Tensions may limit aid to DR of Congo refugees UN agency says

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also said its operations in the rest of the DRC had been reduced because it had had to evacuate its non-essential staff after the UN decided to move to a higher security alert in the country. Some 2,390 refugees from the DRC had registered with UNHCR in southwest Rwanda since the fighting started last month, the refugee agency said, adding that no one had crossed into Rwanda since the government closed the border Sunday, but the Rwandan authorities had assured the agency that refugees would still be allowed to enter the country. “No new arrivals have been reported since the border closure. There were also no arrivals on Saturday and only 28 new refugees crossed the border on Friday,” the agency said. In Bukavu, where the fighting that broke out on 26 May between Government and rebel troops climaxed with rebel seizure of the town last week, former Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma) Col. Jules Mutebutsi broke his pledge to canton his forces and shooting could be heard in the town from time to time today. The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) confirmed, however, the withdrawal of the more numerous forces of former RCD-Goma Gen. Laurent Nkunda from the town and the nearby airport area. MONUC also reported that Kinshasa was relatively quiet. President Joseph Kabila and MONUC chief William Lacy Swing held separate meetings with student groups stressing that the UN was an important partner in the transition process. Some students in the university town had mounted protest marches, criticizing the UN peacekeepers for allowing the town to fall to the rebels after Government forces fled. Some isolated marches took place early in the day, but the demonstrators were dispersed by Congolese police patrolling the streets. Mr. Swing, President Kabila and the DRC Cabinet have been planning the re-establishment of Transitional Government authority across the country and agreed that the crisis in Bukavu must be resolved this week, MONUC said. After helping more than 5,000 people return to Rwanda from Bukavu and Goma, UNHCR suspended the official repatriation of the refugees from Bukavu. Nonetheless, it was preparing for a possible influx of people arriving on their own and was sending in 10,000 sleeping mats from its stocks in Tanzania. read more

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