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UNHCR starts repatriation of Angolans from Namibia

UNHCR starts repatriation of Angolans from Namibia

UNHCR's return operation for Angolan refugees, which started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 20 June, has now been expanded to include those returning from Namibia.
3 July 2003
Angoland refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo embark on a journey home.

WINDHOEK, Namibia (UNHCR) - A first group of 150 Angolan refugees from Osire camp, some 300 km north of the Namibian capital, Windhoek, arrived in the Angolan border town of Katwitwi on Wednesday afternoon. They were on a 1,000 km return journey to a country many of them left decades ago. Katwitwi is in the southern Angola province of Cuando Cubango, which is home to many of the Angolans who had sought refuge in Namibia.

On Monday, June 30, the homeward-bound refugees boarded the first convoy of trucks and buses in Osire camp at the start of the first leg of a 500 km-long journey to the northern Namibian border town of Rundu. After a one-day stopover for customs formalities in Rundu, the convoy set off again for the second leg of the journey to the southern Angola town of Caiundo via the border town of Katwitwi. The excited returnees were seen off by Namibian officials and were expected to arrive in Caiundo on Thursday, July 3.

Monday's convoy marks the start of the return operation for Angolan refugees from Namibia, where there are more than 18,000 Angolan refugees. The repatriation movement is organised jointly by Namibia, Angola and UNHCR.

Meanwhile regular convoys have continued to assist Angolan refugees to return from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since the launch of the voluntary repatriation programme from DRC on June 20 - World Refugee Day - some 1,500 Angolan refugees have been assisted home to the northern province of Mbanza Congo and to Luau in eastern Angola.

Refugees returning to these areas have been able to regain their homes and farms. But many homes were destroyed in the 27-year-long war that has left other parts of Angola in ruins and littered with landmines.

Some of the returnees coming from the DRC are seeing their Portuguese-speaking homeland for the very first time. After decades of exile in DRC, many speak only French and the local language Kikongo. Their reintegration in Portuguese speaking Angola will take some time, particularly for school-age children, who will have to master the new language.

Meanwhile, 16 additional trucks for the Angola repatriation operation have arrived in Kisenge in DRC's Katanga province through Zambia. The trucks were sent from Rwanda and should significantly increase the number of Angolan returns from Katanga province to Luau in Angola.