AFRICA/ANGOLA - Floods block the repatriation of Angolans

Friday, 13 January 2012

Luanda (Agenzia Fides) - Several thousand Angolans repatriated from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are stranded due to floods in northeast Angola. These are the first victims of what promises to be a very wet rainy season in parts of southern Africa. Over the past four months, in fact, at least 50 000 people, 24 000 of which returned to 10 villages in the province of Uige in north-eastern Angola on the border with the DRC, have been affected by rains, floods and hailstorms. According to experts, the rainy season here tends to be longer than other areas of Angola.
1,142 homes have been destroyed, families that have a shelter now give hospitality to others. In addition, refugees who had sought refuge from the civil war in Angola, which ended in 2002, are putting enormous pressure on local people and organizations. The population, mainly composed of farmers, has been severely damaged, it is extremely poor and is unable to support the returnees that continue to arrive every day. Their crops of cassava and peanuts, have been destroyed and there is not enough food. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has resumed formal repatriation in November 2011, after logistical and other problems had stopped in 2007. Currently, according to the UNHCR in the DRC, there are about 80 000 Angolan refugees. The initiative was taken after a study of the United Nations, carried out in 2010, which showed 43 000 people who wanted to return, and following a tripartite agreement between Angola, DRC and UNHCR (signed in June 2011), about 20,000 people had signed to return. The agreement came about after years of tense relations between the two countries. Both the Angolan citizens and the Congolese have been expelled regularly. In Angola, the UNHCR had suspended its repatriation in December and will resume on January 17, but no one knows how many people have already arrived. According to health workers, the growing instability caused by the recent disputed elections in the DRC could push more people to leave. In addition, the returnees have not received adequate support from the authorities and church organizations have limited resources. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 13/01/2012)