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Guinea: UNHCR staffer still missing

Briefing notes

Guinea: UNHCR staffer still missing

19 September 2000

We still have no information on the whereabouts of our colleague Sapeu Laurence Djeya who was last seen last Sunday morning being taken away by gunmen from the burned residence in Macenta of our murdered colleague Mensah Kpognon. We are doing all in our might to locate her and obtain her release. We are gravely concerned about her.

In the wake of the Macenta killing and abduction, UNHCR staff as well as staff of UNHCR's partner agencies from all field locations in Guinea are travelling to Conakry for a meeting with the agency's top regional official who is expected to arrive in Guinea from Abidjan today if the security in Abidjan permits him to do so.

Our security concerns are made even greater because of the amount of misinformation being peddled in the region. This includes a dangerous and outrageous fabrication published by what is described by the media as a Liberian government mouthpiece (The New Liberia) two days before the attack in which the paper said UNHCR and other international organizations operating in Guinea were supporting dissidents in Liberia. Spreading these kinds of lies poses a direct threat to aid workers and the neutral, humanitarian nature of our work.

On Thursday UNHCR staff and workers from other organisations around the world will heed a call from the UNHCR Staff Council and hold gatherings and marches to protest increasingly brutal violence against aid workers and the growing risks they take.

In Geneva, UNHCR staff and colleagues from other organisations will gather in front of the UN headquarters on Palais des Nations at 11:00 am on Thursday and march to a square behind the nearby UNHCR building. High Commissioner Sadako Ogata is trying to reschedule her high level meetings in Iran to be able to attend. It will be the first such demonstration since 1998 when aid workers took to the streets of Geneva to protest the abduction in the Northern Caucasus of our colleague Vincent Cochetel.

Gatherings of UNHCR staff will also be held in many other UNHCR country offices and field offices across Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. We expect that thousands of UNHCR staff shocked and angered by the West Timor and Guinea murders in dozens of UNHCR offices will join the protests.