Congo: Displaced Remain as Repatriation Agreement Signed, 4/14/99

Congo: Displaced Remain as Repatriation Agreement Signed, 4/14/99

CONGO: Displaced people remain as repatriation agreement signed

NAIROBI, 13 April (IRIN) - "Precarious" conditions await tens of thousands of displaced people if and when they return to two towns in the Congo Republic, according to a UN statement, received by IRIN.

A joint UN-Government team which visited the central towns of Dolisie and Nkayi last week found the towns almost deserted: only about 3,500 people, many elderly, remain in the two towns of a pre-war joint population of at least 120,000.

Displaced people from Dolisie were still "highly apprehensive", according to a member of the team. Continuing tension between government troops, the Cocoyes militia of ex-president Pascal Lissouba, and civilians is preventing people from returning to Dolisie from surrounding areas. Dolisie has no water, health or electricity services, and in the nutrition sector, cases of kwashiorkor were found among children. Nkayi suffered less damage in the latest round of fighting, which lasted from December until March.

Total numbers of displaced people from urban areas in the Republic of Congo now top a quarter of a million. They are in three main groups: the estimated 120,000 in western Congo described above, about 25,000 in 11 IDP sites in and around Brazzaville, and another large group of about 120,000 displaced people in the Pool area.

Humanitarian access, even for local NGOs and churches, is sporadic everywhere except at the eleven sites in the capital. Diplomatic sources told IRIN that intermediaries are attempting to negotiate humanitarian access to the Pool area, which is largely controlled by the Ninja militia, loyal to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas.

The military situation in Pool appears inconclusive, with the Ninja militia able to reach Mfilou on the outskirts of Brazzaville early this month. The Ninja militia have formed a political party, l'Union patriotique des forces Ninjas, according to Radio France Internationale.

Some 20,000 Congolese citizens are also estimated to have fled the country altogether to seek asylum in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sheltering in the Louozi area of Bas-Congo, about 4,000 have returned to Brazzaville, taking a detour through Kinshasa to get home. Direct return to Brazzaville through Pool is thought impracticable.

A new tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the two countries signed late last week establishes a framework for expanding ongoing bilateral repatriation efforts. The first group of an expected 5,000 UN-assisted returnees is set to return next week, a UNHCR spokesperson told IRIN on Tuesday.



Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 22:39:44 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CONGO: Displaced remain as repatriation agreement signed [19990414]

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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