Congo + 2 more

Marek News Briefs: Congo Republic 27 Dec 1999

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Congo Republic government have started an operation to integrate Rwandan refugees into Congolese society. IPS reported on December 21 that the operation, which has already begun, is intended to ensure that Rwandan refugees who fled to the republic more than two years ago are fully integrated socially and economically into the society. A total of 345 Rwandans from the refugee camp at Loukolela, 600 kilometers north of the capital Brazzaville, were transferred to the villages of Boleko and Bokouango in the La Cuvette region. According to UNHCR representatives, another 5,000 Rwandan refugees will be moved from camps at Kintele, 25 kilometers north of Brazzaville, to villages in the interior of the country. The operation was co-organized by an intra-ministerial committee of the Ministries of Humanitarian Action and Foreign Affairs, and the UNHCR. Most of these refugees are said to have fled the advance of Congolese ADFL rebel forces led by now-president of the DR Congo, Laurent Kabila. Most however originally came to the DR Congo as a result of the 1994 Genocide, having fled Rwanda fearing retribution and, in some instances, accountability. Some of the Rwandans who will now be integrated into the Congo Republic's society are thought to include extremist militia still fighting against Rwanda. The UNHCR's local director, Jean-Marie Delors, said that those Rwandans who were involved in military operations and the 1994 genocide are not the ones being moved, saying, "The integration operation is targeting only 5,000 refugees. It is trying to find a match in the skills and abilities of the refugees and the needs of specific villages to help develop a social and economic dynamic between the Congolese and Rwandan communities. It's the government's responsibility to manage this problem." Delors said that 2,000 refugees had already moved on their own initiative to Brazzaville and other urban centers, where they now lead productive lives. He was quoted by Reuters saying, "Some were quickly welcomed into their local communities, finding odd jobs or working as vendors selling miscellaneous items. Others have begun to do agricultural work. Many have married Congolese women, had children, and established households." Natives of the Gamboma district now living in Brazzaville recently organized a delegation to go back home and ask those still living in the area to protest the arrival of Rwandan refugees there. A former native of Gamboma was quoted by Reuters saying, "Rwandans pillaged the crops at Loukolela. We don't have enough arable forest and we're afraid that there will be friction with the local population, because we've heard that the Rwandans are very violent and destroy the forests." The UNHCR acknowledges that the situation in Gamboma is far from ideal. Delors commented, "In Gamboma, there are problems with understanding and integration, but it's not hostility nor xenophobia. Government officials fear that UNHCR is not monitoring the operation closely enough."
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