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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 18 October 2005

CONGO: Ex-Mobutu guards barred from entering Kinshasa

BRAZZAVILLE, 18 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Some 189 former guardsmen of late Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko, who have been living in the Republic of Congo (ROC), were stopped on Tuesday from disembarking at port in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because authorities in both countries had not been informed, a port agent said.

"A boat carrying the passengers from Brazzaville was forced back to the other side of the River Congo," Richard Liyé, the agent in Brazzaville, said.

River traffic between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the respective capitals of the ROC and the DRC, was suspended on Tuesday afternoon, to prevent the soldiers, who served in Mobutu's Presidential Guards Division, from entering Kinshasa.

The men, led by Capt Ambroise Kusa, were brought together by an NGO known as the Refugee Victims International (Réfugiés victimes international).

The guardsmen had gathered Tuesday morning at the Brazzaville port, where they said they had complied with all formalities demanded by the authorities in Brazzaville and Kinshasa to enable them cross into the DRC, formally known under Mobutu as Zaire.

However, neither Brazzaville nor Kinshasa government officials have been to the port where the ex-guardsmen are assembled. By Tuesday afternoon officials of international organisations such as the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had also not been to meet the former guardsmen.

"You cannot cross the border without a guarantee," an immigration official in Brazzaville, who requested anonymity, said. "Congo and DRC have agreements. There are laws and rules you have to respect."

However, one of the ex-guardsmen, who also declined to be named, said: "They want us to suffer. We want to return to our country because here in Brazzaville nobody cares about us."

The chairman of a Kinshasa-based NGO, Voice of the Voiceless (Voix des sans Voix), Floribert Chebeya, said the NGO supported the return of the ex-guardsmen because it was aimed at "strengthening the efforts of national reconciliation".

He said the former soldiers should be reintegrated into the DRC's new National Defence Forces.

DRC Defence Minister Adolphe Onusumba said his government was not opposed to the return of the ex-guardsmen, only that certain security measures had to be met.

"We are into a full army integration programme; the return of these guardsmen is not the business of an NGO, we must know where they are going to live and who is going to take care of them," Onusumba said.


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