U.N. withdraws some staff from eastern Congo
Congo may expel other humanitarian groups from area
October 6, 1997
Web posted at: 2:56 p.m. EDT (1856 GMT)
KINSHASA, Congo (CNN) -- The United Nations' High Commission
for Refugees said Monday it had flown some staff members out
of the eastern Congo town of Goma, following the Congolese
government's orders Friday for the humanitarian agency to
withdraw from the region.
Meanwhile, Congo says it may expel several other refugee
agencies from eastern Congo as well.
The UNHCR expulsion followed events in neighboring Rwanda,
where the army is fighting a counterinsurgency campaign.
The United Nations said a new wave of Rwandan refugees have
fled to neighboring Congo to escape the fighting.
Congo accuses the UNHCR inciting the influx by crossing the
border into Rwanda and spreading fear among Rwandan Hutus to
encourage them to return to the former Zaire. The Congo
government also says Hutu militiamen had hoped to use any new
camp the UNHCR set up in the Congo as a military base.
"The expulsion of UNHCR is a result of their involvement in
political games," said Mwenze Kongolo, the interior minister
for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "It's not part of
their job description in our country."
The UNHCR, which had protested Congo's forced repatriation of
Rwandan refugees just before orders came to leave Goma,
described Kongolo's allegation as "totally unjustified."
"If a minister has any evidence the UNHCR has been involved
in meddling in the internal politics of the country we want
to see the evidence," the Kinshasa delegate of the agency,
Bayan Dor, told Reuters.
Unclear if other refugee agencies will leave
Mwenze said the U.N. refugee agency would have to renegotiate
its contracts with the government if it wanted to return to
the east of the country.
Though earlier reports indicated that all refugee agencies
had been ordered out of eastern Congo, Kongolo said only the
U.N. refugee group was told to leave. But other aid
organizations said they were still awaiting clarification on
the earlier reports.
Congo also closed its border with Rwanda to prevent refugees
from returning. The country was a refuge for over a million
Rwandan Hutus between 1994 and 1996.
Stalled massacre investigation strains relations
Relations between the Congo and the United Nations are
already poor. A U.N. team sent to investigate the massacre
of Hutu refugees has been waiting for six weeks for
government clearance to visit reported massacre sites.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recalled leading
members of the team to New York for consultations, and to
give the Congo time to reconsider. But the Congo government
says it does not need more time.
"I don't think it's appropriate for them to say they've given
us some time," Kongolo said. "Maybe they're giving
themselves some time so we can see what they've been doing.
In fact, they screwed up so much that I think Kofi Annan
wants to see them and talk to them personally. I believe
U.S. and European diplomats have warned the Congo's
president, Laurent Kabila, that failure to allow the U.N.
probe could mean the loss of development aid and investment.
But the Congo is rich in natural resources, and Kabila may
feel this is a warning he can afford to ignore.
Correspondent Catherine Bond and Reuters contributed to this report.