U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Congo-Brazzaville

Congo-Brazzaville hosted more than 90,000 refugees at the end of 2003, including over 80,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, nearly 6,000 from Rwanda, some 4,000 from Angola, and less than 1,000 others mainly from the Central African Republic and Burundi.

An estimated 60,000 people in Congo-Brazzaville were internally displaced at year's end. Nearly 20,000 citizens of Congo-Brazzaville were refugees or asylum seekers at the end of 2003, including about 14,000 in Gabon, some 1,000 in Congo-Kinshasa, and nearly 5,000 asylum applicants in industrialized countries. Nearly 2,000 Congolese repatriated during the year, mostly from Gabon and Congo-Kinshasa.

Some 2,000 Central African refugees voluntarily repatriated from Congo-Brazzaville during the year.

Congolese Displacement

Violence rooted in ethnic and political tensions has destabilized Congo-Brazzaville for a decade. Fighting claimed an estimated 20,000 lives by 1999 and displaced up to 800,000 residents – nearly one-third of the country's 2.7 million population. A 1999 cease-fire agreement broke down with renewed fighting between rebel Ninjas militias and government forces in 2002.

A tenuous peace in the country's more than ten year-long ethnic and political conflict was brokered in March 2003, but rebels mounted a short-lived attack on the capital, Brazzaville, in December. Poor security plagued the Pool region west of the capital, where some 40,000 armed rebels menaced and periodically attacked local and refugee populations.

Although the vast majority of displaced Congolese returned home after 2000, an estimated 60,000 remained internally displaced and many Congolese refugees refused to return to their areas of origin because the political situation was still unpredictable.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

More than 80,000 refugees fleeing warfare in Congo-Kinshasa who entered Congo-Brazzaville after 1999 remained there during 2003. The vast majority lived scattered along a 300-mile (500 km) stretch along the Oubangui and Congo Rivers in northern Congo-Brazzaville, where they remained vulnerable to violence that occasionally spilled across the border from neighboring Congo-Kinshasa.

During the year, Congolese rebels crossed into northern Congo-Brazzaville and looted refugee camps. While conditions improved from 2002, security constraints continued to hinder aid agencies' access to refugee areas. Government imposed travel restrictions hindered refugees attempting to reach relief sites and blocked refugees from entering local markets.

The Congolese government failed to issue identity cards for refugees from Congo-Kinshasa residing in the areas around the northern border towns of Betou, Impfondo, and Loukolela. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued these refugees temporary attestations, allowing them freedom of movement. Despite having proper documentation, refugees reported cases of arbitrary arrest and sexual abuse by police during the year. Congolese authorities physically attacked refugees in Likouala prefecture according to UNHCR. UNHCR reported observing a number of Congolese refugees from Betou, Impfondo, and Loukolela returning to Equator Province in north eastern Congo-Kinshasa during the year, although their repatriation did not appear permanent.

Refugees from Angola

UNHCR reported no voluntary repatriations of the nearly 4,000 Angolan refugees who fled the northern Angolan enclave of Cabinda a decade ago. Most remained in Congo-Brazzaville because of continuing tensions in the Cabinda region.

Most Angolan refugees lived in or near the city of Point Noire in the southwest corner of Congo-Brazzaville. About 3,000 lived in Kondi Mbaka and Komi camps and in Malolo II village in Niari prefecture.

In March, Angolan military entered Kimongo, Bouenza Prefecture, near the border with Cabinda in pursuit of guerrillas supporting Cabinda's independence from Angola, causing thousands of refugees and local residents to flee. Angolan refugees received humanitarian assistance from UNHCR and other international aid agencies, including food and mosquito nets. Aid agencies promoted refugee self-sufficiency by supporting farming and livestock activities.

Refugee children attended primary and secondary schools in Komi and Kondi Mbaka camps, which also provided health centers for refugees. UNHCR conducted a census of Angolan refugees in Congo-Brazzaville during 2003.

Refugees from Rwanda

About 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Rwanda remained in Congo-Brazzaville at the end of 2003. Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazzaville were ethnic Hutu who fled to Congo-Kinshasa in 1994 and trekked more than 700 miles (1,100 km) across Congo-Kinshasa to escape ethnic Tutsi Rwandan soldiers who were pursuing them.

Congo-Brazzaville signed a Tripartite Agreement with UNHCR and the Rwandan government in June 2003, facilitating the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees. Fewer than 100 repatriated in 2003, however. Many Rwandans left during the year for Cameroon and West Africa. Fewer than 1,000 resided in a refugee camp in Kintele, 15 miles (25 km) north of Brazzaville. Some 2,500 lived in 16 villages in Loukolela Prefecture, 300 miles (500 km) north of the capital, where they supported themselves.

More than 1,500 others lived in Congo-Brazzaville without refugee status. In 1999, UNHCR concluded that most of the Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazzaville were probably former Rwandan soldiers or militia members complicit in their country's 1994 genocide.


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