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High Commissioner's Central Africa trip

Briefing notes

High Commissioner's Central Africa trip

26 February 2002

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers on Monday arrived in the Republic of Congo capital, Brazzaville, on the second leg of his Africa mission. He is scheduled to meet senior government officials as well as Congolese refugees living in remote northern areas of the Oubangui River which separates both Congos.

Earlier on Monday, authorities in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) assured the High Commissioner that the government had taken steps to create adequate conditions for the return of several thousand CAR refugees who remain in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 20,000 CAR refugees fled to the DRC in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in the Central African Republic last May.

Prime Minister Martin Ziguele told Lubbers, who is on a seven-day mission to the Great Lakes region, that thousands of refugees had returned home without any reprisals since last year. He asked that UNHCR convey to the refugees his government's assurance that they were free to return home.

During the same meeting, Lubbers welcomed the signing of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the governments of the Central African Republic and Rwanda. The agreement, signed last Saturday, could pave the way for the voluntary return of some 500 Rwandan refugees currently hosted by the Central African Republic.

Earlier in the day, Lubbers visited Congolese refugees in Molangue camp, some 130 km outside the capital, Bangui. Thousands of singing and dancing Congolese refugees had mobbed the High Commissioner as he toured the camp of 2,500 refugees. Many of the refugees in this camp had fled to CAR in 1998/99 to escape the conflict which followed Laurent Kabila's ascension to power and the subsequent occupation of large parts of northern and eastern DRC by rebel groups.