8 March 2018

Angola Forces Hundreds of Congolese Back to War

Kinshasa — ANGOLA has come under criticism for deporting 530 Congolese refugees despite the rekindling of tensions in the Kasai region.

Among the deported refugees, 52 were registered and living in Dundo town close to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border.

About 480 were unregistered refugees staying at the Cacanda reception centre in the same town.

Aikaterini Kitidi, the spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern the returns were carried out despite the agency's requests to Angolan authorities to undertake joint screening of the unregistered group.

"UNHCR urges the Angolan authorities to refrain from further forcible returns of Congolese to their country," said Kitidi.

He expressed UNHCR's commitment to assist the authorities in Angola and DRC in voluntary repatriation discussions.

Congolese government forces have regained control of large areas of Kasai but sporadic fighting between the armed forces and militia groups as well as tensions between different ethnic groups threatens to plunge the region into new violence.

The conflict has forced over 35 000 Congolese to seek refuge in Angola.

Since September 2017 some of them have spontaneously returned to DRC but failed to reach their former homes.

Many are living in churches and mosques, while others have been forced to move to different provinces.

Support for the returnees to rebuild their houses is often absent.

For 2018, UNHCR has requested more than US$368 million (R4,3 billion) to help those affected by the crisis DRC.

"So far we have received just 1 percent of this," Kitidi lamented.

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