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Zimbabwe churches, police clash over DRC refugees

Zimbabwean police have clashed with churches over the fate of 80 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived in the second city of Bulawayo last week.

The refugees claim to be members of the main opposition party; the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) led by Etienne Tshisekedi and fled unrest caused by the November elections.

Tshisekedi claims to be the legitimate DRC leader after President Laurent Kabila won a disputed election.

The refugees who include women and children claim that they walked thousands of kilometers on foot after first fleeing into Zambia.

Zambian authorities reportedly advised them refugee camps in that country were full before facilitating their entry into Zimbabwe.

But police and immigration officials in Bulawayo reportedly threaten to round up the refugees and throw them into prison for violating the Zimbabwe's immigration laws.

"Heavily armed police and immigration officials want to arrest these DR Congo refugees and detain them at Khami Maximum," said Amon Mthombeni, a member of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.

"They said they are a danger to national security.

"However we pleaded with them not to arrest them as they look innocent and starving."

Bihojo Titus, the spokesperson for the refugees and the only one who can speak English said the families belonged to the Tutsi.

"The situation in Kivu province is deteriorating daily. Fighting between our party supporters and government security forces were now serious," he said.

People are dying daily.

"Therefore, we decided to leave home together with our families and we thank Zimbabwe Council of Churches for helping us, as police wanted to arrest and detain us."

Bihojo fled with his pregnant wife.

Zimbabwe is already home to thousands of Congolese refugees.

Zimbabwe churches, police clash over DRC refugees

Zimbabwean police have clashed with churches over the fate of 80 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived in the country's second city of Bulawayo last week.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2012 17:19


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