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Number of Rwandans Returning Home From Congo Jumps

Number of Rwandans Returning Home From Dr of Congo Jumps Dramatically, UN Says

New York, May 24 2005 11:00AM

The number of Rwandans returning home from the eastern forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has risen dramatically since a feared militia said it, too, would repatriate after disarming, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

In the last week, some 230 Rwandans volunteered to go home from the DRC with assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the wake of an announcement on 31 March from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) that it would disarm and return home peacefully, an agency spokesperson told reporters in Geneva.

“The return numbers change weekly, seemingly related to whether or not Rwandan civilians are allowed to leave FDLR-controlled areas,” Jennifer Pagonis said.

More than 1,300 refugees went home from North and South Kivu provinces last month, compared with 800 in April of last year, Ms. Pagonis added.

Tens of thousands of Rwandans had been scattered throughout the forest of the Kivus since 1996, when their refugee camps were attacked. UNHCR has opened 17 refugees assembly points for them on the edge of the forest and will soon open more, she said.

UNHCR gives the returnees meals and new clothing, after their often long trek through the bush, and treats such diseases as parasites, skin infections and malaria. The children are usually in particularly bad health, she said.

While UNHCR is helping Rwandan civilians, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) is assisting FDLR fighters and their families, Ms. Pagonis said.

ENDS

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