Zambia hosted approximately 270,000 refugees at the end of 2001, including some 210,000 from Angola, about 50,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, and nearly 10,000 from other African countries, primarily Rwanda and Burundi.
General Refugee Issues
Warfare in neighboring Congo-Kinshasa and Angola pushed some 30,000 new refugees into Zambia during 2001. The new arrivals joined more than 200,000 refugees already in the country, placing a serious strain on Zambia's humanitarian relief system.
Food shortages threatened the refugee population during the first half of 2001 and again in the final weeks of the year. The World Food Program reported that food donations at times were 40 percent less than needed, and some refugees reportedly raided local farms and engaged in poaching to feed themselves.
The Zambian government appealed for more international aid to assist the refugee population. Heavy rains and flooding, however, caused deterioration of roads and bridges, hampering deliveries of relief supplies.
Zambian authorities granted automatic refugee status to the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers. Those in urban areas and those suspected of having military backgrounds, however, were required to undergo individual interviews to determine their refugee status. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) participated in the status-determination procedures.
Refugees needed to obtain special government permission to live legally in urban areas. The Zambian Catholic church criticized government policies that limited refugees' access to employment, freedom of movement, and property rights. UNHCR urged the government to loosen restrictions on refugees and to grant citizenship to refugees who had resided in the country for 20 years. No change in policy occurred, however.
Refugees from Angola
Approximately 210,000 Angolan refugees remained in Zambia at the end of 2001. The vast majority arrived during several decades of civil war in Angola, and some have been in Zambia since 1971. No significant repatriation to Angola was reported.
An estimated 20,000 new Angolan refugees fled into western Zambia during 2001. Angolan rebels reportedly prevented refugees from crossing the border during much of the year, until the rebels themselves were dislodged. Many refugees arrived late in the year in "deplorable" condition, according to UNHCR.
The influx posed logistical challenges for relief programs. Most new arrivals settled into Nangweshi camp, opened in 2000 and located about 85 miles (140 km) from the Zambia-Angola border. The camp reached its capacity of 15,000 occupants by late 2001. Negotiations between UNHCR and the government to establish a new camp were underway as the year ended.
Aid workers acknowledged difficulties in distinguishing between new arrivals and long-term refugees, complicating efforts to monitor the true size of the refugee population and target relief to newcomers. Some new refugees refused to settle in designated areas because of ethnic tensions and concerns that poor soil and inadequate water supplies would make farming difficult.
Some observers, including UN inspectors, warned that Nangweshi camp contained Angolan rebel leaders and combatants who might jeopardize security in the camp and the surrounding region. Zambian police alleged that some camp occupants were engaged in gun trafficking. UNHCR continued a program to transfer former combatants from Nangweshi camp to Ukwimi camp in eastern Zambia, completing about 2,000 transfers by late 2001.
About 100,000 of the 210,000 Angolan refugees lived in camps or settlement areas. The remainder lived on their own, largely without assistance. The largest settlement site was Meheba in North Western Province, where nearly 50,000 Angolan refugees resided with about six acres (two-and-a-half hectares) of farmland per family. Most residents of Meheba grew enough beans and sweet potatoes to feed themselves and did not require food assistance.
The second-largest settlement site, Mayukwayukwa, in Western Province, provided farmland for about 23,000 Angolan refugees.
Zambian and UNHCR relief policy estimated that new refugees would need food aid for two years before reaching self-sufficiency. UNHCR provided funds for drilling 20 new boreholes to provide water for the expanding refugee population. Aid workers attempted to improve health services after malnutrition and disease worsened early in the year.
Aid workers tried to improve roads in refugee areas, but budget cuts suffered by UNHCR slowed aid deliveries. Budget problems also delayed construction of additional classrooms for new refugee children and aggravated tensions between UNHCR and private relief organizations that relied on the refugee agency for funding.
Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa
Warfare in Congo-Kinshasa (also known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) has pushed refugees into Zambia since 1998. About 10,000 new refugees arrived during 2001.
Estimates of the size of the refugee population varied considerably because population movements across the border remained fluid. Numerous waves of refugees have arrived during the past three years; many found shelter in Zambia without official assistance, and thousands of refugees returned to Congo-Kinshasa uncounted, without help.
Most Congolese lived in two camps, Kala and Mwange, in northern Zambia, each housing 23,000 refugees. Nearly 10,000 refugee children attended primary schools in the camps; about 400 students attended secondary schools. Camp schools adhered to the Congolese education curriculum.
Food shortages were a major problem even though refugees at Kala camp received nearly 3,700 acres (about 1,500 hectares) of land for farming and occupants of Mwange camp produced 250 tons of crops in the first half of the year. Refugees rioted at Kala camp to protest food shortages, resulting in one refugee death and 16 arrests. Some 2,000 refugees departed Mwange and returned to Congo-Kinshasa in April because of the food problem.
Several thousand combatants in the Congo-Kinshasa war sought refuge in Zambia in late 2000 but chose to return to Congo-Kinshasa in early 2001 rather than permit investigators to interview them to determine whether they merited refugee status. Some observers suspected that the combatants included Rwandans guilty of genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Border Violence and Displacement
The civil war in Angola spilled into Zambia for the second consecutive year. Angolan government soldiers, pursuing Angolan rebels, killed seven Zambian civilians and abducted nearly 140 others in November. Angolan troops looted several villages before Zambian government forces arrived to restore security.
The violence pushed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Zambian residents from their homes along the border. Most returned home before year's end.