atrocities were reportedly committed by Angolan police
officers, but sometimes by youth hired to track down Congolese
immigrants.

KINSHASA 00001096 003.2 OF 004

Assistance to Expellees
-----------------------

10. (U) Congolese expellees who arrive at official borders are
first registered by immigration officials. Although expulsions from
Angola have continued for years, the GDRC has not yet established a
mechanism to assist its deported citizens. Generally, expellees are
on their own once they cross the border to reach their final
destinations, a difficult situation for many considering that they
have nothing with them. Many expellees indicated that they received
assistance for transportation from relatives in villages along the
way home.


11. (U) Humanitarian organizations have mostly been absent in
assisting expellees, as the expulsions have often not been
considered a humanitarian crisis. Therefore, humanitarian
assistance services are mostly lacking or at very limited capacity
at the onset of expulsions. This year, at the peak of the crisis in
September-October, some humanitarian actors started to provide
assistance. WHO vaccinated children under five, MSF-Belgium
provided medical screening and emergency healthcare to expellees in
need, UNICEF and CARITAS assisted with non-food items for the most
vulnerable, and the GDRC provided transportation and meals for a few
days.

12. (U) Once in villages, most expellees in Bas Congo move back in
their households, but often rely on relatives and friends to
re-establish livelihood activities. However, expellees who have no
houses to move back to stay with relatives until a permanent
solution is found. Despite the hardship of restarting livelihood
activities, the situation appears to be under control and does not
constitute a humanitarian crisis. However, this might change if
Angolan authorities decide to restart expulsions that would
overwhelm the existing coping mechanism of the host villages.

13. (U) According to MUNUC observers, Angolan authorities had not
expected a large number of expellees from the DRC, and were,
therefore, not prepared to receive them. Angolan authorities wanted
to screen people claiming to be Angolans, but were overwhelmed by
the numbers, which led to crowds forming at the borders for several
days and expellees losing patience.

Expellees Returning
-------------------

14. (SBU) There is increasing evidence that many expellees from
Angola and the DRC are trying or have returned to the country that
deported them. One of the tactics used by Congolese was to claim to
be Angolan citizens to Congolese authorities and to request to be
deported. This occurred mostly when DRC authorities processed
Angolans to be deported. Since assistance has stopped and all
deportation became voluntary, Congolese are now paying up to $20 to
immigration authorities for an official document allowing them to
re-enter Angola. According to Congolese laws, this is illegal;
people deported should not be allowed to return to the country
Qpeople deported should not be allowed to return to the country
within two years of the deportation.

15. (SBU) There are also reports of deported Angolans returning to
the DRC. According to Angolans interviewed in Songololo and
Kimpese, many were born and raised in the DRC and do not know people
or have relatives back in Angola. According to local NGO
representatives and local authorities in Songololo and Kimpese, some
deported Angolans have re-emerged in villages from where they were
deported. One of the indications of return is the re-opening of
businesses owned by Angolans. USAID/OFDA rep met with one Angolan

KINSHASA 00001096 004.2 OF 004


family that had returned with official papers showing October 5 as
the day they were deported. The family was being questioned by
immigration authorities. In Songololo, some villages were
completely emptied when Angolans were deported, but those villages
have become populated again. Village residents, in discussions with
USAID/OFDA rep, insisted that they were all Congolese citizens, but
would not answer additional questions. It was clear that they did
not want to talk any further.

Conclusions
------------

16. (U) Although the GDRC and Angola decided in October to suspend
expulsions, immigration officers continue to registerexpellees
crossing from both countries. However, according to DRC immigration
officers, the number of people crossing has significantly decreased
from thousands a day to less than 10.

17. (SBU) Residents of Bas Congo think that the expulsions have
created more problems than solutions to the situation of illegal
immigration from both countries. In the past, residents of
neighboring towns did not need a passport or visa to enter either
country, but now everybody is required to have a passport and visa.
Businesses in neighboring towns are also affected by the expulsions.
In Cabinda, for instance, most of the small businesses were
operated by Congolese immigrants. In addition, vegetable
cultivation has also been dominated by Congolese immigrants. These
sectors have been the most affected since the expulsions of
Congolese started in the Cabinda territory. Many children from
Cabinda go to school in the DRC and the majority of Cabinda
residents use Congolese hospitals to get medical help. Many have
questioned whether the expulsions and general bad blood will incite
the DRC to prevent Angolans from using these DRC facilities.

18. (SBU) All our interlocutors do not believe that deportation
would succeed in solving the problem of illegal immigration. For
many, Angola and DRC authorities will never succeed in getting rid
of their respective illegal immigrants. According to Bas Congo
officials and local NGOs, expulsions will only lead to more abuses
from both sides and tarnish the longstanding good relations between
the two people. To many, the solution is a political and not a
humanitarian one. According to the provincial head of immigration,
the DRC is ready to work on a political solution, but feels Angola
does not yet trust the GDRC.

19. (SBU) Although some returnees require assistance, the magnitude
of the situation appears at the moment not to be a humanitarian
crisis. Many Bas Congo residents believe the worst is behind them.
It is a general belief among most residents that Angolan authorities
are unlikely to expel more Congolese at this time.

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