Tensions between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and former coloniser Belgium have reached new highs after Joseph Kabila's government ordered Brussels Airlines (SN, Brussels National) to cut its weekly frequencies to Kinshasa N'Djili effective February 5.

"I hereby inform you that, in the absence of reciprocity in the operation of international air services between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Kingdom of Belgium, the number of weekly frequencies allocated to your Brussels Airlines airline is reduced by seven (7) to four (4) from Monday, February 5, 2018," the Director General of the Congolese civil aviation authority (AAC), Jean Tshiumba Mpunga, said in a letter to the airline's representative in Kinshasa. The Belgian carrier has since been called upon to submit, "without delay", a new schedule for approval.

According to the AFP, Brussels Airlines has acknowledged the directive adding that arrangements will be made to assist affected customers.

Relations between Brussels and Kinshasa have steadily deteriorated over the past twelve months given President Joseph Kabila's unwillingness to adhere to promises to hold elections by the end of 2016. Kabila, who came to power following the assassination of his father, Laurent, in 2001, was due to leave office in December 2016 as per the terms of the 2006 constitution but has prolonged his stay. Since then, the DRC has been rocked by civil unrest culminating in a series of rallies in Kinshasa in December/January which called for the president to resign. Heavy-handed action by Congolese security forces earned condemnation from the European Union and Belgium in particular. In response, the DRC has ordered Belgium to close its Schengen consular arrangement in Kinshasa, "Schengen House", while also ordering Belgium's new development agency, Enabel, to be shut down.