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High Commissioner Lubbers urges restraint in DRC

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High Commissioner Lubbers urges restraint in DRC

19 January 2001

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today appealed for calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo, declaring the strife-torn nation has seen enough conflict, human suffering and displacement.

"I join my United Nations colleagues in urging all parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the region to show restraint and to make every effort to avoid inflaming an already volatile situation," said Mr. Lubbers, who took over the helm of the refugee agency on January 1.

"The people of the DRC have suffered enough, including tens of thousands dead and some 2 million people displaced. UNHCR cares for some 500,000 refugees and displaced inside the DRC and is currently working with neighbouring states to care for another 330,000 Congolese refugees outside their country. More are fleeing every day. This must stop."

Mr. Lubbers urged the warring parties in the DRC to return to the negotiating table with the aim of ensuring a peaceful and democratic process in determining the future of the war-ravaged country.

In recent weeks, fighting around the south-eastern border town of Pweto has sent tens of thousands of Congolese refugees into neighbouring Zambia, bringing the total in that nation to more than 38,000. And over the past fortnight, ethnic clashes between the Lendu and Hema communities in the north-east of the DRC have also sent an estimated 6,000 refugees into western Uganda, which already hosts some 8,000 Congolese. Tanzania, DRC's eastern neighbour, also continues to receive a steady flow of refugees, primarily from the Kivu area. There are currently some 110,000 Congolese refugees in camps in Tanzania.

Other countries hosting Congolese refugees include Rwanda, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Angola.