Landslides disrupt plans to resume repatriations of Congolese from Tanzania
GENEVA, November 7 (UNHCR) - Heavy rains and massive landslides have disrupted plans to resume the repatriation of Congolese refugees from Tanzania to the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Due to security concerns, UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programmes to DRC were suspended about a week before the second round on October 29 of DRC's landmark presidential election. It was due to restart on Tuesday, but the resumption of UNHCR's repatriation ferry service across Lake Tanganyika was put on hold after landslides late last week cut key transport routes in South Kivu.
"The fall of huge rocks from the mountains, some reportedly the size of trucks, have cut the main road between Uvira and the port of Baraka, where returning refugees disembark," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told a regular press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
She said the worst damage was about 12 kilometres south of Uvira where a new bridge over the Kivovo River has been engulfed by mud, stones and debris. All UNHCR trucks used to transport returnees to their homes are now stuck in Uvira, where they had been kept during the election period.
"In order to clear the roads, we are meeting with all agencies operating in the area as well as with the UN mission in Congo. The UN peace-keepers may need to help out with explosives to clear rocks blocking the road," Pagonis said, adding: "We hope to start the repatriation movements again as soon as possible."
UNHCR launched its organised repatriation to DRC in October last year and more than 20,000 refugees had returned to South Kivu province from Tanzania by September. In total, 75,000 Congolese refugees have returned to DRC from neighbouring countries. More than 420,000 Congolese refugees still live in surrounding countries, including 130,000 in Tanzania.