Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

A SUMMIT between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday yielded an oil exploration agreement between state-owned companies PetroSA and Cohydro and condemnation of forces destabilising the eastern Congo region.

In a communiqué, presidents Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila praised the "warm and special" relations between the countries after two days of talks in Pretoria involving 20 government ministers and 30 projects.

The only tangible step that was made public at the summit was the signing of an agreement between the two oil companies.

"This important agreement will establish a strategic cooperation in the activities of pre-exploration, exploration, development and production of hydro-carbons," the communiqué said.

Congo is demanding international sanctions against Rwandan and Ugandan officials accused in a leaked report by United Nations experts of backing rebels, known as M23, in eastern Congo.

"The two leaders condemned in the strongest possible terms those forces that are involved in destabilising a sovereign state and called on them to cease these activities immediately," the statement said.

Asked why no country was named in Tuesday’s statement, South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said: "We don’t think it is helpful to point the finger at anyone."

South Africa is helping to train the Congo’s army and police force, as well as its diplomats.

Mr Kabila took office in 2001 after the assassination of his father, former president Laurent Kabila. On Tuesday, he thanked South Africa for its support with the financing and organising of elections in November last year, which ended with his victory and another five-year term.

The polls were viewed as badly flawed by the Roman Catholic Church and much of civil society in Congo, and by the US and the European Union.

The result was rejected by the main opposition challenger, veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi. About 50 of the defeated opponent’s supporters demonstrated outside the summit venue but they were kept far from the proceedings by police.

"We are fighters. We have come here to protest because we were told the Congolese president was in town, yet we know that the president is Etienne Tshisekedi," one Congolese protester said.

There was no mention in the communiqué of the Grand Inga hydropower project between the two countries, which aims to harness the power of the Congo river and produce enough electricity to match South Africa’s present capacity.

PetroSA communications manager Thabo Mabaso said the joint team preparing oil exploration plans would hold its first meeting soon.