Angola has long been a kingmaker in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, wielding tremendous power and influence in its domestic politics. Yet despite decades of close relations, tensions are rising between the two countries. As Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s grip on power looks increasingly tenuous, Angola, which just elected a new president for the first time in nearly 38 years, fears instability on its border. In an email interview, Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House in London and a senior lecturer at Coventry University, discusses the importance of stability in relations between Angola and Congo, why ties appear to be unraveling, and how Congo is responding.
WPR: As Angola enters the post-dos Santos era, how important are relations with neighboring Congo, and what might we expect in terms of continuity and changes in Angola-Congo ties?
Alex Vines: What happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is of major strategic concern for Angola, which invests more deeply in strategic thinking on Congo than any of its other neighbors. On anything regarding Congo, consultation with Angola is essential, and international envoys to Congo and the Great Lakes region, along with Congolese officials and opposition politicians, regularly visit Luanda. Angola’s concern about Congo is longstanding and deep; both sides have a history of interfering in the others’ politics.