Military

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

DRC-RWANDA: Refugees, ex-combatants return from DRC

KIGALI, 5 January 2004 (IRIN) - A total of 1,455 refugees, including former Hutu combatants, returned to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in November and December 2003, the official UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, told IRIN on Monday.

The MONUC Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation, Reinsertion and Reintegration (DDRRR) officer in Kigali, Chimene Mandakovic, said some 207 refugees, among them 155 former combatants, had returned to Rwanda between 17 November and 31 December.

The highest number had been registered from 17 to 31 November 2003, with a total of 1,183 refugees returning home, Mandakovic said.

Most of the returnees fled Rwanda at the height of the 1994 genocide and have mainly been living in the war-ravaged provinces of North and South Kivu in eastern DRC.

Mandakovic attributed the increase in the numbers of returnees to an improved political and security situation in eastern DRC, and to the return in November of the Hutu rebel commander, Paul Rwarakabije.

He said MONUC's DDRRR office had redoubled efforts to complete its demobilisation and repatriation programme to pave the way for a smooth end of the transitional period in the DRC and help foster normal relations between Rwanda and the DRC.

"We have been working with increased speed to complete this operation as soon as soon possible to pave the way for a good transitional period," he said. "We hope we can speed it up even faster."

On arrival at transit camps, the returnees are issued with a repatriation package by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, comprising a three-month food ration and basic non-food items such as jerry cans, kitchen utensils, blankets, soap and plastic sheeting.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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