March 8, 2002

10,000 DRC refugees flee into Zambia

Over 10,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have crossed over into Zambia over at March 6 and 7, according the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR acting representative Martin Bucumi confirmed the development and said the refugees have been received in Chiengi in Luapula Province. "Indications are that an estimated additional 40,000 Congolese refugees are scattered in the villages and along the Zambia-Congo border area," a statement from the UNHCR stated. "The influx from DRC is as a result of fighting around the towns of Pepa and Pweto between government and rebel forces." Bucumi said it is envisaged that if the current trend of arrivals does not stabilise, this self settled group would eventually move to the refugee camp. He said, as a result of the influx, UNHCR has activated its emergency response mechanism to assist the refugees while preparations are currently underway to have the refugees moved to Kala Refugee Camp in Kawambwa which now has a refugee population of 6,041. He said while the UNCHR was providing food to the refugees, more assistance would be needed for blankets, plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and medicines. Bucumi said UNHCR will continue to closely monitor the situation and maintain an on-going presence in the area. The current influx follows the entry into Zambia of about 5,000 Congolese refugees since middle of February in Kaputa District in the Northern Province following intense fighting around the town of Pepa.

Meanwhile, President Levy Mwanawasa has confirmed that the government will re-nationalise the Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) following the announced impending pull-out of Anglo American Corporation. Speaking at a function hosted in his honour by the Zambian High Commission in South Africa during a stop-over from Australia, President Mwanawasa said the mines would be re-nationalised to save the nation's interest following Anglo's move. However, President Mwanawasa said the re-nationalisation would be a temporal measure before other investors are found. He said the exercise will take place as operations at KCM continued. Finance minister Emmanuel Kasonde denied a Post story quoting his letter to Anglo chairman on the government decision to take over the KCM assets. In his letter, Kasonde had indicated government's intentions to take over the assets on a going concern basis, a statement he later denied. (THE POST)

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