For the past three months, tension has been rising between the Democratic Republic of Congo and its East African neighbour, Zambia. This follows accusations by the Congolese authorities that “Zambia has been manifesting annexationist intentions in one part of our territory.”
Gilbert Kankondeuu, the DR Congo Vice- Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, Security Affairs and Customs, made the allegations in a statement early in May.
Since March, there have been clashes between the naval and land forces of the two countries on Lake Tanganyika and its neighbourhoods.
The clashes were centred around Moliro in the DR Congo which is located on the southwest of the lake which waters are very rich in aquatic resources, and constitute the source of the current tension.
Security sources in Zambia accuse Congolese fishermen of doing extensive fishing on the Zambian side of the lake without due authorisation from the Zambian authorities.
This resulted in Zambian forces chasing them away from the area, and according to Congolese government officials, the Zambian soldiers occupied a village within Congolese territory.
Congolese authorities allege this “illegal occupation of our territory” led to the clashes that left two dead and several wounded on March 15 leading to the eventual bombardment of Congolese villages by the Zambian air force.
The clashes forced several Congolese to desert their homes and hide in the forests resulting in angry declarations from the Congolese authorities.
“Our consciences are being appealed to by the cries of the population within the Moliro grouping where the Zambian army has been occupying up to 30lm of our land,” a Congolese parliamentarian, who called for the reaction of his government last week, declared.
The member of parliament who refused to give his name said the accusations that Congolese fishermen entered Zambian waters were merely an excuse for the Zambians to annex part of Congolese territory.
“These accusations are untrue and based on erroneous information. Zambian troops never crossed the border but remained within the interior of our territories,” said Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Malanji.
“We have no interest to annex territories outside our frontiers, we are not that kind of country,” the Zambian minister said.
However, a DR Congo source told HumAngle over the weekend that “…the situation on the ground has normalised after the clashes and Congolese loyalist forces have recuperated the territory occupied by Zambian soldiers and diplomatic contacts between the two countries are ongoing.”
Another source told the UN’s Radio Okapi that the military top brass of the two countries were supervising the return of displaced populations to their original locations.
Similar incidents between the two armies in the same Congolese localities occurred in 1996, 2006 and 2016.
Other incidents included attacks by armed bands and incursions into foreign territory by individuals whose nationalities remain a mystery.
Whenever such incidents occurred, the armies of the two countries were forced to intervene to secure the lives and properties of their nationals.