from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA – ZAMBIA is bracing for more refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ahead of a referendum and elections set for December.
It is feared conflict will disrupt the exercises.
The fears come despite confirmation President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, would not be contesting for a third term.
Kabila’s failure to hold polls at the end of 2016 aggravated tensions in the Central African country.
“More fighting and instability may occur ahead of elections,” said a spokesperson of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“This in turn may lead to a fresh influx of refugees to Zambia, requiring increased response and resources.”
Children make up the highest number of the 42 570 Congolese refugees that have fled.
Some 23 000 refugee children are under 18 years old.
The Congolese refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing conflict and violations of human rights in the DRC as government soldiers fight militia in the eastern regions of the country.
Makeshift refugee camps in Zambia are congested and experience insufficient basic services.
This is putting the population at serious risk of water-borne disease as well as other communicable diseases.
Meanwhile, heavy rains have delayed the establishment of a permanent refugee settlement area in the northern Luapula Province of Zambia.
Roads remain impassable.
– CAJ News