War and Peace
Faced with the daunting challenges of returning home after years of living abroad, Angolan refugees now have the added task of having to learn Portuguese.
"Their inability to communicate effectively and, in a lot of cases, not at all in Portuguese, places the returnees in a very disadvantageous position, especially when dealing with officials. This often leads to further alienation within a group that already feels marginal," Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) regional director, Joe Hampson, said.
During the almost three decade-long civil war, the vast majority of Angolan refugees, some 400,000, fled either to neighbouring English-speaking Zambia or the Francophone Democratic Republic of Congo.
Hampson said in some cases the inability to speak Portuguese, the medium of instruction at schools throughout Angola, prevented access to the formal education system. Due to the language gap, children coming back to Angola may have to repeat classes, even if they attained good grades in their host countries.
"There are real concerns about the ability of returnee children to integrate into the system without Portuguese, but we will have to wait and see how they perform in the new environment. But it would be worthwhile to invest in short courses in Portuguese, which will facilitate entry into the school system," Hampson said.
With the assistance of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 45,000 Angolans have been repatriated Since June 2003. A further 25,000 returned home under their own steam.
Before UNHCR began its repatriation programme, 80,000 to 100,000 refugees had trekked home since the war ended in 2002. (Source: IRIN)
The French peacekeeping force in Cote d'Ivoire urged the government army and police to send reinforcements to help it maintain order in the troubled west of the country on January 13 after reporting that 18 people had been killed there in two weeks of ethnic clashes.
Colonel Georges Peillon, the official spokesman of the 4,000-strong French peacekeeping force, said tension was rising in villages around the town of Bangolo, 600 km northwest of the capital Abidjan, where French soldiers had found the bodies of 18 people killed in ethnic fighting since 29 December.
"With the deployment of contingents of French troops to several towns in the north, we are very thinly spread on the ground and it will be very difficult for us to maintain security on our own if more hot spots of tension like the one around Bangolo start appearing," Peillon said. "We are asking the FANCI (government army) to give us a hand," he added.
Peillon said the French forces had also asked the government's paramilitary gendarmerie to send reinforcements to the West to help patrol the area that lies south of the demilitarized zone separating the government-held south of the country from the rebel-controlled north.
Bangolo lies inside the demilitarized "Zone of Confidence," just a few kilometres from the rebel frontline and only French and West African peacekeeping troops are allowed to bear arms there.
Peillon said the French peacekeepers wanted the government security forces to help maintain security in the towns and villages that lie on or near the road between Duekoue, 45 km south of Bangolo, and Toulepleu on the Liberian border.
Although a ceasefire has held firm in the rest of Cote d'Ivoire since 3 May last year, there have been continued clashes near the Liberian frontier in an area that has become known as the "Wild West." Most of these have involved informal gangs of gun and machete wielding fighters organised on ethnic lines. (Source: IRIN)
Hundreds of Congolese Mayi-Mayi militiamen have started leaving the country's dense eastern forests and are assembling near Kindu, the largest city in Maniema Province, officials said on January 12.
Officials of the UN Mission in the DRC, the government and the Mayi-Mayi said that the movement of the militiamen to assembly sites 15 km from Kindu picked up pace after Mayi-Mayi leader Kabambi Wa Kabambi left the forests over two months ago. They are hoping to be integrated into the new Congolese army.
"They disarmed spontaneously but most are hoping to be integrated into the new army," Sylvain Belmambo, vice-minister for veterans and demobilisation, said.
He said the government was surprised at the large numbers that had been coming out of hiding and had not taken measures to accommodate them. Some 700 Mayi-Mayi militiamen left the forests in November 2003, eager to resume their civilian lives. The government has not yet determined quotas for the various militia groups that will be selected for the new army.
"These fighters will have to wait till the president signs a decree, at the next cabinet meeting, fixing the quotas and criteria for integration of armed groups into the new army," Belmambo said. (Source: IRIN)
Over 48,000 Guinean migrants who returned from Cote d'Ivoire after the outbreak of civil war in that country, are living in precarious conditions in remote areas in Guinea near the Ivorian border and urgently need assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
OCHA said it conducted a survey of the returnee populations in five prefectures along the border with Cote d'Ivoire between September and November 2003 and found the local communities were hosting about half the estimated total of 100,000 returnees to Guinea without any external assistance.
"While the integration of these returnees has generally been smooth and not led to noticeable social tensions, the difficult economic circumstances dentured in the area due to the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire have placed a considerable strain on weak social services, in particular the sectors of health, food security and water and sanitation.," OCHA said.
The returnees began arriving in eastern Guinea soon after civil war broke out in Cote d'Ivoire in September 2002. OCHA said they now represented eight percent of the population in the remote frontier prefectures of Lola, Beyla, Kankan, Mandiana and N'Zerekore. It also noted that 50 percent of the returnees were children.
The authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have warned neighbouring Puntland to "stop playing with fire" and withdraw its forces from the disputed region of Sool, a senior Somaliland official said on 13 January.
Tension has been rising between the two sides ever since forces of the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland took total control of the Sool regional capital, Las Anod, late last month.
Abdillahi Muhammad Du'ale, the Somaliland information minister, said on Tuesday that Somaliland had been patient and had ignored numerous provocations from Puntland with a view to averting destabilizing confrontations, but the situation had now "reached a point at which we can no longer ignore their actions".
"The Majerteenia [Puntland] must remove their forces at once or take full responsibility for the consequences of their action," he warned.
However, the Puntland spokesman, Awad Ahmad Ashara, said that "Puntland forces are within our borders, since Las Anod is an integral part of Puntland". He accused the Somaliland authorities of instigating the conflict, adding that the people of the area "do not consider themselves part of Somaliland".
Sool and Sanaag regions fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the clans there are associated with Puntland. These are the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante, which, along with Majerteen - the main clan in Puntland - form the Harti sub-group of the Darood. (Source: IRIN)