By Andrea M. Olson, Katherine Fung and Phil Ewing, The Washington Post
Chinese nationals were kidnapped in Democratic Republic of Congo Friday night after gunmen attacked a camp, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday.
The Chinese nationals were taken from a camp next to their Chinese manager’s residence at around 11 p.m. the night before. Their exact whereabouts were unknown Saturday.
The news comes less than a week after a Chinese vice consul in eastern Congo was kidnapped by armed men and killed. A memorial ceremony was held Saturday afternoon at the Chinese Consulate, attended by Chinese nationals and representatives of Congo’s military and government.
Tensions between armed groups in eastern Congo are high, and the local government in the volatile Congo city of Goma has announced a security crackdown in preparation for what it expects will be heavy fighting.
Congo has been in the grips of one of the world’s worst wars. Millions of people have died since regional conflicts began in eastern Congo in 1996. Three wars since 1998, when foreign backers of warlord Laurent Nkunda turned on their Congolese allies, have only aggravated the instability.
A commission commissioned by President Joseph Kabila to report on the causes of the conflict released a report in February blaming the government for failing to properly govern the troubled region and provide security for civilians.
Western leaders have called for peace in the region, but Kabila is resisting pressure to delegate more authority to civilian leaders. In March, African leaders in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, called on Congo to cede more power to civilian government, but Kabila rejected their suggestions.
Violence in recent years has been centered around the eastern region of North Kivu. Fighting between the Congolese army and rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda last year drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes.
Scores of civilians were killed and thousands more forced from their homes in the clashes. Last week, an official said troops killed 16 armed civilians in the east. It was unclear whether those deaths were in the same incident.
Fights over ethnically based mineral resources have also been a factor in the unrest.
With assistance from Leila Abboud and Peter Spiegel.