More Angolans flee to Zambia
Some fifty or more UNITA members, among them possible senior officials of the movement, are among the group of 8,616 Angolan refugees who have entered north-western Zambia during the past five days. The fighters have been disarmed and they are accommodated in a separate camp, in the Mwinilunga province of Zambia. A joint government/UNHCR mission next week, will travel to the area to interview them and assess their cases.
The overwhelming majority of the refugees are civilians who have fled fierce fighting between UNITA rebels and advancing government troops in the eastern Moxico province of Angola. The offensive resulted in the fall of the town of Cazombo to government forces last week. Preliminary information indicates that the refugees are fleeing their villages before the approaching government soldiers amid intensifying bombardment. Almost all villages previously held by UNITA in the province now appear to have been retaken by the government.
According to UNHCR officials in Zambia, the presence of UNITA fighters among those who have entered Zambia this week could signal an interesting new trend in the Angolan conflict, with actual UNITA members now fleeing the country. Previous arrivals over the past few months included a majority of women and children, some of them relatives of the fighters but not the fighters themselves. Close to 20,000 Angolans have sought refuge in Zambia since the start of a fresh government campaign against the rebel movement in October last year. UNHCR believes this week's arrivals could be followed by many more and expects the number of refugees to reach 10,000 over the weekend. Refugees, most of whom arrived through Mwinilunga crossing point in north-western Zambia, are gradually being transferred to Meheba settlement. The settlement presently holds some 41,000 Angolan refugees and has recently been extended to cater for the new arrivals. Zambia is hosting some 225,000 refugees, including some 180,000 Angolans. The remainder are Congolese from DRC, Burundians, Rwandese and Somalis.