Congolese refugees refuse to return home

Friday January 19 2018

A refugees camp.

A refugees settlement camp. Angola plans to repatriate 35,000 Congolese refugees starting March 2018. PHOTO | FILE 

By ARNALDO VIEIRA
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Congolese refugees in Angola have said they will not return home despite an agreement between the two governments’ officials to repatriate them.

Nearly 35,000 refugees have fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s central Kasai region for Lunda Norte in northern Angola since March last year.

A Catholic Church priest in Lunda Norte, António Macoco Muiamba, who is also a member of a humanitarian assistance group in the camps, told VOA Radio that the refugees prefer to remain in Angola until the Congolese government creates a stable environment.

“The refugees have written a letter to their country’s bishops expressing their desire to remain in Angola until conditions improve,” he told VOA Radio on Wednesday.

Last week, government representatives from DR Congo and Angola agreed to repatriate all the 35,000 refugees starting March this year.

Violence in Kasai erupted in September 2016 after government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu, who had been leading a rebellion against President Joseph Kabila. The conflict added to the woes of volatile eastern Congo where rival militia groups fight for control of the mineral-rich area.

Violence has also been reported in various parts across the country after President Kabila refused to step down when his tenure expired in December 2016. There are fears that the country could slide into civil war again.