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Voluntary repatriation resumes

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KINSHASA, 7 Nov 2002 (IRIN) - The voluntary repatriation of disarmed Rwandan Hutu militiamen and their families currently confined at a military base in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will resume on Thursday, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, has said.

Just over 200 fighters remained at the Kamina base in Katanga Province following a mutiny by some 1,300 of their colleagues. Ten of their leaders then broke into an armoury, killed seven Congolese government soldiers and wounded five others. The attackers were overpowered and then flown to Rwanda, prompting protests by other Hutus against forcible repatriation.

"The intimidators have left. We have information that the rest want to return to Rwanda," Peter Swarbrick, the MONUC divisional chief for the demobilisation, disarmament, repatriation and reintegration programme for armed groups, told IRIN.

The 200 are were among nearly 2,000 Rwandan Hutu militiamen who had been disarmed and confined to barracks at Kamina for a year. MONUC said 240 had already gone home since the start of voluntarily repatriations three months ago.

This and efforts by the DRC government to implement the 30 July Pretoria peace accord between it and the Rwandan government have heightened fears among Hutus from Burundi and Uganda that they will also be sent home. But the UN and DRC officials have said that nobody will be forcibly sent home.

"MONUC's form of repatriation remains voluntary," Amos Namanga Ngoni, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, said on Wednesday.

"The government is not chasing out the Rwandans. They are our neighbours," Ntumba Luaba, the DRC human rights minister, said. "They can stay in our country so long as they abide by our laws."