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Refugees begin returning for voter registration

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GOMA, 3 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Some 1,000 refugees in camps in Tanzania returned to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) late in July in order to register to vote in the 2006 general elections, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

"My family and I came back because we can't afford to miss the voter's registration process," Anselme Juakali, one of the returnees at the Congolese border town of Uvira, said.

In a news conference in July, the UNHCR office in Uvira said at least 150,000 refugees in Tanzania wanted to return home; a move which South Kivu Governor Didas Kaningini attributed to the refugees' desire to register for the elections. However, UNHCR said it would not be able to begin its voluntary repatriation of refugees until October. Given that, some refugees said they had decided to return on their own immediately.

Voter registration is set to begin in the province of South Kivu on 21 August and will end 21 days later. The National Independent Electoral Commission has said it cannot tour countries bordering the DRC to register refugees. In addition, the commission's deputy president, Norbert Kantitima Bashengezi, said it did not have the means to repatriate the refugees.

Voter registration is underway in the provinces of Orientale and Bas-Congo till 14 August. The process ended in Kinshasa on 31 July with 2.9 million people registered.


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