Congolese refugees in Gabon

Briefing Notes, 24 August 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 August 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has sent additional staff to Tchibanga, in south-western Gabon, and will open a second office in Franceville to the east in response to the recent arrival of thousands of refugees from Congo-Brazzaville.

The number of refugees has not grown significantly since the first groups crossed into Gabon in early July, but missions to entry points have been told of tens of thousands of Congolese who are waiting out the fighting in their country in the dense forest on both sides of the border. The Congolese towns of Mbinda, Mayoko and Mossendjo are reported to be crowded with displaced people escaping battles which began around Brazzaville. Many families have been split up during their flight.

Refugees who have entered Gabon have told UNHCR that they have witnessed atrocities perpetrated against civilians by the militias fighting the national army.

Around 10,000 refugees are now grouped on sites or have made their way to the capital, Libreville. UNHCR is planning to send two freight containers of emergency relief supplies by the end of the month from its West African stocks. Besides additional UNHCR staff, the NGO Handicap International has also sent a team to Gabon.