Congo: Permanent Refugees

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

June 24, 2007: New term has cropped up in Central Africa: permanent displacement (of refugees and IDPs, or Internally Displaced People). All too often refugees in the Congo return home and have to flee again. This happens way too much in North and South Kivu provinces. Refugees are particularly vulnerable to crime and "sexual violence," with children particularly vulnerable when families and villages disperse. There are as many as1.2 million IDPs in the country. Many of these IDPs slowly filter back to their villages. But the chaos in North and South Kivu has forced many the stay in refugee camps for months at a time. Some Darfur refugees have been in Chad for the better part of two years. This is a short stay compared to Burundians who fled to Tanzania in the early 1970s and have stayed. The implications of "permanent displacement" are many. The personal suffering and financial costs (state and individual) are obvious. Sub-Saharan African nations lack the finances and the IDPs become wards dependent on international support. When IDPs do return there's always a chance of renewed fighting as families and tribes seek to recover their property.

June 21, 2007: The UN will provide reinforcements to Congolese Army units operating in North and South Kivu provinces, where the situations is considered precarious. There are already some Indian peacekeepers in North Kivu, and the UN's Pakistani Brigade is moving into South Kivu. The Indians and Pakistanis may face off on the sub-continent, but in the Congo they both tackle some of the tougher jobs. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh supply a number of troops for UN peacekeeping missions. They are also, for the most part, quality troops - which is why they get the hard jobs.

June 17, 2007: A Congolese Army ammunition dump near Mbandaka (Equateur province) blew up. The explosion killed three people and injured 52.

June 15, 2007: Congolese Army (FARDC) forces fought with the Force for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia in the town of Sirimukoko (North Kivu). Three FDLR militiamen were killed in the firefight.

June 12, 2007: A UN investigation found that UN peacekeepers killed Congolese prisoners in what was described as a "reprisal" to an ambush by militiamen in Congo's Ituri province (eastern Congo). The "reprisal" took place in late February 2005. After the ambush, the UN peacekeepers captured 30 prisoners. A group peacekeepers from Bangladesh then took 15 prisoners and beat them. The report said "some" of the prisoners died. February 2005 was a difficult month for UN peacekeepers in Ituri province. The UN force had been involved in a number of battles with Congolese militias. Nine Bangladeshis died in a battle on February 25, 2005.

 

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