KINSHASA, NOVEMBER 9, 2018(CISA) – The National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) have expressed concern on behalf of half a million Congolese deported from neighbouring Angola in a crackdown on informal diamond mining.
In a statement released on October 31, the bishops expressed their concern over the news of human rights violations by Angolan security forces and said that such acts threatened the peace along the 1,300-mile border of the two countries.
“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 bishops.
“We call on the Congolese authorities to begin a direct, open dialogue with the Angolan government to ensure the return of Congolese is organized and conducted in conditions that respect their dignity and conform with the international humanitarian law both countries have signed up to as United Nations members,” said the statement.
According to previous reports by Caritas Congo, 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.
“Catholic parishes had offered food and shelter to incoming people. However, the local resources were completely disproportionate to the number in need, and Caritas Congo was working with Caritas Internationalis to put a strategic plan in place,” said Sister Bernadette Reis, a U.S. nun from the Daughters of St. Paul to Vatican Radio.
The crisis is the latest to affect the conflict-torn Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries, which faces the looming December 23 presidential, parliamentary and regional elections after an earlier planned ballot in 2016 was postponed by the government.
The bishops said, “Mass deportations could disturb the election preparations” and called on the government to “make necessary and lasting arrangements to discourage illegal migratory movements.”
The bishops also urged Catholics to share the little they can with those returning.