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Congolese refugees in Tanzania and Zambia

Briefing notes

Congolese refugees in Tanzania and Zambia

20 April 1999

With an average number of boats crossing today to Kigoma, Tanzania, the count of Congolese refugees having fled the eight-month war in the Democratic Republic of Congo will Tuesday pass the 50,000 mark, UNHCR staff say.

The UNHCR office on the Tanzanian shore of Lake Tanganyika is registering around 200 refugees a day, down from as many as almost 1,000 people a day earlier this year. Most of the new arrivals have been taken to Lugufu camp, south-east of Kigoma, which with a population of 35,000 is now nearing capacity. UNHCR and the Tanzanian government have chosen two locations for possible camps should the population reach 40,000.

In Zambia, the flow of Congolese refugees has slowed to a trickle. Around 28,000 have crossed into the northern border since 5 March, and UNHCR staff remain on alert for renewed fighting between rebels and government forces. They fear this could empty the larger border town of Pweto, where tens of thousands of displaced have moved from farther north in the DRC, into Zambia.

UNHCR's Director for Africa, Albert-Alain Peters, visited the town of Kaputa yesterday with senior Zambian government officials. Congolese refugees are being transferred 200 km away from the border by truck and bus. So far UNHCR has moved 930 to the new camp at Mporokoso, which will be able to accommodate up to 35,000, and is trying to increase the number of vehicles involved in the operation. The trip to the site winds through stretches of nearly impassable road and requires that trucks offload passengers before crossing on antiquated river ferries.