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Cablegate: Unhcr Begins Repatriation of Congolese From Car

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS KINSHASA 002010

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL CG CT
SUBJECT: UNHCR BEGINS REPATRIATION OF CONGOLESE FROM CAR

REF: KINSHASA 1845

1. (U) Summary. UNHCR began repatriation of Congolese
refugees to Libenge, Equateur Province, with a ceremony on
October 20th. The refugee agency expects to repatriate
approximately 10,000 people to Equateur by the end of 2004.
Minister of Interior Theophile Mbemba headed a GDRC
delegation to the Libenge ceremony during which he stated the
government's intention to welcome and assist the refugees.
End Summary.

UNHCR Starts Repatriation to Stable Area of DRC
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) UNHCR officials held a ceremony in Libenge, Equateur
Province, October 20 to launch the repatriation of Congolese
refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) back to
Equateur Province. The tripartite agreement which the DRC and
CAR signed on August 26, 2004 has allowed UNHCR to start the
repatriation process. UNHCR expects to assist approximately
10,000 refugees to return from CAR to Equateur, over 1,000 of
whom will be returning to Libenge. UNHCR's goal is to
repatriate all of these refugees by the end of the year.

3. (U) UNHCR opened an office in Libenge to assist returning
Congolese refugees with humanitarian needs. A group of about
50 refugees who arrived in Libenge in time for the ceremony
received blankets, cooking utensils, and food from UN staff.
Representatives of UNICEF, UNDP and WFP were also present in
Libenge to coordinate refugee assistance.

4. (SBU) According to UNHCR officials, it is important to
start repatriation of refugees to Equateur Province, an area
of the DRC which has enjoyed greater stability than the east.
Although Equateur has a poor infrastructure and a difficult
humanitarian situation, security for civilians has improved
significantly with the departure a substantial number of
Congo Liberation Movement's (MLC) troops to the east
(reftel).

GDRC Minister of Interior Received Warmly
-----------------------------------------

5. (U) Interior Minister Theophile Mbemba Fundu headed a GDRC
delegation which included provincial officials. Mbemba was
received warmly in Libenge, an isolated border town without
electricity. The airport runway where the delegation landed
was in fact only cleared of vegetation a few days before.
(Note: Mbemba was the senior GDRC official to visit the area
in many years. End Note.) In a speech to the Libenge
community, Mbemba promised that the government would welcome
returning refugees and help them reintegrate into their
communities.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Despite the fact that Libenge and other areas of
Northern Equateur face a difficult humanitarian situation,
UNHCR's decision to begin repatriation of refugees is
consistent with its mandate of assisting refugees to return
to areas where their physical integrity will not be at risk.
In addition, socio-economic conditions in this part of the
DRC are probably no worse than those on the CAR side. The
security situation in Equateur is stable and there is no
evidence of any armed groups operating in the province, and
civilians can travel and engage in agricultural activities
without significant problems. UNHCR and other UN agencies and
NGOs can ameliorate hardship conditions by coordinating
humanitarian assistance to refugees and local communities in
areas of return like Libenge.
MEECE

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