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West Africa: AHC to visit

Briefing notes

West Africa: AHC to visit

22 September 2000

Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Søren Jessen-Petersen is scheduled to arrive in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, this afternoon to begin a five-day mission to West Africa at the request of High Commissioner Sadako Ogata.

The mission follows the murder of Mr. Mensah Kpognon and abduction of staff member Ms. Laurence Djeya during an attack by unidentified armed men Sunday on the town of Macenta, Guinea. Ms. Djeya has not been seen since she was taken away by the attackers. Mr. Jessen-Petersen is scheduled to meet with authorities throughout the region to enlist their support in locating and obtaining her release. He will also meet with Ms. Djeya's family and convey the High Commissioner's concern and commitment to do everything we can to find Ms. Djeya, an Ivorian who worked in our field office in Danané, Côte d'Ivoire.

Mr. Abou Moussa, UNHCR's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, is travelling today with Mrs. Kpognon and two of her four children to Lomé, Togo, to accompany Mr. Kpognon's remains home. Mr. Kpognon, who was UNHCR's head of office in Macenta, will be buried on September 30.

During his mission, Mr. Jessen-Petersen will also:

  • discuss with political authorities the worrisome situation for refugees in Guinea.
  • consult with UNHCR's regional director for West Africa and other senior colleagues in the region on the next steps in UNHCR's operations.
  • and meet with UNHCR staff and seek their views on the situation.

After meetings in Abidjan this afternoon, Mr. Jessen-Petersen will travel to Conakry on Saturday to begin a series of meetings with authorities, staff and refugee representatives. On Monday, he will travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and will be in Monrovia, Liberia, on Tuesday. He returns to Geneva on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, our contacts on the ground in Guéckédou, Guinea, say that many civilians are fleeing the area in fear of another anticipated attack. People are reportedly moving north toward Kissidougou Prefecture, as well as other locations in Upper and Middle Guinea, and Conakry.

The Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralisation and Security in Conakry reports there could be as many as 17,000 internally displaced persons in Kindia and 21,000 in the Forécariah, both regions bordering north-western Sierra Leone. Their displacement follows recent attacks in the Forécariah and Kindia regions and fears that further violence may occur. Across the border, UNHCR Freetown reports the insecurity has also prompted some Sierra Leonean refugees to return spontaneously from Guinea to Sierra Leone. Arrivals have been reported in and around Lungi, 30 km north of Freetown.

There have been at least four attacks in Guinea's border regions in the last three weeks, leaving dozens dead.

UNHCR has been able to continue distributing food in three camps in the Forécariah region this week. Although operations have been suspended in the Guéckédou region and staff recalled to Conakry, UNHCR has asked the National Coordination Bureau for Refugees in Guinea to send its representatives to Guéckédou to assess the needs there.

Guinea hosts some 460,000 refugees, including 330,000 from Sierra Leone and 130,000 from Liberia. A majority of the refugees are in a string of camps in the Guéckédou region.