Washington DC — An official of the Democratic Republic of Congo said his government will take legal action against the government of Congo-Brazzaville to protest the treatment of DRC nationals. Information Minister Lambert Mende said the legal action will take place both in the International Criminal Court and Congolese courts.
According to the United Nations, more than 130,000 DRC nationals have been expelled since April. Congo-Brazzaville said they are illegal foreign workers. Two UN officials, Martin Kobler, head of the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) and Sexual Violence in Conflict envoy Zainab Bangura Monday said they had received reports of physical abuse and sexual violence against the DRC nationals. Mende also said the deportations violate a 1999 bilateral agreement.
“This was a violation of our 1999 agreement with Congo-Brazzaville that no country should deport citizens of another country without informing the country of origin of those to be deported,” he said. Mende said the DRC government welcomes the comments of Kobler and Bangura on the treatment of DRC nationals, but he said it may have come too late. Still, he hopes it will lead to an international condemnation of the government in Brazzaville.
He said it was Kinshasa that first informed the United Nations about the ill treatment of its nationals by Congo-Brazzaville. “We are also preparing the complaints from our compatriots, those victims. We are compiling the damage they have suffered so as to go to the international justice, so that whatever has been done to them is repaired because those are human beings. They are not animals,” Mende said. Mende said, while Congo-Brazzaville has the right as a sovereign nation to decide who enters or is refused entry, it must do so in compliance with international law. “Of course, we don’t deny that right. But, they must also respect other provisions of international law and our regional agreements. It is stated clearly that, although you have the right to expel a foreigner, you must respect his human rights, you must respect his dignity, and you must respect his property,” Mende said.
Mende said the dignity of DRC nationals was not respected and their property was looted and others killed. Bangura said in a statement Monday that her office had received reports “alleging that sexual violence is being committed before and during the expulsion exercise.” “We are scandalized by this behavior of some police officers in Congo-Brazzaville. We sent this evidence to the Congo-Brazzaville government, as well as to the United Nations, and we really intend that this be pursued in the international court,” Mende said. Mende said Congo-Brazzaville had informed the government in Kinshasa that it was going to expel about 2,000 criminal elements identified as DRC nationals. But, Mende said, instead of 2,000, Congo-Brazzaville has expelled more than 130,000.