Crossing the Borders

Trans-Border Resource conflicts between the Democratic Republic of Congo, and its neighbours Angola and Uganda

Crossing the Borders

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)


February 5th, 2018

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shares borders with nine countries: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, southern Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Th e DRC is known for its potential in natural resources. A significant number of these resources are lying near the neighbouring countries. These resources are the cause of great tensions between the DRC and its neighbours, tensions that may turn into conflicts if they are not well managed. Th is study focuses, on the one hand, on the relations between the DRC and Angola, and on the other hand, between the DRC and Uganda. Th e DRC shares common trans border natural resources with each of these two countries.

Conflicts between States are the results of the colonial carving. Many of the conflicts between States in Africa were caused by claims of border limits because of the vagueness of borders due to colonisation, the presence of a large ethnic group on both sides of the borders, as well as the presence of natural resources lying along these borders.

Tensions between the DRC and its two neighbours are due to the fact that sea and land borders were never clearly defined, sparking claims and challenges on all sides. To resolve disputes between these States, several discussions on border and ownership of natural resources have already been undertaken between the countries of the Great Lakes region. Th e DRC has already signed, with each of these two neighbours, agreements of bilateral cooperation in 2007 for the exploration and exploitation of trans-border natural resources. In regards to the DRC and Angola, it is primarily the Protocol on cooperation in the fi eld of geology and mines (2007) and the Protocol on cooperation for research and production of hydrocarbons in the common interest Maritime area (2007). The Agreement Protocol on cooperation in the field of geology and mines has as main objective to promote and revitalize cooperation in the mining sector, including the strengthening on cooperation in the diamond sector, and other mining products, in the field of geology, the protection of the environment, the value added to mining products, as well as in the area of building human and institutional capacity of the mining companies. While the second protocol agreement focuses on exploration and joint exploitation of oil in the area of common interest.

A so-called Ngurdoto peace agreement between the DRC and Uganda was signed on September 8, 2007 in Tanzania, by the heads of State of the DRC and the Republic of Uganda to strengthen stability, security and prosperity between the two countries. Both parties agreed in this agreement, inter alia, to jointly reconstruct the line of demarcation of the common border.

Unfortunately, these agreements have never been implemented, due particularly to the absence of the political will of the leaders. There are tensions between the DRC and its two neighbours, and if these conflicts or tensions are not quickly resolved, they can cause instability in a region already affected by conflicts. This is why SARW initiated this research, which was accompanied by workshops with members of parliament and civil society in three countries in order to offer solutions to these different problems raised.

Research has identified various conflict situations and noted two methods or strategies to be taken into account in resolving challenges of the management of trans-border natural resources in the countries of the Great Lakes region. One is based on the assertion of the principle of the sovereignty of States over their natural resources, which has shown its limits, and the other, is based on the collegial or collaborative management of trans-border resources such as an integrative model.

Of this last method, two types of management are suited to rational management of natural resources in a peace climate. The first concerns the strengthening of cooperation and the second, shared management of resources. The various cooperation agreements mentioned above should be oriented in the shared or joint management of trans-border resources, as a result of profit-sharing and the strengthening of ties and economic interests between neighbouring States.


About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.


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