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Guinea: Calm returns to Kissidougou

Briefing notes

Guinea: Calm returns to Kissidougou

12 December 2000

Calm has returned to Kissidougou in south-western Guinea, after fighting between rebels and government forces sent large numbers of refugees and local people into flight on Sunday. On Monday morning, residents started returning to their homes in large numbers, according to UNHCR local staff remaining in Kissidougou.

The assailants, who apparently came from the Guéckédou area, which itself had come under attack last week, were reportedly repelled by the Guinean army, which claims that 150 rebels were killed during the fighting.

UNHCR is still trying to establish the whereabouts of two security guards who have been missing since the attack on UNHCR's Guéckédou office last Wednesday. All other local staff initially reported as missing are now accounted for, both in Guéckédou and Kissidougou. UNHCR has no international staff in the region. Some local staff remain in the area. They are maintaining contact in order to assess the movements of refugees in the region.

Attacks in the past ten days have been reported further and further inside of Guinea, sending tens of thousands of refugees as well as local people into flight. After Sunday's attack, government sources indicated to UNHCR that refugees had been fleeing from Kissidougou town and at least six surrounding camps. Refugees from four camps near Kissidougou reportedly fled eastward to Guéckédou, while urban refugees and residents of two other camps situated on the other side of town reportedly fled toward the Northwest. The government says as many as 94,000 refugees have now fled the Kissidougou region.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea continue to return home. According to the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry, there are 2,100 Sierra Leoneans registered for the next government-chartered ferry from Conakry to Freetown. About 1,400 of them are refugees from Guéckédou camps (800 persons) and Forécariah camps (600 persons). Those leaving told UNHCR they were going back because they feared for their lives amid growing instability in Guinea. To date, over 19,000 people have arrived in Freetown on government-chartered boats, More than 5,000 of them are returning refugees in UNHCR's care, while the remainder are Sierra Leone nationals who had been long-term residents in Guinea.

UNHCR has started the distribution of food and other supplies to some 12,000 returnees from Guinea's Forécariah region in the Lungi peninsula north of Freetown. They originally come from rebel-controlled areas of Sierra Leone to which they cannot go back. Therefore they are being accommodated in Lungi, under a special programme supported by the local rural community.