DRC refugees hesitate to return home

2011-10-14 12:21


Betou - Tens of thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo are hesitating to return home despite the end of the tribal fighting that forced them out two years ago.

"Has there been a true reconciliation between all of the tribes, even those who didn't sign the [non-aggression] pact?" timidly asked one refugee recently.

He spoke at a meeting with fellow refugees who had been sent to see whether peace had really returned to the Equateur region in DRC's northwest after feuding warlords signed a non-aggression pact in March.

The people living in makeshift camps dotted all along the Oubangui river in the Republic of Congo fled in October 2009 after fighting broke out between Enyele tribal warriors and members of the Monzaya community over the rich fish stocks and farming land in the province.

Some 200 000 people fled the clashes, with some 120 000 crossing the Oubangui river to the Republic of Congo. Another 20 000 went to the Central African Republic, of whom about half have gone home. Others were internally displaced.

When surveyed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in mid-2010, 80% of villagers in the Congo Republic said they wanted to go home but only if the security situation had improved.

But although the Enyele and the Monzaya signed a non-agression pact in March and the DRC has urged its citizens to return, the refugees along the river remain hesitant.

Several hundreds of them turned out to hear about the situation on the ground from four refugees sent on a scouting mission recently.

"I saw that life has returned to normal because a lot of people had returned and the market is open from 06:00 to 22:00," said Delphine Mokola, one of the four.

Repatriation programme

"These are the signs that convinced me that those who have returned are living in peace."

UNHCR says that the refugees are starting to consider returning and is preparing a repatriation programme along with the authorities of both Congos, whose original April launch has been delayed by security and logistics concerns.

"Until recently, refugees were still saying they weren't sure whether peace and security had returned to Equateur, but this is starting to change," said Celine Schmitt, a UNHCR spokesperson in the DRC.

One person determined to come back home is Ghislain, who has fled his country three times now because of violence. "I love my country, I was always going to return," he says. "A thousand times displaced a thousand times repatriated."

But others aren't so sure.

"I am 65 years old. Two times events on the ground have forced me to leave. Both times I have lost all of my possessions," says another refugee, to the applause and nods of those around him.

"Insofar as I am concerned I can no longer return" even if in the Republic of Congo "I am not at ease, I don't eat well, I don't sleep well."

Read more on:    un  |  drc  |  central africa  |  refugees

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1595.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.