UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Regional Overview: West Africa

There are some 2.1 million refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR in this region.

Despite significant political progress made on several fronts in their countries of origin, Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees remain the largest group of persons of concern to UNHCR in this part of Africa. In 1999, UNHCR will facilitate the voluntary repatriation of these refugees and consolidate the repatriation of Touareg refugees to Mali. Care and maintenance assistance will be provided to those who are unable to repatriate and who remain in host countries, including Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

UNHCR will promote self-sufficiency and local integration for the large number of refugees assisted in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo, Chad, Benin, Togo, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. The agency will also consolidate the reintegration of Togolese refugees who were repatriated in 1997 and will monitor the situation in Guinea-Bissau, which remains volatile in spite of ongoing peace negotiations.

UNHCR also offers scholarships to urban refugees, enabling them to develop skills which, in turn, will help them become self-reliant. Resettlement pilot projects begun in Benin and Burkina Faso may be expanded to other countries in the region during 1999. A separate regional repatriation programme is coordinated from UNHCR's regional office in Dakar, Senegal.

Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, the Gambia and Cape Verde

Senegal hosts some 26,300 refugees: 20,000 Mauritanians, 5,400 persons from Guinea-Bissau, 400 Rwandans, 260 Liberians, and 200 Sierra Leoneans. Some 1,200 of the total number of refugees live in urban areas. Armed conflict between the Senegalese army and rebels claiming independence has raged in the south Senegal province of Casamance since 1982. Some 7,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, particularly the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, to escape the fighting.

Ethnic violence caused some 50,000 to 80,000 persons to flee from Mauritania to Senegal and Mali in 1989. Most of them have now returned to their home country. The resumption of diplomatic relations between Mauritania and Senegal, the re-opening of the border, and acceptance by the Mauritanian authorities have allowed UNHCR to promote a programme for rapid reintegration in certain return areas in Mauritania.

A June 1998 mutiny in the army of Guinea-Bissau resulted in the displacement of more than 350,000 persons within that country and an outflow of more than 9,000 persons to Senegal, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Guinea. Prior to the conflict, Guinea-Bissau hosted 5,600 refugees, most from Senegal (5,000), Sierra Leone (403) and Liberia (209) as well as 28 urban refugees of different nationalities. UNHCR has great difficulty reaching the refugees in Guinea-Bissau because of the ongoing conflict.

Following the coup d'état in Sierra Leone in 1997, large numbers of Sierra Leoneans began arriving by boat in the Gambia. The gradual improvement of conditions in Freetown has since permitted the repatriation of those refugees who originate from the Sierra Leonean capital. Still, the Gambia hosts more than 6,000 refugees including 4,000 from Sierra Leone, 1,750 from Senegal, more than 350 from Guinea-Bissau and another 150 of various origins who live dispersed in urban areas.

UNHCR coordinates its activities in the region from offices in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. In 1999, UNHCR will work to regularize the status of Mauritanian refugees in Senegal who, for a variety of reasons, will not repatriate to their country of origin. The agency will also provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons from Guinea-Bissau and will formulate a repatriation plan for refugees from Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone so they can return expeditiously when security conditions in their homes countries permit. In the Gambia and Guinea Bissau, UNHCR will collaborate with local authorities to find durable solutions for Senegalese refugees, including urban refugees, and will move refugee sites farther away from the borders. Special activities will be launched for women, children and adolescents. The agency will offer credit schemes to encourage Mauritanian refugee women to engage in income-generating activities, and scholarships will be offered to those youth who wish to pursue a formal education.

Benin and Togo

Political developments in Togo at the end of 1992 and in early 1993 caused massive displacements to neighbouring Benin and Ghana. At the height of the crisis, more than 150,000 Togolese refugees had found refuge in Benin. The improvement in the political and security situation in Togo in subsequent years allowed UNHCR to conduct a large repatriation programme which was completed in July 1997. A group of 1,350 Togolese remain in Benin (30 per cent of them are accommodated in camps) because they do not wish to repatriate for security reasons.

Benin has also been the country of asylum for many Nigerians. Following the November 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and the repressions during Ogoni Day on 4 January 1996, some 1,200 Nigerians fled to Benin. As of this writing, the 700 Nigerian refugees living in Benin do not wish to repatriate. Benin also hosts some 660 asylum-seekers from the Great Lakes region, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

The inter-ethnic rivalries that have existed in Ghana since 1994 have caused the flight of 12,500 Ghanaians to Togo. While some of them have repatriated, the remaining 11,208 persons have achieved a certain degree of self-sufficiency and are locally integrated in Togo. As a result, UNHCR will scale down its assistance to this population in 1999. Togo also hosts 593 refugees of various origins who live in urban areas. Some 300 of them are assisted by UNHCR.

