Submit this form
Home News Videos Music Photos Facebook Twitter Friends Newsletter Podcasts Mobile RSS
Congolese refugees in no hurry to return

Previous article | Next

KAWAMBWA, 28 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - As Zambia prepares to repatriate the last of the Angolan refugees on its soil by the end of 2005, the fate of thousands of Congolese refugees, sheltered in camps throughout the country, remains unclear.

Zambia hosts an estimated 55,000 Congolese refugees, most of whom fled the country at the height of civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2000. In Kala refugee camp, some 45 km from the DRC-Zambia border, sentiment about returning home ranges between confidence and uncertainty.

Despite landmark multiparty elections scheduled for June 2005 in the DRC, on a recent visit to the camp IRIN learnt that refugees were unconvinced the poll would usher in permanent peace in the troubled central African country.

"There are still people who arrive at the camp from time to time, which means it is unsafe to return - even if there are elections, there isn't any guarantee that there will be peace. I do want to go home, but only when it is certain that we will not be attacked again," 27-year-old Kilnembi Kyabanya told IRIN.

Kilnembi, his wife and two children, are among an estimated 26,000 Congolese seeking refugee at the camp. Most fled the volatile Katanga province in eastern DRC, which saw heavy fighting between government troops and rebels in 2000.

Although the mineral-rich province has since experienced relative stability, last year hundreds of Congolese flooded into Zambia to escape reported clashes between Mayi-Mayi rebels and the national army in Dikulushi.

United Nations agencies, NGOs and Zambian officials admit that ongoing insecurity in parts of the country continues to jeopardise any attempt at kick-starting formal repatriation.

According to one aid worker, a major factor driving the uncertainty among refugees and the humanitarian community was the lack of credible information about the current security situation on the ground.

"We do not want to repatriate refugees just to get them home: much needs to be done to ensure that they return to their areas of origin with dignity and, of course, to areas where there are basic services in place. But we do need more information about safety in the DRC," said UN refugee agency (UNHCR) field officer Napaporn Bunklaya.

She pointed out that although talks with Zambian and DRC officials were promising, it would be some time before a tripartite voluntary repatriation agreement was reached.

In the meantime, the 7,500 Congolese families occupying Kala refugee camp have sought to bring some semblance of normality to their daily lives.

With the assistance of UNHCR, the Zambian government, World Vision, and HODI, a local Zambian NGO, Kala's infrastructure includes six primary schools, a secondary school, churches, a clinic, a market, sports fields and meeting places.

Despite their precarious situation, said Veneste Mwika, a refugee who acts as the camp's education administrator, concerted efforts had been made to ensure that children regularly attended school, where the Congolese curriculum is taught. According to Mwika, two refugee children have gone on to university in Zambia.

"It is important to let these children know that there is a future for them, even if it seems uncertain now. So far, our schooling system has produced some very good results," he said.

Food security remains a concern. Under the World Food Programmes's (WFP) general food distribution, each refugee receives a cereal - mostly maize - with pulses, vegetable oil and salt. However, between November and December last year refugees were on half rations, as WFP ran out of cash to buy locally produced maize.

The UN food agency resumed full food rations in January but is facing stiff resistance from the refugee community, who complain that the sorghum substitute is inadequate and inedible.

WFP has said that the lack of cash donations forced the agency to consider alternative cereals.

"If we could afford to buy maize then we would have, but we cannot and therefore are trying to formulate ways to ensure that the health of the refugee population remains stable," a WFP official told IRIN.

In an effort to get refugees to become less reliant on WFP rations and improve household food security, HODI has supported a series of agricultural projects.

Refugees receive training in crop selection and learn how to maximum their yields. They are also provided with seeds for the vegetables best suited to growing conditions in the camp. A scheme to cultivate the land has been set up, in which fifteen pairs of oxen are being procured and rotated.

"The goal is to ensure that the community is able to supplement their WFP rations and look after themselves. At times there are food shortages in the camp and this can lead to health problems, so it is important to have an adequate food supply," HODI project coordinator Charity Gondwe explained.

An additional 2,316 ha of agricultural land, provided to the refugees by a local chief, was demarcated for the 2004/05 farming season. Access to land has become a sensitive issue among refugees, who say that land allocation thus far has been insufficient and continues to hamper their efforts integrate fully into the local economy.

"With the little we have been given we have proven that we are serious about cultivation and looking after ourselves; we have also provided the nearby Zambia villagers with our produce. We have been here for a long time now, and maybe we will be here for many years; so we should be given more, so we are not a burden on the Zambian government," Mwika said.


Related articles


  1. Moise Katumbi blocked from entering DR Congo (August 3, 2018)
  2. At least 60 killed as train derails in Katanga province (April 23, 2014)
  3. Opposition Supporters Step Up Attacks on Congolese Officials Abroad (February 28, 2012)
  4. Kabila's Senior Advisor Katumba Mwanke Dies in Plane Crash (February 12, 2012)
  5. Supreme Court Rules Joseph Kabila Won Presidential Election (December 16, 2011)
  6. Kabila Leads Partial Election Results (December 3, 2011)
  7. Vote Counting Underway after Mostly Peaceful Elections (November 29, 2011)
  8. Candidates to Make Last Stand in Kinshasa before Monday's Election (November 26, 2011)
  9. Tshisekedi: UDPS Has Never Been for a Joint Opposition Candidacy (November 19, 2011)
  10. On the Campaign Trail, Kabila, Tshisekedi Cross Paths in Eastern Congo (November 15, 2011)
  11. UN advises prudent use of abundant resources to spur development (October 10, 2011)
  12. The Government Will Ensure Peaceful Elections, Says Spokesman (October 6, 2011)
  13. 19,497 Candidates to Run for 500 Seats in Parliament (September 26, 2011)
  14. Kabila's Election Speech Leads to Judges' Strike (September 20, 2011)
  15. Tshisekedi Draws Huge Crowds in Kinshasa (August 10, 2011)
  16. Global Witness welcomes DR Congo's decision to publish resource contracts (June 3, 2011)
  17. Militiamen Sent to Testify in Warlords Trials at ICC (March 28, 2011)
  18. ICC Dismisses Jean-Pierre Bemba's Appeal on Admissibility of His Case (October 19, 2010)
  19. FDLR leader Callixte Mbarushimana arrested in France on ICC warrant (October 11, 2010)
  20. TP Mazembe boss fumes over ban (September 14, 2010)
  21. TP Mazembe boss oozes confidence (September 9, 2010)
  22. ICC orders the release of Thomas Lubanga (July 15, 2010)
  23. ICC rejects Germain Katanga's motion to suspend trial (July 12, 2010)
  24. Lumumba's Family Seeks Justice in Former Congo Prime Minister's Killing (June 22, 2010)
  25. Congo's Resources: Who Benefits? (June 5, 2010)
  26. The ICC signs enforcement agreements with Belgium, Denmark, and Finland (June 1, 2010)
  27. 54 FDLR Rebels Relocated from North Kivu to Katanga (May 4, 2010)
  28. DR Congo bans export of concentrated mineral products from Katanga (April 12, 2010)
  29. Katanga Governor Says Not Running for 2011 Presidential Elections (March 30, 2010)
  30. Brussels Airlines to form a new airline company in DR Congo (December 16, 2009)


Live TV Congo Radio en ligne Radio
Available on App Store
Get it on Google Play



Contact Us | About Us | Édition en Français | French Edition

© 2018 CongoPlanet.com. All rights reserved.