Over the past five months, relations between the DRC and Belgium have deteriorated drastically.
Following the deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters by Congolese security forces in December 2017, Brussels announced its decision to end a number of bilateral initiatives in January 2018. Instead, Belgium has allocated the €25 million to non-governmental organisations working on humanitarian aid in the country (ReliefWeb, 10.01.2018).
This move sparked a series of retaliatory measures by both governments, culminating in the closures of their respective consulates in Belgium and the DRC and impacting the services of Brussels Airlines. While these headline-grabbing developments may not significantly damage the DRC’s already weak investment environment, this dispute has the potential to seriously impact those who are currently operating in the DRC’s already challenging business environment.
- While the decision by Belgium to reallocate funds away from the DRC government may have prompted the Congolese government to target both Belgian economic and diplomatic interests, the ongoing dispute is merely symptomatic of a deterioration in the wider relationship between the two countries.
- As international pressure mounts on Kabila’s government to hold elections in December 2018 as planned, further attacks aimed at Belgian economic and diplomatic interests will become more likely. This is particularly pertinent if the Belgian government continues to question the legitimacy of the Kabila regime.
- Although confidence in the DRC as an investment prospect remains low at present, the targeting of Belgian interests is having incidental repercussions on the DRCs wider business environment, affecting businesses operating in an already challenging commercial environment.