Congo-Brazzaville has slammed the UN for being "rude" over accusations it treated foreign nationals badly.

Bienvenu Okiemy, the country's communications minister, said on Wednesday that his government was "surprised by these rude comments" that alleged Congo forcibly returned tens of thousands of people to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Okiemy's comments came two days after Martin Kobler, head of the UN's mission in DR Congo, said that Congo-Brazzaville's mass deportation of DRC migrants was creating a humanitarian crisis. 

Speaking on national television, Okiemy accused Kobler of being "reportedly inspired to make these allegations by his accredited colleagues in Brazzaville".

On Monday, the UN said Congo-Brazzaville had deported more than 130,000 DRC nationals since April 4, creating an "acute humanitarian crisis".

"The United Nations has received reports of physical abuse, ill treatment, and sexual violence inflicted on the citizens of DRC who are being expelled," read the statement.

Kobler also claimed he had "heard numerous testimonies of victims of gross human rights abuses and cruel treatments".
These included "children drowning in the river during their forced crossing".

The UN called on Brazzaville to "investigate the allegations".

Police in the capital Brazzaville launched an operation on April 3 to drive out illegal foreign workers.

Witchhunt

The prime targets of this drive have been citizens from neighbouring DRC, whose capital Kinshasa lies on the other side of the Congo river from Brazzaville.

According to several rights organisations and witnesses's accounts told to AFP, the operation rapidly degenerated into a violent witchhunt against "Zairis", in reference to Zaire, the former name of the DRC.

Faced with such violence from the police and population, thousands of refugees from the DRC returned home, in many cases abandoning everything they had in Brazzaville. On Monday, an official from the DRC said his government would take legal action against the government of Congo-Brazzaville to protest the treatment of its nationals.

Brazzaville says it has arrested 2,000 refugees from the DRC and claims that others went home voluntarily.

Both Brazzaville and Kinshasa agree that around 130,000 citizens have returned to the DRC since the beginning of April, although the flood of people leaving has slowed down in the past 12 days.

According to Okiemy, more than 400,000 people from the DRC remain in Congo-Brazzaville, many in low-paid jobs.

Source: Agencies