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DATE=9/8/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=CONGO-BENIN REFUGEES L-O NUMBER=2-253608 BYLINE=JOHN PITMAN DATELINE=ABIDJAN INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Several hundred ethnic Tutsi refugees from Congo-Kinshasa have arrived in (the West African country of) Benin. They moved as part of a U-S led effort to gain temporary asylum for Congolese Tutsis who have been the victims of ethnic violence in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. V-O-A's John Pitman reports from our West Africa Bureau. TEXT: The United Nations refugee agency - U-N-H-C-R - says 370 ethnic Tutsi refugees from Congo-Kinshasa have already arrived in Benin. Benin has agreed to grant temporary asylum to as many as 500 Tutsis from Congo. They are eventually expected to be resettled in the United States. Oumar Bah heads the U-N-H-C-R liaison office in Benin's capital, Cotonou. //BAH ACT// From here (Benin), they will be resettled either in the United States, or if they have family links in Belgium, they will go to Belgium. //END ACT// This resettlement program was launched by the United States and several other countries after ethnic Tutsis in Congo came under attack during the early months of Congo's civil war last year. Rebels fighting to unseat Congolese President Laurent Kabila have been backed by Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government. As a result, many Congolese Tutsis were beaten or killed as alleged collaborators or spies. //OPT// At the height of the anti-Tutsi violence, Congolese government propaganda actively encouraged the persecution of Tutsis. The Kinshasa government denies it officially sanctioned the killing of Congolese Tutsis. //END OPT// The Kinshasa government eventually detained thousands of Tutsis in what it called "protective custody" centers in the capital and in the southern city of Lubumbashi. In all, the U-N-H-C-R's Oumar Bah says up to two- thousand Congolese Tutsis will benefit from the resettlement program, although not all of them will be processed in Benin. He says those refugees already in Benin will likely be resettled in the United States or Europe within six months. After that, he says, it remains unclear whether - or when - the refugees might return to the Congo. NEB/JP/JO 08-Sep-1999 14:54 PM EDT (08-Sep-1999 1854 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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