UNHCR starts registering Sudanese refugees in DR Congo
ARU, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec 22 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has registered more than 6,000 Sudanese refugees in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in a bid to improve assistance and prepare the ground for possible repatriation.
Last Friday, UNHCR concluded a registration campaign for Sudanese refugees in Orientale province, north-eastern DRC. The 12-day exercise involved 6,535 refugees from Rudu 1 and 2 sites around Aba, and in Ariwara, near Aru.
Cheik Tidiane Pouye, who heads UNHCR's sub-office in Aru, welcomed the operation. "This step is very important because it will allow UNHCR to get reliable statistics and to enhance its protection and assistance in various sectors provided to Sudanese refugees," he said.
He added that the database being set up could help UNHCR and the international community to better prepare for the voluntary return of Sudanese refugees pending the signing of a peace agreement in Sudan between SPLA (South People Liberation Army) and the Khartoum government.
The refugees themselves were pleased with the registration, which will continue in other areas next year. "Thank you very much to UNHCR and to DRC for this operation," said a Sudanese refugee woman living in Rudu 2. "The ration card and the registration give us a feeling of dignity and freedom. Surely, it will ensure better protection for us."
She added, "The registration and identification exercise is a window of opportunity. All refugees wish that rebels and the Sudanese government can reach a peace agreement soon so that we can return to our country."
Another Sudanese refugee expressed the same concern: "We need peace and nothing else."
It is estimated that 80 percent of the 69,000 Sudanese refugees in Orientale province are ready to repatriate once a peace accord is reached at home.
In all, the 20-year civil war in Sudan has displaced some 4 million people inside the country and another 570,000 others across the border into neighbouring states. The largest numbers of Sudanese refugees are in Uganda, followed by Ethiopia, Kenya and the DRC.