An­gola loses pa­tience with Ka­bila

Con­golese pres­i­dent slammed

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - REUTERS

ACHANGE of tone in An­gola’s re­la­tion­ship with long-time ally Congo has left Con­golese Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila more iso­lated as he clings to power in his vast cen­tral African coun­try.

An­gola, a re­gional po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary heavy­weight, has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions pro­vided vi­tal sup­port for Ka­bila, who took over as pres­i­dent of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC) in 2001 fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of his father.

But Luanda is frus­trated by Ka­bila’s han­dling of sev­eral crises, in­clud­ing his fail­ure to step aside when his man­date ended last De­cem­ber and a con­flict in which refugees have poured across his coun­try’s long bor­der into An­gola.

In De­cem­ber An­gola with­drew mil­i­tary train­ers it had sent to the Congo, where wars at the turn of the cen­tury killed mil­lions and sucked in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

That de­ci­sion raised doubts that Luanda would be ready to bail Ka­bila out again, and those doubts have been height­ened by the change of tone in ties, sig­nalling a big shift in re­gional power pol­i­tics.

For­eign Min­is­ter Ge­orges Chikoti made it clear that pa­tience was run­ning out in May, when he ques­tioned a state­ment in which Congo said a con­flict in the Ka­sai re­gion bor­der­ing An­gola had been re­solved af­ter sev­eral months.

“On one side, we are told that the ques­tion of the suc­ces­sion of the king­dom of Ka­sai has been re­solved, on the other, we (still) see peo­ple who ar­rive (in An­gola) hav­ing been treated badly,” he told French broad­caster RFI.

Chikoti also backed calls for an in­ter­na­tional in­quiry into the killing of two UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the re­gion, a move which Kin­shasa has re­jected.

A more di­rect chal­lenge has come from Sindika Dokolo, a Con­golese busi­ness­man and art col­lec­tor who is mar­ried to the bil­lion­aire daugh­ter of Pres­i­dent Jose Ed­uardo dos San­tos.

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously steered clear of national pol­i­tics, Dokolo has in re­cent weeks hit out at Ka­bila on Twit­ter and in in­ter­views, draw­ing com­par­isons with the end of Con­golese dic­ta­tor Mobutu Sese Seko’s rule.

“We un­der­es­ti­mate Congo’s ca­pac­ity to desta­bilise the re­gion,” he said. “We are play­ing with matches on a bar­rel of ex­plo­sives and that wor­ries me a lot.”

Dokolo has urged stu­dents and church lead­ers to mo­bilise against Ka­bila and praised Moise Ka­tumbi, an op­po­si­tion leader in ex­ile.

He says he is com­ment­ing as a pri­vate Con­golese cit­i­zen. But the out­spo­ken re­marks carry weight be­cause they come from the heart of the fam­ily around Dos San­tos.

“Clearly as hus­band to Is­abel dos San­tos, this sig­nals frus­tra­tion in Luanda,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Pro­gramme at Lon­don-based pol­icy in­sti­tute Chatham House.

Congo, a coun­try of more than 80 mil­lion peo­ple which is the world’s big­gest cobalt pro­ducer, a cop­per and di­a­monds miner and oil pro­ducer, has been plagued by war and in­sta­bil­ity since the fall of klep­to­crat Mobutu in 1997.

An­gola has had dif­fer­ences in the past with Congo, in­clud­ing over their mar­itime bor­der, com­pet­ing claims to offshore oil and the ex­pul­sion by Luanda of tens of thou­sands of Con­golese di­a­mond min­ers more than a decade ago.

But An­gola, whose pop­u­la­tion of about 26 mil­lion is much smaller than its neigh­bour’s, be­lieves its in­ter­ests are best served if Congo is sta­ble, and has stepped in mil­i­tar­ily or diplo­mat­i­cally in the past to keep the sta­tus quo.

In 1998, early in a war that lasted un­til 2003, An­golan war­planes strafed Rwan­dan sol­diers march­ing on Kin­shasa. When gun bat­tles erupted in the cap­i­tal in 2006, An­golan troops flew in to help Ka­bila’s body­guards de­feat fighters loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba, an ex-rebel he had just de­feated in an elec­tion.


A ven­dor sits at a bus stand in front of a pic­ture of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo’s Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila in Kin­shasa.

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