Angolans Being Forced from Homes in Congo

Church Attempts to Aid Flood of Refugees

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DAMBA, Angola, NOV. 23, 2009 ( Angolans are being driven from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo without a chance to gather possessions or food, reports a Catholic aid agency.

Aid to the Church in Need informed today that Angolan refugees are undergoing “unimaginable suffering” and “appalling conditions.”

Two of the agency’s representatives, Father Andrzej Halemba and Ulrich Kny, affirmed this returning from a recent visit to the country.

The agency reported that many of these refugees are Angolan citizens who were forced out of their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

The government authorities, it stated, use “brutal” methods to expel the Angolans, appearing unannounced and ordering them to leave the country immediately.

The agency reported that “thousands of people” are being driven back to Angola “without even being given the chance to gather up their few scanty possessions.”

It continued: “Families are being torn apart in the process and children have been left behind alone, unable to find their parents in the pitiless confusion. Angolans with a Congolese husband or wife are being forced to separate and leave their spouse behind.”

All of the refugees, including the elderly and sick, children and pregnant mothers, are forced to walk as many as 600 miles on foot, often without food.

The aid representatives said that one woman who underwent a recent operation was driven on foot for some 65 miles, despite her wound. They added that some women have given birth on the roadside.

The Angolan dioceses of Uije and Mbanza Congo are attempting to aid the thousands of refugees. The bishops are appealing to Aid to the Church in Need for help in this effort.

Deeply wounded

Four Franciscan Capuchins and four Sisters of Mercy in Damba are aiding the homeless Angolans, taking them into the convent and giving them care.

Father Halemba affirmed: “The sisters are helping as much as they can.

“They are taking people in, distributing food, utensils, nappies, medicines and clothing; they are making sure that the refugees are vaccinated against tetanus, polio and other diseases and trying to provide spiritual and psychological support to the suffering.”

Many volunteers are coming from the parishes to help serve hundreds every day, but the stream of refugees continues to grow.

Five camps were set up in Damba to shelter the homeless, though the aid workers reported that heavy thunderstorms have flooded the tents.

Ulrich Kny stated: “Some of the refugees are attempting to continue walking straight on, to their relatives in other villages.

“Others have no idea where to go — their villages were totally destroyed during the civil war and their relatives have long since fled. Others again have been turned away by their relatives and are returning, still more deeply wounded, to one of the reception camps.”

The agency stated that some 40,000 Angolans have been expelled from the Congo over the past few weeks. It noted that this may be “a blatant act of revenge” for Angola’s expulsion of illegal Congolese refugees over, which began two years ago.

It observed, however, that this “revenge” is different because the Congo’s action is directed against all Angolans, including those legally living in those countries.

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