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Sierra Leone: no contact with local staff since Friday 15th

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: no contact with local staff since Friday 15th

19 January 1999

UNHCR has had no contact with its local staff in Sierra Leone since Friday (15 January), when ECOMOG ordered aid agency personnel in the capital to cease radio communications and remain in their home areas.

Reports from private sources indicate that West African peacekeepers control most of Freetown, but that ambushes and sniper fire continued over the weekend in the east of the city. There are no eyewitness reports yet on damage to UNHCR warehouses or office.

UNHCR staff in Kenema, 300 km south-east of Freetown, report that there was rebel activity in nearby villages over the weekend and that the displaced population there now stands at 37,000. UNHCR and other aid agencies are to field a larger mission to the town this week.

A contingency plan for the possible arrival of up to 20,000 new refugees has been drawn up in Guinea, and missions have been conducted to border areas in Guinea and Liberia to check for new arrivals from Sierra Leone. So far though, only 654 Sierra Leoneans have arrived in the neighbouring countries since the fighting began in Freetown.