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Cablegate: Gdrc Wants Orderly Return of Refugees From Burundi

VZCZCXRO6634
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0929 2821218
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091218Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0199
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000929

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV CG
SUBJECT: GDRC WANTS ORDERLY RETURN OF REFUGEES FROM BURUNDI

REF: BUJUMBURA 548

1. (U) Minister of Communication Lambert Mende announced on
October 8 that the GDRC was temporarily closing its border
with Burundi to "avoid anarchy," as DRC refugees moved to
return to the DRC (reftel). Press reports indicated that 480
refugees were turned away attempting to cross into the DRC.
MONUC told PolCouns that as many as 1,000 people are poised
to return at the moment. Congolese officials, while
welcoming the return of their compatriots in general,
cautioned that an orderly return could only be effected
through the Burundi-DRC-UNHCR tripartite framework. South
Kivu Vice-Governor Jean Claude Kibala announced that
tripartite officials would meet as soon as possible to
organize "a dignified return" for the DRC refugees.

2. (SBU) Mohamed Toure, UNHCR Deputy Representative for
Protection told PolCouns on October 8 that UNHCR was in a
difficult situation. Legally, UNHCR cannot block refugees
from voluntarily returning home, nor can it ask a country to
close its borders. However, UNHCR would strongly recommend
against any returns to South Kivu at the moment, due to
escalating fighting between FARDC and FDLR forces. Toure
remarked that most of the refugees are Banyamulenge who want
to return to the Haut Plateau, which would require several
days walk through a conflict zone. Toure said that the best
solution would be for the refugees to wait until such time as
some sort of UNHCR convoy could be arranged to transport the
refugees home.

3. (SBU) Comment: UNHCR is correct to counsel a "go-slow"
approach. Under Kimia II military operations, there has been
increasing instability in the Uvira region just across the
Burundian border. Unprotected refugee movements through the
conflict zone would only invite exactions by the FDLR and
FARDC. End comment.
BROCK

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