The first of some 850 Congolese who fled to southern Sudan over 40 years ago after the coup that brought Mobutu Sese Seko to power have returned home.
The UN agreed to help their return because of their advanced age
Mobutu renamed the country Zaire and ruled until a rebellion in 1997 after which the Democratic Republic of Congo was pitted into a brutal five-year war.
Despite continued insecurity, the refugees were determined to go back.
The UN agreed to help their return to Kisangani because of their advanced age and poor living conditions in Sudan.
They had settled in Juba - now capital of southern Sudan, which emerged last year from a 21-year civil war.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says there were emotional scenes at Kisangani airport where a group of 29 people were welcomed by the region's governor, Jean Pierre Lola Kisanga.
A 65-year-old man, who lost his sight while in Sudan, said he was happy to be back.
"The voices of the people make me feel I've arrived home," said Edward Likabusia.
Later a list of their names were read out to people from local communities who had gathered to help identify which villages they had come from and if they still had relatives alive.
The UNHCR says their repatriation is "exceptional" as conditions in the area are not favourable to return, although security has improved.
It has also posed a logistical challenge to the agency, as many of the refugees are returning to rural towns which can be only reached by air as road and bridges have either been damaged or do not exist.
There will be no reintegration programme for them, normally obligatory when the UN assists people to go home, and they have been warned that they will face very difficult conditions.
After five days, if the returnees have not been claimed by relatives the government has promised to provide them with some land and building materials to construct a home, the UNHCR says.
DR Congo is due to hold its first multi-party elections in 45 years this July.
More than 1,000 people are estimated to be dying each day in the country, where fighting - particularly in the east - continues.
A United Nations peacekeeping force of nearly 17,000 troops - the world's largest - operates in the country and is to be augmented by a 1,500 European Union rapid reaction force over the election period.