The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government has called for the protection of unarmed civilians and property in the neighboring Central African Republic, after the Seleka rebel group seized control of the capital, Bangui, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee.
The rebels ignored calls by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye for dialogue to avoid a bloodbath before seizing the presidential palace.
DRC Information Minister Lambert Mende says the government in Kinshasa is working with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to help CAR refugees who have crossed the border into Congo, following unrest in the neighboring country.
“We have received a lot of refugees from Bangui and so we are cooperating with the UNHCR to respect the provision of intentional law that we must put these refugees as far as possible from the border from the country they are fleeing from. So this is what is being done now in Zongo,” said Mende.
He says members of Mr. Bozize’s family are among the refugees who crossed the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Some members of President Bozize [family have] crossed the river and they are among these refugees in Zongo. They are among those people for which we are looking for a new settlement [and] that is why we are working with the UNHCR,” said Mende.
Some observers fear the government in Kinshasa might not be fully prepared to handle the refugees because of ongoing internal DRC political and security challenges. But Mende sharply disagreed.
“We are a country, despite the fact that we have problems, everybody else [has] problems. And this is not the first time we are receiving from brothers and sisters from African countries around [us],” continued Mende. “We have Rwandese, we have people from Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Angola and we are [helping] them with our little means. We are sharing because they are meeting problems like [ours and] they received us. So this is the international law about relationships between people.”
Mende says his government is also working with the regional bloc to ensure peace and the protection of civilians in the Central African Republic. But he said the government in Kinshasa will not meddle in the internal affairs of neighboring countries.
“For us, we really need peace around our country [and] we need peace in Africa,” continued Mende, “we don’t like to mix ourselves with internal or domestic conflict. But we are working with [the Central African Economic and Monetary Community [CEMAC] states to have our brothers and sisters from the Central African Republic resolve their problem in a peaceful way.”