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Over 2,000 Congolese flee to western
Tanzania over past week: official   

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- More than 2,000 Congolese have fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Tanzania’s western region of Kigoma seeking asylum for past one week, a senior government official said on Saturday.

Emmanuel Maganga, the Kigoma regional commissioner, told Xinhua on telephone that 800 of the asylum seekers were received on Friday and Saturday at the region’s port town of Kibirizi.

“Most of the fleeing Congolese claim that they are running away from political upheavals in the eastern part of the country,” said Maganga, adding that 1,600 of them were received at Manyovu, Kigage and Nyarugusu areas in the region.

“The situation is appalling as hundreds of the Congolese are flocking into the region using boats that ply along Lake Tanganyika,” said the official.

He said the Kigoma region defense and security committee was assessing the new arrivals to establish whether they qualified to be given the asylum status.

He said after the assessment by the regional defense and security committee the asylum seekers will undergo a second scrutiny by the National Eligibility Committee that will determine whether they qualified to gain the refugees status.

Maganga said the National Eligibility Committee comprised of members from the Immigration Department and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“At the moment, the UN refugees’ agency and other aid agencies are providing relief supplies to the arriving Congolese, including women and children,” said Maganga.

He said those who will meet “the refugee status” will be sent to the Nyarugusu refugee camp.



UN chief condemns killing of peacekeeper in DRC

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday condemned the killing of a peacekeeper from Pakistan deployed with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The blue helmet was killed on Saturday in an ambush by members of an armed group near Lulimba, 96 km southwest of Baraka in South Kivu Province. At least another peacekeeper was wounded in the attack.

The secretary-general extended his heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased and to the people and government of Pakistan. He wished a speedy recovery to the injured and called on those responsible for this attack to be brought to justice, said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres’ spokesman, in a statement released in Addis Ababa.

Guterres reiterated his call on armed groups in the DRC to lay down their arms and seek to resolve their grievances peacefully. He reaffirmed the readiness of the UN mission in the DRC and the United Nations system to continue working with the authorities of the DRC to help address the security challenges facing the country.


Botswana president urges his Congolese counterpart to stick to constitution

GABORONE Botswana (Xinhua) -- Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama on Friday urged President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila to adhere to the constitution of the central African nation.

In his farewell message to the residents of Francistown, situated some 430 km northeast of the country’s capital, Gaborone, Khama said his Congolese counterpart must respect the rule of law and freedom of assembly.

“The president of DRC must comply with the rule of law and abide with the constitution,” said Khama when addressing scores of Batswana (citizens of Botswana) who thronged the Francistown stadium to bid him farewell.

The polls in DRC were scheduled to be held by the end of 2017, under a political deal with the opposition aimed at avoiding bloodshed after Kabila refused to step down when his second mandate ended in December 2016.

Khama urged African countries to benchmark on Botswana and implement democratic principles in their respective nations.

Khama lamented that failure to adhere to the constitution has resulted in some leaders abusing powers, thereby impoverishing their nations.

Late last year, the United Nations (UN) Council members called on Congolese authorities to take all the necessary measures without delay to ensure that this new elections calendar is scrupulously adhered to.


President Kabila calls on politicians to choose
between elections and development

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of the Congo (Xinhua) -- The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, on Friday called on the politicians to make a choice between holding elections he regards as costly or spending the money on the development of the country.

The president said in Kinshasa during a press briefing that the cost of elections, at around 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, is more expensive than that required for the development of the country.

“The election budget is 1.2 billion dollars, and I say it quite often, the elections in this country are starting to cost us a lot more than even the development of the country. And at some point we will have to make a choice, will it be necessary to be cited around the world as the most democratic country, or is the development that counts?” he said.

“Today, we are nearing the end of enlistment operations in Kasai. We are more or less 46 million voters enlisted. The elections in this country is a vast operation,” said Joseph Kabila.

At the press conference, the president called on Congolese people to make courageous decisions so that they do not have to spend so much money just to hold elections.

“We must take the most courageous options and decisions not to fall or fall back into the situation with a budget of 1.2 billion for elections, while we have a total budget of 6 or 7 billions,” added the Congolese president.

The west African country has not managed to organize the elections scheduled since the end of 2016, following technical and financial problems.

The political majority of the opposition accuses Kabila of blocking the electoral process in the country.

Protests demanding the holding of elections have resulted in the death of several people across the country since the beginning of the year.


Over 3,000 asylum seekers from DR Congo flee to Burundi

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Over 3,000 asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) have arrived in Burundi to avoid fighting in eastern DR Congo, local authorities told Xinhua by phone on Thursday.

According to governors of Makamba and Rumonge provinces in southwestern Burundi, those asylum seekers arrived via Lake Tanganyika by boats.

“Since yesterday (Wednesday), we are receiving an influx of refugees from eastern DR Congo. By now, we have received over 2,000 refugees. And more and more are coming,” said Juvenal Bigirimana, governor of Rumonge province.

Bigirimana said those asylum seekers are mainly Congolese nationals and Burundian nationals, who fled fighting between Mai-Mai rebels and the Congolese army in DR Congo’s South Kivu province.

Bigirimana also said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the National Office in charge of the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (ONPRA) and the Rumonge administration are seeking ways to relocate those asylum seekers in refugee camps.

“We (The Rumonge administration) are trying our best to get food items for them as no charitable organization has so far assisted them,” Bigirimana said.

Makamba Governor Gad Niyukuri said that over 1,000 asylum seekers from DR Congo have arrived in the Nyanza-Lac district since Wednesday.

“Those refugees say they left so many others behind, and those are also fleeing the fighting. We have put them in one place,” said Niyukuri.

Niyukuri also said the provincial government fears that the refugees might have brought cholera here as one of them has already shown cholera symptoms.

Burundi has set four refugee camps to host DR Congo nationals.

According to the UN News Service, the inter-ethnic violence and clashes between the regular army, militia and armed groups have left some 1.3 million people displaced in eastern DR Congo’s provinces of Tanganyika and South Kivu.



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