Zambia has expressed concern that the ongoing conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could spill over into its territory and other countries in the region.
“We are very worried because this thing can engulf the whole region if we are not careful,” said Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu. “What we have done is to send the head of the military to meet our colleagues in DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the entire region because we all appreciate that we are together, we swim together or drown together.”
Lungu called on the international community to help the Great Lakes Region find a solution to the conflict in the DRC.
Zambia shares an estimated 1,900 kilometer border with DRC.
Lungu said the Lusaka government has implemented measures to extend aid to refugees who have crossed into Zambia.
“The UNHCR has always been very supportive and through the UN we have been able to get so much help to the [refugees]. So, what we have done is to trigger the action which will bring all the agencies of the UN to help the refugees,” said Lungu.
“We as a government have put in place what we can and we are calling on the international community to come to our rescue. That is why I am saying we are ready to help the refugees.”
Some Zambians say they are worried that the influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in the DRC is creating panic among the population.
Lungu says it was natural for some Zambians to be apprehensive following the surge in refugees.
But, he said the government in Lusaka has taken steps to reduce tensions.
Last week, some humanitarian agencies said over 400 Congolese refugees crossed into the Chiengi district in the Luapula Province of Zambia.
They also said the DRC conflict has led to a sharp rise in refugees who have been displaced by the fighting between the government forces and the M23 rebels.
Lungu says his government will ensure the victims of the war are separated from combatants.