Angolan refugees stuck in Zambia
As a result, the Zambian government, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government have been having a series of meetings to discuss how to raise millions of dollars required for the repatriation exercise.
At a recently held tripartite meeting- the eighth in the series- it emerged that at least US$4.8 million dollars is required to aid the refugees back home. Some of the refugees have been in Zambia for over thirty years. So far only $500, 000 has been pledged by the UN.
Frantic efforts are now being made to convince donors to fund the exercise that intensified last year, three years after the end of the close to 30 year bloody war between UNITA rebel movement and the MPLA government of the South West African country.
“The Tripartite Commission noted that US$4.8 million was needed for the repatriation exercise of Angolan refugees in Zambia of which US$500,000 was pledged by the United Nations. In this regard it was recommended (during the tripartite meeting) that the contracting parties should continue to approach the donors jointly and/or bilaterally in order to solicit funds aimed at ensuring the repatriation of Angolan refugees,” reads part of the recent meeting’s communiqu’ obtained by The Southern Times in Lusaka.
UNHCR’s recent Intention Survey showed an increase in the number of Angolan refugees willing to be repatriated in 2006 from 12,000 to 14,751 in camps and refugee resettlement areas. Additionally 19, 500 Angolan refugees that are spontaneously settled among the Zambian communities also wish to return home to start a new life, bringing the total of those willing to voluntarily repatriate to 34,251 out of the 78,580 that are officially recorded to be in Zambia.
During the tripartite meeting it emerged that by the end of this year, the World Food Programme (WFP) which has been the main food provider to refugees will completely cut food supplies to Nangweshi Refugee Camp where there are about 15,300 Angolan refugees. Apart from those that are spontaneously or self-settled, Nangweshi has the largest population of Angolan refugees living in designated camps.
“The Tripartite Commission took note that the WFP in the Republic of Zambia will continue to provide food for repatriating refugees during their transit through the Republic of Zambia and on their return to Angola. The Tripartite Commission also noted that WFP will cease all food for Angolan refugees in Nangweshi camp latest end 2006,” says the communiqu’.
The Tripartite Commission has also urged the Angolan government and aid agencies to brace themselves for the resettlement of between 10,000 to 15, 000 returnees.
The next Tripartite Commission meeting is scheduled for Luanda, Angola in September this year.
Zambia has played host to Angolan refugees since the early 1970s when the war broke out between UNITA and the government troops and lasted until rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was slain in 2003.
Apart from the Angolans, Zambia is host to several other nationalities seeking refuge in the country.
Other countries include Congo DR-59,594, Rwanda-3,688, Somalia-1,687, Burundi-1,388, and Uganda-747 while others represent 8,800 bringing the total to 154,484; this is according to latest statistics obtained from UNHCR in Lusaka.
Slight increases in the refuge population have been recorded mainly due new born babies.
Going by this year’s refugee day theme Hope, with relative peace downing on Angola, democratic elections under way in DRC and peace talks reaching advanced levels in the troubled Great Lakes Region, there is hope among governments and humanitarian agencies that more and more refugees will be headed for home to reorganise their disturbed lives.