DRC: operation to separate former soldiers from refugees begins
An operation to separate former soldiers from refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) began yesterday (Monday) with the transfer of 65 ex-combatants. They were taken 120 km from the DRC border town of Zongo, opposite the Central African Republic, to a site at Bokilio, in DRC's Equateur Province. UN peacekeepers will escort a second convoy with additional trucks, tomorrow (Wednesday), carrying another 400 and 600 persons to the new site.
More than 24,000 refugees and 1,250 former soldiers fled the Central African Republic during an attempted coup in May. UNHCR has insisted that the group of military and their families be kept separate from the larger group of refugees in a bid to maintain the civilian character of refugee camps. Peacekeepers from the UN mission to the DRC (MONUC) registered the group and secured their agreement for the move to Bokilio. MONUC observers are also stationed in Zongo and Bokilio.
Convoys making the 24-hour round-trip journey will operate every two days. With the soldiers' families, UNHCR expects to transfer up to 2,500 people and complete the operation in 10 days. An NGO doctor is accompanying each convoy. Any person not physically able to make the overland trip will be transferred by MONUC helicopter.
After the former soldiers and their families have all been moved out of Zongo, UNHCR will begin the transfer of refugees to a site being readied further inland at Mole.