Malawi: Transfer of Mozambicans to Luwani Suspended

Maputo – The Malawian authorities have suspended the transfer of Mozambicans from one refugee camp to another following a protest from the Mozambican government, according to a report on Radio Mozambique.

To date Mozambicans fleeing into Malawi from Tete province, to escape clashes between gunmen of the rebel movement Renamo and government forces, have been accommodated in just one camp, at Kapise, about 100 kilometres south of the capital, Lilongwe. According to a release from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) last week, UNHCR staff have registered about 9,600 Mozambicans. Others are waiting to be registered and UNHCR puts the total at 11,500.

The Malawian government announced that it would reopen the camp at Luwani, where it is supposedly easier to provide basic services. Whereas Kapisi is just five kilometers from the Mozambican border, Luwani is 65 kilometres inside Malawi.

Luwani was a refugee camp which accommodated Mozambicans who fled in large numbers across the border during the war of destabilisation that ended in 1992.

It was not closed down until 2007.

But the transfer of Mozambicans from Kapisi to Luwani was suspended following a strong protest from the Mozambican government which was not consulted about the move. According to the radio, the transfer is on hold until negotiations between the Mozambican and Malawian authorities are concluded.

The Malawian Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jean Kalilani, confirmed the suspension of the transfer. “We suspended the resettlement as a result of discussions with the government of Mozambique”, he said.

The UNHCR had praised the decision to reopen Luwani, noting that it “has more than 160 hectares of space, including forest. Refugees will have better facilities and services there, including health, education, water and protection. And, importantly, it will be safer”.

The UNHCR representative in Malawi, Monique Ekoko, said she had not yet been informed about the suspension of the transfer of Mozambicans to Luwani. “We need an official notification from the government of Malawi before we can make a statement”, she said.

Some of the Mozambicans in Kapisi told NGOs and reporters that they had suffered abuses from the Mozambican defence and security forces, including summary executions, rapes and the burnings of houses and barns. But when the Mozambican government sent a team headed by Deputy Justice Minister Joaquim Verissimo to Nkondezi, the border region where most of the Mozambicans in Kapisi came from, it reported that it could find no evidence to back up these claims. Instead, the people who had stayed in Nkondezi blamed Renamo for the violence and abuses.

Source: All Africa