Congolese Refugees Return Home After Long Exile
A group of 72 Congolese refugees who have
been in exile in Sudan for more than 40 years are today heading
home with help from IOM and UNHCR.
The refugees, part of a larger group of 1,500
who said they wanted to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo
following the announcement of planned elections in June this year,
are going back to Kisingani on an IOM chartered plane from Juba in
Only 253 out of the 1,500 refugees that make
up UNHCR's caseload for return will be able to go home for now due
to funding constraints. There are an estimated 6,000 Congolese
refugees living in Khartoum state and in South Sudan. Most of the
refugees fled the former Zaire following the assassination of the
country's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961.
The group of 72 returning today have been
living in Juba town since 1965. Many Congolese who had also
initially fled to Juba in the 1960's, had then moved to Khartoum to
escape the two-decade long war in South Sudan. Two more fights are
scheduled to leave Juba for Kisangani on 11 and 14 May to
repatriate the remaining caseload from the town.
On 16 May, a last group of 50 Congolese
refugees will be taken home from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to
Kisangani by IOM following medical examinations to ensure fitness
for travel. The refugees have been living in the settlement of
Jabel Aulyia, some 45kms south of Khartoum, along with internally
"With no proper employment, their life in the
settlement was miserable. Some of them were doing manual labour in
Khartoum, mainly in construction, but it was very difficult to
survive. Without this assistance from IOM and UNHCR, they would
never be able to go back to their country where they hope to resume
their farming activities," said IOM's Dr. Aden Guliye, who is
carrying out the medical screenings. "I keep on hearing them sing
‘No east no west, home is the best. Wherever you go, in the
end you always go home.'"
Despite the more than 40 years in exile, the
refugees had managed to maintain contact with relatives back home,
many of whom will be there to greet the arrivals.
UNHCR is seeking funding to help return the
remaining caseload, although the final destination in the DRC of
nearly 390 refugees is yet to be clarified.
With a panafricanist vision, Patrice Lumumba
was a charismatic leader of the African independence era, who died
in mysterious circumstances.
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