Congo bishops call for support of miners expelled from Angola

Congo bishops call for support of miners expelled from Angola Photo: Reuters

Catholic bishops have urged help for half a million Congolese deported from neighbouring Angola under a crackdown on informal diamond mining.

The bishops said they were alarmed by news of human rights violations by Angolan security forces and said the expulsion of “successive waves” threatened peace along the two countries’ 1,300-mile border.

“Thousands of children, women, elderly, sick and handicapped, as well as able-bodied men and women, are being roughly unloaded like vulgar goods, day after day, in areas of great insecurity,” said the Kinshasa-based bishops’ conference.

“We call on the Congolese authorities to begin a direct, open dialogue with the Angolan government to ensure the return of Congolese is organised and conducted in conditions that respect their dignity and conform to the international humanitarian law both countries have signed up to as United Nations members,” they said in a statement.

The bishops also urged Catholics to “share the little they can” with those returning.


Angolan police commissioner Lambert Mende told the British news agency Reuters that his country was entitled to “safeguard its national security and natural resources” and said most Congolese had “left of their own free will”.

In an October 26 statement, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees confirmed the mass deportations had already brought “serious human rights violations by security forces on both sides of the border”, leaving at least 330,000 people “in an extremely precarious situation”.

The Congolese church’s charitable agency, Caritas, reported on October 27 that more than 500,000 deportees had arrived in several provinces. Of those, nearly 207,000 had converged on the single town of Kamako, heavily outnumbering local inhabitants.

A US nun from the Daughters of St Paul, Sister Bernadette Reis, told Vatican Radio on November 2 that Catholic parishes had offered food and shelter to incoming people.

She added that local resources were “completely disproportionate to the number in need”.