GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The United Nations refugee agency reports fighting between government and opposition forces in Mozambique is prompting growing numbers of refugees to flee to neighboring Malawi.
The refugee agency reports nearly 11,500 Mozambicans have fled to Malawi since mid-December. Most of the new arrivals are in the village of Kapise, about 100 kilometers south of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. It says others are scattered throughout the neighboring district of Chikwawa.
The UNHCR reports the exodus of Mozambican refugees has been growing and shows no sign of abating. Spokesman Leo Dobbs said the authorities in Malawi were finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the rising number of people.
So, he said the government has decided to reopen a former refugee camp to deal with the influx. He said during the past month, aid workers have seen the number of refugees arriving in Kapise grew from around 130 a day to around 250 a day.
“Early this year, the refugees we talked to said they were fleeing violence in their villages and more recent arrivals have said that they were fleeing for preventive reasons after fearing imminent clashes between government forces and RENAMO, the main opposition group, which has said it wishes to take control of six provinces in the north of Mozambique,” said Dobbs.
To many observers, what is happening in Mozambique is beginning to look like a dangerous replay of its bloody civil war. That war lasted from 1977 to 1992. It killed up to 200,000 people and forcibly displaced some two million inside and outside the country.
Many people are concerned that a new refugee crisis may be looming in southern Africa. The Luwani camp, which Malawi is reopening, previously hosted Mozambican refugees from the civil war period. It was closed in 2007.
Dobbs said the UNHCR shortly would begin moving refugees from Kapise to the Luwani camp. He said the refugees would have better facilities and services available to them and that the camp would be safer than Kapise, which is only five kilometers from the border with Mozambique.