Jan 30, 2006 (KINSHASA) — Congo and Sudan were to sign a U.N.-brokered agreement Monday allowing the repatriation of 20,000 refugees from both African nations, including some Congolese who fled their country decades ago, U.N. officials said.
About 13,000 southern Sudanese are in Congo while 6,800 Congolese have fled north to Sudan, said Jens Hesemann, a spokesman for the U.N.’s refugee agency in Congo. Some of the Congolese left during violence in the wake of the country’s 1960 independence from Belgium and only now wish to return, showing a "strong desire to live the last days of their lives at home," he said.
There is no firm deadline for the refugees’ repatriation, he said.
Congo is trying to move beyond its latest crisis, a 1998-2002 war. A long-running southern Sudan rebellion ended last year although that country’s western Darfur region is roiled by armed conflict.
About 220,000 Congolese refugees and 130,000 Sudanese refugees remain outside their home countries, according to United Nations. Violence has displaced untold others from their homes but if they have not crossed an international border, they aren’t counted as refugees under international treaties.