Hundreds of fearful Congolese to return to DR Congo

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Young Congolese refugees in Zemio camp in Central African Republic. Photo: UNHCR/A Kitidi

Hundreds of refugees are to be airlifted out of Central African Republic (CAR) and returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), years after they fled attacks by rebels, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Monday.

So far nearly 40 refugees have been flown back to DRC, out of a total of nearly 630 who want to go home.

UNHCR says the returnees want to leave CAR because they're worried about the volatile security situation there.

Daniel Dickinson has more.

The airlift operation launched on Monday in the Central African Republic (CAR) comes six years after refugees fled attacks by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A first group of 39 Congolese left a UN-run camp in Zemio in the south-east of CAR and flew to Ango in northern DRC.

Over the next three weeks, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) plans to repatriate a total of 628 refugees.

According to the UN agency, the refugees want to leave because they fear for their safety after a reported increase in LRA attacks and abductions.

To date, more than 180,000 people remain internally displaced in LRA-affected areas in the two countries.

The refugees will be returning to an area where the weakened LRA has launched sporadic attacks in past months.

But UNHCR says the refugees were "fully informed" about the security situation before they made a final decision to return home.

UNHCR says the LRA – which has its roots in Uganda – have looted property, torched homes, kidnapped people, raped women and girls and used the young as child soldiers and sex slaves.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations

Duration: 1'25"

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