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Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the: Agreement Concluded on Movement and Settlement of Nationals

(June 9, 2014) On June 3, 2014, the Republic of the Congo (often called Congo-Brazzaville for its capital) and its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or DRC), signed an agreement on the movement and settlement of people and property between the two nations. The concord was made at the end of the meeting of the two countries’ joint commission on defense and security, held in the DRC capital, Kinshasa. (DRCongo, Congo Sign Agreement on Movement, Settlement of Nationals, GOMA RADIO OKAPI (June 4, 2014), Open Source Center online subscription database, Report No. AFL2014060561937309.)

Eight previous statements on the matter were never ratified and thus, experts argue, they are obsolete. The new agreement will need to be ratified by both legislatures to become effective. In addition, the two sides plan to create a team of experts, with representatives of each nation, to investigate whether human rights violations occurred when DRC nationals were expelled from Congo-Brazzaville this spring. The commission will use a case-based method to investigate allegations of abuses; it will also have the duty to inform diplomatic and consular offices before any large-scale expulsions in the future. (Id.)

The agreement follows a call by the United Nations, issued on May 26, 2014, for an end to the expulsions. While the bilateral agreement specified a lower number, the U.N. estimates 130,000 DRC citizens have been pushed out of Congo-Brazzaville and across the Congo River into the DRC since the beginning of April. Senior officials at the U.N. called for an investigation into allegations of violations of rights, including possible sexual violence, in connection with the expulsions. (Id.; Senior UN Officials Urge Brazzaville to Halt Expulsion of DR Congo Nationals, UN NEWS CENTRE (May 26, 2014).)

According to Martin Kobler, the head of the U.N. mission in Congo-Brazzaville, he has heard “numerous testimonies of victims of gross human rights abuses and cruel treatments. … I heard stories of children drowning in the river during their forced crossing. I saw a man injured by bullets and mothers who had given birth alone on the shore of the Congo River.” (UN Officials Urge Brazzaville to Halt Expulsion of DR Congo Nationals, supra.) He added that “[m]ass expulsions are contrary to principles within the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and international law more broadly.” (Id.) Article 12 of the Charter provides in part that:

4) A non-national legally admitted in a territory of a State Party to the present Charter, may only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in accordance with the law.

5) The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be that which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups. (African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, art. 12 ¶¶ 4 & 5 (June 1981), African Commission on Human and People’s Rights website.)

Both the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville have signed and ratified the Charter. (Ratification Map, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights website (last visited June 6, 2014) [scroll down to view map on lower right-hand side of the page].)

A Reuters report notes that Kinshasa and Brazzaville are the two capitals that are geographically closest in the world, that the two countries share ethnic and commercial ties, and that tensions between the two on the level experienced this year have been rare. (Peter Jones, U.N. Urges Brazzaville to Halt Expulsion of Congolese Nationals, REUTERS (May 26, 2014).)