Central African Republic: tripartite agreement on Congolese returns
UNHCR has reached an agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) that will pave the way for the return of some 10,000 Congolese refugees. The tripartite agreement, signed last Thursday in Kinshasa, will provide a legal framework for the voluntary repatriation of refugees who fled the fighting in DRC's north-western province of Equateur between 1998 and 2002. The refugees are scattered in the CAR capital of Bangui, and in a settlement at Molangue, 80 km to the south-west. They have been calling on UNHCR to assist them to return home.
UNHCR teams conducted several assessment missions to evaluate the conditions for return in Equateur province, and two repatriation corridors have been mapped out. One will take the refugees from Bangui to Zongo, just across the border in DRC. The second one will cross 200 km into DRC, to the towns of Batanga, Libenga and Gemena. UNHCR already has a presence in Zongo. To better facilitate and monitor the voluntary repatriation programme, the refugee agency is proposing the opening of new centres at Libenge and Gemena. The first UNHCR-assisted convoys from the CAR to DRC are expected to start before the end of 2004.