Talks to resolve a deadly border dispute between Zambia and DR Congo collapsed on Thursday – three days into the five day talks.
High-level delegations from both sides have been meeting since Tuesday in Lubumbashi, capital of the Haut-Katanga province. The two countries sent political and expert teams for the talks.
DR Congo’s delegation is led by Zoe Kabila, governor of Tanganyika Province, whose portion of territory is occupied by heavily armed Zambia troops. Zoe is also young brother of former President Joseph Kabila.
Around March 19, Zambian troops crossed into what DR Congo considers as Tanganyika province and took over three large villages Kubanga, Kalubamba and Moliro. They are located along the common border and also touch on Lake Tanganyika.
There were brief skirmishes, but no major escalation. Since then, the government in Kinshasa and Zambian defense ministry officials met to diffuse the situation.
According to historical records, that particular region has been spot of regular fighting between the two countries for decades. More recently, war nearly broke out in 1996, 2006 and 2016. A treaty was signed in 1989 confirming the areas belonged to DRC, then called Zaire.
From the latest crisis, in the occupied villages, pictures shared on social media show inscriptions “New Zambia” on walls of houses, supposedly written by the occupying Zambia forces.
During the preliminary informal engagements, Kinshasa and Lusaka agreed in principle that the border conflict be handled within the annual joint commission summits. The current summit handling the Tanganyika border dispute is the tenth (10th) and was to last five days.
It emerged Thursday evening that the Lubumbashi talks had collapsed, just three days into the meetings. Media reports from Lubumbashi say Tanganyika Governor Zoe Kabila walked out of the talks vowing he will never relinquish a “single centimeter of DR Congo”.
Meanwhile, some political leaders are pushing a narrative that the border dispute is manufactured from within DRC in effort to undermine government of President Felix Tshisekedi.