UNHCR coordinates assistance to these refugee groups from its liaison office in Coutonou, Benin and from its liaision office in Lomé, Togo. The agency will continue to seek durable solutions for the refugees, particularly for the Togolese and Nigerian refugees in Benin, but also for a number of urban refugees in both countries. The recent political changes in Nigeria may make repatriation more acceptable to some of the Nigerian refugees in Benin. If so, UNHCR will facilitate their return and reintegration.

For those for whom repatriation is not a solution, local integration and self-sufficiency will be encouraged and promoted with the local authorities in both countries. UNHCR will also promote the resettlement pilot project initiated in collaboration with the government of Benin in 1998. The agency will also emphasize assistance to refugees with special needs, particularly women, who will benefit from micro-credits, literacy training and various forms of vocational training. Day-care centres, organized and run by women, will permit other women to work outside the home. In Togo, UNHCR will support a community health project, run by the Togolese Red Cross in the north of the country, that will include the creation of women's clubs. Through these clubs, women will receive training in basic community-health issues. Children of vulnerable refugee families in Togo will be given special assistance so they can attend primary and secondary school. Scholarships for vocational training will be extended to adolescents.

Central Africa

In Central Africa, UNHCR provides traditional care and maintenance and local integration projects to 118,861 urban and rural refugees in various countries. Since repatriation is not a viable option for most of this refugee population, UNHCR will focus on local integration and self-sufficiency by promoting income-generating activities and agricultural assistance. Women, children and adolescents will receive special assistance. Refugee women will have access to income-generating activities, and children and adolecents will receive assistance so they can attend primary, secondary and higher-level schools. When conditions permit, UNHCR will promote and assist in the voluntary repatriation of these refugees. The agency will promote resettlement to third countries when the security or family situation so warrants.


In Cameroon, home to more than 47,000 refugees, UNHCR will assist 6,000 refugees originating mainly from Chad, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Severe drought has undermined the promotion of self-sufficiency among the rural refugee population. But UNHCR will focus on health care for those living in camps in the north so this population can become increasingly productive and self-reliant.

The Central African Republic

The Central African Republic hosts, and UNHCR assists, more than 42,000 refugees, including some 32,000 from the Sudan, some 7,400 from Chad, more than 1,300 from Rwanda, some 500 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nearly 200 from Burundi and some 250 others, of various origin, who live in urban areas.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Northern Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UNHCR encourages and facilitates self-sufficiency and the local integration of 61,000 Sudanese refugees. The ongoing conflict in the DRC led to the temporary suspension of UNHCR's activites in 1998. In 1999, UNHCR will resume its programme and focus on road rehabilitation, construction of light infrastructure (bridges, wells, schools and clinics), rehabilitation of water sources and agricultural activities. The agency will continue to offer a special income-generating project targeting Sudanese refugee women in this area.


UNHCR will provide assistance to the 9,000 Sudanese refugees and 300 refugees of diverse nationalities hosted by Chad until conditions in their home countries are conducive to voluntary repatriation. Following the signing of the Bangui accord in August 1994, UNHCR organized the voluntary repatriation of more than 10,000 Chadians from the Central African Republic to their villages of origin. The agency will consolidate their reintegration during 1999.

Budget US$

The budget does not include costs at Headquarters.

CountryGeneral ProgrammesSpecial ProgrammesTotal
Burkina Faso287,600287,600
Central African Republic2,869,4002,869,400
The Republic of the Congo335,500335,500
The Democratic Republic of the Congo4,053,70025,7004,079,400
Côte d'Ivoire7,454,5002,824,36010,278,860
Guinea Bissau778,300778,300
Sierra Leone***918,7005,573,9636,492,633
Regional Projects332,000478,200810,200

* Includes costs in Liberia, while the budget presented on page 83 includes costs in Liberia, asylum countries and at Headquarters.

** Includes costs in Mali, while the budget presented on page 93 includes costs in Mali and at Headquarters.

*** Includes costs in Sierra Leone, while the budget presented on page 89 includes costs in Sierra Leone, asylum countries and at Headquarters.