Congo working on returning DRC refugees

2010-06-04 14:10

Brazzaville - The Republic of Congo is "looking for formulas" for the return of more than 120,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Denis Sassou Nguesso said on Friday.

"I am in contact with President Joseph Kabila and we are looking for formulas to have these people return to the DRC," Sassou Nguesso said in an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI).

The refugees began to flee fighting in the DRC's Equateur province in October and are now mainly spread out in camps along the Oubangui river, which forms the natural border between the two countries.

Relief workers find it hard to reach them in the northern Congo's Likouala district because the Oubangui is too low in stretches for boats and since the refugees have taken shelter over a large area in dozens of settlements.

The refugees fled after fighting broke out between Enyele tribal warriors, led by Ondjani Mangbama, a witchdoctor, and members of the Monzaya community over the rich fish stocks and farming land in Equateur province.

Sassou Nguesso confirmed that Ondjani is held by police in the Republic of Congo. According to officials, he turned himself in to the Congolese police early in May.

Kinshasa has not demanded the extradition of Ondjani, Sassou-Nguesso said, adding: "He can be tried in the Congo, in the DRC or elsewhere."

There is no extradition treaty between the two Congos.

The clashes in Equateur province have also led to the internal displacement of some 80,000 people, who say they fear further attacks and insecurity if they return to their homes, according to aid workers.

The DR.Congo army has deployed in Equateur province, but the presence of the troops does not reassure refugees interviewed in settlements in the Likouala district.