DR Congo: UN mission says Katanga conditions still suitable for refugee returns

19 March 2008

Conditions in the North Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are still conducive to the return of some 20,000 refugees now in Tanzania and Zambia despite recent agitation against the United Nations Mission there, known as MONUC, the mission said today.

MONUC became alarmed after fliers were distributed in the town of Moba, warning of violent anti-UN rallies, under the pretext that the mission favours the return of Banyamulenge, who are not natives of the region, to the area.

The demonstrations, planned for 15 March, did not take place and an interdisciplinary team ascertained that conditions were calm after holding meetings with Congolese and international security and humanitarian officers.

The team also concluded that all necessary steps have been taken to protect civilians and UN infrastructure and personnel in the area, where the Organization’s facilities were attacked in August 2007 because of similar rumours about the Banyamulenge.

They reported that, to dispel the rumours, the Beninese detachment of MONUC invited local authorities, journalists, and members of the civil society to visit its camp to see for themselves that no members of that ethnic group were hidden there.

It also reported that the new administrator of the territory, Mulobe Kalala, attested to the population’s positive attitude and indicated that joint patrols of MONUC, the Congolese army and the national police have been carried out since last week.

Mr. Kalala also minimized the impact of the fliers on the inhabitants, indicating that only a few troublemakers, who have no support from the wider population, were involved in the incident.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), repatriation of refugees from Tanzania and Zambia to North Katanga is set to resume on 2 May.

In other news from the DRC, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said that a Reuters report today on Congolese police actions in the Province of Bas Congo is a recap of recent actions, not a report of anything new, though the situation remains tense.

In addition, many clashes have been reported in the provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu in the east of the vast country, which is beset by recalcitrant militias as it recovers from a devastating civil war.

 

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