DR Congolese decry forced deportation, abuses

Around 130,000 citizens of DR Congo had been deported from Congo-Brazzaville since early April.

DR Congolese decry forced deportation, abuses

World Bulletin / News Desk

Elisee Bolumbu, 43, looks upset as she sits on mattresses and packed households items next to her two small daughters in the compound of a district office used by the Democratic Republic of Congo government as a transit camp for thousands of its citizens who had been deported by its small western neighbor, the Republic of Congo.

Bolumbu had lived in Congo-Brazzaville for 26 years. She initially went there as clothing trader, before becoming a farmer.

She is one of nearly thousands of Congolese recently deported by the Congo-Brazzaville authorities to their native DR Congo.

"The local police chief in neighborhood where I was staying ordered all landlords to get rid of Congolese from their houses or be heavily fined," she told Anadolu Agency.

"Two days later, police stormed our neighborhood, rounded us up and took us to a detention center," she recalled, lamenting the fact that she was not given a chance to harvest her crops.

Authorities in Brazzaville admit to deporting only a few thousands and describe the deportations as a legitimate move aimed at ending the state of insecurity, which they blamed on foreigners, especially those from DR Congo.

Gangs had reportedly sought refuge in Brazzaville after being flushed out of Kinshasa in an operation aimed at ending rampant criminality.

Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the Congo River, which it takes a few minutes to cross.

But according to the U.N., around 130,000 citizens of DR Congo had been deported from Brazzaville since early April.

The DR Congo government decided to relocate deportees who don't have families in Kinshasa to a former police training camp some 80km northwest of the capital.

DR Congo, the Republic of Congo and Angola signed a tripartite convention in 1999, which states that, when one state wants to deport citizens of another state – whose activities threaten national security – "the expelling country must issue an early warning to the state of origin of the expelled people through diplomatic channels; it must take precautionary measures to safeguard the belongings, the interests and physical integrity of deportees."

Abused

Bolumbu said she saw police arrest a neighbor who had been showering in a makeshift bathroom outside.

"The policemen rounded her up into the car naked. They denied her the chance to enter the house to put on clothes," she added.

John Ndala, another deportee who had been working as a dressmaker in Brazzaville, had a similar experience.

"Over 12 policemen stormed my house, searching everything," he told AA.

"When I tried to resist, they beat me with sticks on my legs and rounded me up with my wife and children into a lorry to the detention center."

He said he saw lifeless bodies being taken out of rooms at the center.

Testimonies like these have provoked a public outcry in DR Congo.

A fact-finding commission sent by parliament to neighboring Congo-Brazzaville concluded that several deportees had been extorted, beaten, molested, stripped and raped by security agents before being deported.

The report had recommended cutting diplomatic ties, recalling the ambassador from Brazzavile, freezing bilateral trade exchanges and closing the borders.

"The worrying things you notice at the border post where deportees are landing is the level of women and children who show strong signs of fatigue," Florian Mourrier, International Organization for Migration project director, told AA in Kinshasa.

"They testify that, before the deportation, they were kept for several days in transit centers in Brazzaville before they were transported to the beach post," he said.

On May 26, the U.N. demanded an immediate halt to the expulsion of Congolese nationals from Congo-Brazzaville.

It called on authorities there to investigate alleged rights violations.

"I heard numerous testimonies of victims of gross human rights abuses and cruel treatment," Martin Kobler, special representative of the secretary-general in DR Congo, said in a statement.

"I heard stories of children drowning in the river during their forced crossing," he added.

"I saw a man injured by bullets and mothers who had given birth alone on the shore of the Congo River," Kobler said.

Col. Jules Mukala Tchumu, spokesperson for the Congo-Brazzaville police, recently told state television that the deportations had been accompanied by some violations, but not to the extent that was being reported by deportees and rights groups.

He said 17 policemen had been arrested so far, while investigations were underway to find additional culprits.

Last Mod: 07 Haziran 2014, 10:14
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