New accord paves way for Angolan refugees to return from South Africa

Signing the agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, on Sunday were South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Angola’s Minister of Social Assistance and Reintegration, Joao Baptista Kussumua and UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Repatriation of Angolan Refugees, Kallu C. Kalumiya.”This agreement means that the final building block for the voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees is now firmly in place,” said UNHCR’s Kalumiya. “It brings to an end a very important legal phase in the operation and creates the foundation for the final stage, which will see thousands more Angolans returning to build a new future in their homeland.”Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Namibia, the Republic of Congo and Zambia signed similar agreements earlier this year. The accords set up Tripartite Commissions to oversee the registration of Angolan exiles in their host countries, the coordination of reception conditions in Angola and the effective organization of reintegration projects in the areas of return.Angola’s 27-year-long civil conflict started as a proxy war during the Cold War. The United States and apartheid South Africa backed the UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) rebel movement, while Cuba and the then Soviet Union supported the governing MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). More than 400,000 Angolans fled into neighbouring countries in what became one of Africa’s most protracted and intractable conflicts.”South Africa has a responsibility in the reconstruction of Angola,” Mr. Dlamini-Zuma said at the ceremony. “It was home to many South Africans during the anti-apartheid struggle, and the old regime was part of the destruction of Angola. We will do whatever we need to do to help.”According to UNHCR, there are 13,279 Angolan asylum seekers in South Africa, mainly in Cape Town. Although they are the best-educated refugee group in South Africa, many of them have been working in unskilled jobs.

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