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High Commissioner Lubbers meets President Kabila

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High Commissioner Lubbers meets President Kabila

29 March 2001

GENEVA - High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers met Thursday with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Major-General Joseph Kabila, who sought UNHCR's help for the return home of Congolese refugees and internally displaced.

During their afternoon meeting, President Kabila told Mr. Lubbers that he was anxious to see the return of Congolese refugees from the Great Lakes region. He said his country was now in the process of rebuilding, an endeavour that will enable refugees and the internally displaced to return to their homes in the D.R. Congo. President Kabila said he witnessed the suffering of refugees in Goma during the Rwanda emergency in 1994-96, describing it as "degrading."

President Kabila asked UNHCR to assist internally displaced persons in the D.R. Congo. He said the number of internally displaced persons in his country - estimated at around 1.8 million - was more than the number of refugees. The IDPs, he said, were in accessible areas but lacked basic assistance.

Mr. Lubbers agreed that there was a need to bring more aid to IDPs in the D.R. Congo, but noted that the needs of this group were far greater than what UNHCR alone could handle. He assured President Kabila that UNHCR was making preparations for the possible return of nearly 345,000 Congolese refugees now in neighbouring countries.

The High Commissioner cautioned, however, that the voluntary return of the refugees depended a lot on the implementation of the Lusaka Peace Process and the commitment to peaceful co-existence between countries and groups in the region.

"The successful implementation of the Lusaka Peace Process is key for the return of refugees," said Mr. Lubbers.

On the murder of a UNHCR staff member on Tuesday in the western D.R. Congo town of Kimpese, President Kabila expressed his sympathy over the killing and pledged that his government would undertake a full investigation. Two people have been arrested.

UNHCR currently helps more than 330,000 refugees - mostly Angolans - in the D.R. Congo.