Angola’s head of presidential security, Minister Pedro Sebastiao, said this weekend that some 380,000 illegal migrants, mostly from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, have left his country in the past month due to the massive, government-led ‘Operation Transparency’ which is targeting diamond smuggling.
According to Sebastiao, diamonds worth more than $1 million had been seized in the course of the operation, as well as 59 weapons. Over 200 premises for illegal diamond trading were also dismantled.
The government official said that about a 1,000 people are crossing different border posts every day. Angola and the DRC share the longest land border in Africa.
Despite the magnitude and scale of the operation, which is expected to last for two years, the minister dismissed allegations of forced returns and police violence against the migrants. He emphasized that the program does not have a xenophobic character.
However, Agence France-Presse reports that many Congolese have said they were brutally thrown out of Angola, that their houses had been burnt by police and gangs, and that they were attacked with machetes and beaten as they fled.
Clashes have also been reported between Congolese, Angolan security forces and local Angolans in several northern provinces.
But in Sebastiao’s view, the crackdown across the northern and western parts of the African country is just aimed at ensuring that diamond reserves are correctly exploited.
Angola is the world’s No.4 diamond producer by value and No.6 by volume, with companies such as Australia’s Lucapa Diamond (ASX:LOM) frequently finding massive precious rocks underneath its soil.
The industry, which began a century ago under Portuguese colonial rule, is successfully emerging from a long period of difficulty as a result of a civil war that ended in 2002.