China Tells Citizens to Leave Part of Congo After Kidnappings, Increase in Violence

China on Wednesday urged its citizens to evacuate three eastern Congo provinces following violence and kidnappings in the region.

Chinese businesses recently moved into Congo in pursuit of cobalt and other rare minerals, the Associated Press reported, but the Chinese Embassy in Kinshasa posted a message on WeChat saying that several of its citizens have been attacked and kidnapped over the past month in the South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where anti-government rebel groups have a presence.

No details on the kidnappings were provided in the post, though AP noted that the Embassy reported five Chinese citizens were kidnapped from a mining operation in South Kivu.

"We ask that all Chinese citizens and Chinese-invested businesses in Congo please pay close attention to local conditions, increase their safety awareness and emergency preparedness, and avoid unnecessary outside travel," the Embassy said.

The post said citizens residing in the three provinces should provide their personal details by December 10 and make plans to head to a safer part of Congo. It also recommended that citizens in the districts of Bunia, Djugu, Beni, Rutshuru, Fizi, Uvira and Mwenga leave immediately. It added that those who choose not to leave "will have to bear the consequences themselves."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Bukavu, South Kivu, Congo
The Chinese Embassy said five Chinese citizens were abducted from a mining operation in the South Kivu province of Congo last month. Above, Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, on November 27, 2021. Photo by Benoit Doppagne/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Several armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, the Mai-Mai and the M23 regularly vie for control of eastern Congo's natural resources.

Despite the danger, Chinese businesses have moved into Congo and other unstable African states. Chinese workers have also been subject to kidnappings and attacks in Pakistan and other countries with active insurgencies.

Security was a key topic at a meeting Monday in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on Monday, between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Congolese counterpart Christophe Lutundula, according to China's Xinhua News Agency.

China's government and ruling Communist Party "attach great importance to the safety and security of Chinese enterprises and Chinese nationals overseas and the Chinese side has been extremely concerned with the recent serious crimes of kidnappings and killings of its citizens in the DRC," Wang said, using the acronym for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wang urged Congo to secure the release of those kidnapped and create a "safe, secure and stable environment for bilateral cooperation."

Xinhua quoted Lutundula as saying Congo would take "forceful measures" to investigate the crimes, free the hostages, punish the culprits severely and safeguard national security and restore stability to the country's east.

Earlier this week, Uganda said it launched joint air and artillery strikes with Congolese forces against camps of the extremist Allied Democratic Forces rebel group in eastern Congo.

The ADF was established in the early 1990s in Uganda and later driven out by the Ugandan military into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to operate because the central government has limited control there.

At least four civilians were killed less than two weeks ago in Uganda's capital when suicide bombers detonated their explosives at two locations.

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were carried out by Ugandans. Ugandan authorities blamed the ADF, which has been allied with ISIS since 2019.

China, Congo, Xi Jinping
China on Wednesday urged its citizens to leave three provinces in eastern Congo as violence intensifies in the mineral-rich region. Above, Chinese leader Xi Jinping stands in front of national flags of China and Republic of Congo during a meeting with Congolese dignitaries at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on July 5, 2016. Ng Han Guan, Pool, File/AP Photo