DRC: Assistant High Commissioner meets Kabila
Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen on Monday urged Congo's new president, Joseph Kabila, to remember the human cost of war when negotiating with other warring parties in the Congo. Jessen-Petersen met President Kabila on the last day of his eight-day tour of four countries in Southern Africa. He also asked the Congolese president for better access to refugees and displaced people in strife-torn DRC and stressed the need for minimum security for humanitarian workers. President Kabila said he welcomed UNHCR's work in the DRC and told Jessen-Petersen that UNHCR's concerns will be taken into account during any future peace talks. But he said a pullout of foreign troops from the Congo was a condition for renewed negotiations.
UNHCR is taking care of some 145,000 refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including over 100,000 Angolans in remote areas of Bas-Congo, Bandundu and Katanga. It also assists some 350,000 of the DRC's estimated 2 million internally displaced people. Fuel shortages, as well as logistical and security problems, make it very difficult to reach the refugee encampments. A further 65,000 Angolan refugees scattered in the forested border regions are totally inaccessible to humanitarian assistance. Other refugees in the DRC include Rwandans, Sudanese, Burundians and Ugandans.
Recent fighting in southern Katanga Province has prompted a new influx of Congolese refugees into Zambia. The country is now hosting a total of 40,000 Congolese refugees. During his visit in Zambia, the Assistant High Commissioner called on the international community to continue supporting refugee programmes there.
In addition to Zambia, 335,000 Congolese have sought refuge in other neighbouring countries, including Tanzania (110,000), the Republic of Congo (98,000) and the Central Africa Republic (10,000). Smaller numbers of Congolese have also fled to Rwanda, Burundi, Angola and Uganda.