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UN Peacekeepers Relocating Former CAF Soldiers in DR Congo - 2001-10-11


The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Thursday is transferring former soldiers of the Central African Republic and their families to a new site. The soldiers, who currently are staying in the town of Zongo, will be moved some 120 kilometers inland.

The Central African Republic soldiers fled with thousands of refugees to the DRC last May, in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in the Central African Republic. Since then, they have been living in settlements in Zongo along with more than 24,000 civilians, who also fled the CAR.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Refugee Agency, Millicent Mutuli, says the operation is aimed at separating the soldiers from civilian refugees. She says the agency cannot allow armed people inside refugee camps. "We have previous experiences where we know that refugees have been controlled by armed people in the camp and have not been able to make So we really must respect that civilian character just to ensure that refugees are able to live peacefully in the camp."

Ms. Mutuli says there have been no such problems so far at the Zongo refugee facility. Nevertheless, she says the U.N. Refugee Agency is taking no chances and insists that the soldiers be separated from the civilian refugees. The operation will last two weeks.

The CAR soldiers and their families - a group of nearly 2,500 people - will be moved from Zongo to a new site at Bokilio.

Ms. Mutuli says U.N. peacekeepers are handling the move because some of the soldiers may still be armed. "We do know that some of the soldiers say that they do not have any arms," said Ms. Mutuli. "But, in the event that there still are arms on some of them, then the peacekeeping mission has instructions to disarm them. They are now working with local authorities in the area. So, this is part of the work that they will be doing over the next two weeks."

Ms. Mutuli says the UNHCR will assist Congolese authorities in preparing the site and will provide a one-time assistance of food and other supplies for the group.

She says after all the soldiers and their families are transferred, the UNHCR is planning to move the 24,000 civilian refugees to a separate site at Mole, which is more than 80 kilometers away from the border between the Central African Republic and Congo.