DRC repatriation from Tanzania halted by landslides
Extremely heavy rains and massive landslides late last week in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, have put on hold plans to restart repatriation activities from Tanzania, initially suspended ahead of the second round of the country's first election in decades on 29 October.
The repatriation operation, which ferries returnees from Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika by UNHCR chartered boat to DRC, was due to start again today, Tuesday, after being suspended since 21 October. However, 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.
The worst damage is 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 (MONUC).The UN peacekeepers may need to help out with explosives to clear rocks blocking the road.
We hope to start the repatriation movements again as soon as possible.
In September, less than a year after UNHCR launched its organised repatriation to DRC, more than 20,000 refugees have returned to South Kivu province from Tanzania. In total, 75,000 Congolese refugees have returned to DRC from neighbouring countries since the repatriation programme started in October 2005. More than 420,000 Congolese refugees still live in surrounding countries, including 130,000 in Tanzania.