UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DRC/REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Upsurge in refugee influx from Pool
NAIROBI, 14 May (IRIN) - About 750 people fleeing conflict in the Pool region of the Republic of Congo were being counted everyday in the western DRC province of Bas-Congo, a regional UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Friday. He said the upsurge in new arrivals began about ten days ago, and there were rumours that up to 20,000 additional people in Pool could cross in the coming days.
The initial influx had started late last year, and there were now 29,200 Congolese refugees registered in Bas-Congo. This included about 9,200 staying in camps or settlements at Luozi, Gombe-Matadi and Mbanza-Ngungu, and another 20,000 scattered around Luozi village, the spokesman said.
The new arrivals were in poor health and nutritional condition, some having spent the past four months living in forests. "Malnutrition levels are extremely high," the spokesman said. UNHCR is planning to purchase food locally for distribution to the refugees. Health facilities were available in the Luozi camp, which has a capacity of 15,000, he added.
A UNHCR statement received by IRIN on Friday said some of the refugees had fled fresh confrontations in Pool between the government and the Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas. Other refugees said they had been trying to "eke out an existence" in the forest on either side of the border since being forced from their homes, the statement added. Other sources told IRIN government helicopters were dropping bombs on Ninja positions in Pool.
The refugee influx has not affected a UNHCR-assisted repatriation programme that began on 25 April for refugees in Bas-Congo wishing to return to Brazzaville, the regional spokesman said. But there were no returns organised to the Pool region because of continuing insecurity there, he added. Some 5,000 Congolese have returned to Brazzaville so far under the programme.
Meanwhile, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Friday that Wednesday's fighting between government forces and Ninja militia near the Brazzaville international airport had considerably heightened fear and tension in the capital. Thousands of people from the nearby Mukundu, Mikalou and Talangai areas of northern Brazzaville had fled their homes and moved towards the city centre, or to the previously-abandoned Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville. Looting and burning of homes by armed groups was reported in Mukundu, sources said.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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