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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Over 500 former CAR soldiers transferred

Briefing notes

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Over 500 former CAR soldiers transferred

26 October 2001

More than 520 former soldiers from the Central African Republic have been transferred from the DRC north-west border town of Zongo to the new site in Bokilio, 120 km away. A sixth convoy is scheduled to leave the Congolese town today, taking another 250 ex-soldiers to the new settlement, which is being developed by local authorities. The ex-soldiers relocated so far are single young men with no accompanying families. Authorities search the former soldiers for weapons before allowing them onto trucks. They expect to move a total of 2,500 Central Africans - 1,200 ex-soldiers and their families - in the exercise.

UNHCR has insisted on the separation of the former soldiers, who still appear to be under military command, from the more than 24,000 civilian CAR refugees who have been in Zongo since June this year. The agency has also aided local authorities and MONUC - the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC - to arrange the transfer of the former fighters to a site away from the border.

The former soldiers and their families are receiving food and domestic supplies, including sleeping mats, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, blankets and soap. UNHCR has also given medical supplies for 2,000 persons for three months for use at the new settlement. It has rehabilitated existing water facilities in the vicinity of Bokilio, which had a population of 5,000 before the arrival of the former combatants. UNHCR hopes to phase out assistance to the ex-combatants by the end of the year when arrangements will have been made to help local authorities handle the former soldiers and their families.

In the meantime, construction work at another site in Mole, being developed for the transfer of the civilian CAR refugees currently in Zongo and villages along the Oubangui river, is nearing completion.