Guinea: murder, mayhem
Our latest reports from Guinea indicate that the situation has somewhat eased in Conakry but is still volatile in rural areas. All detainees have been released in the capital and allowed to go back home. However, many of them fear renewed reprisals in their neighbourhoods and nearly 5,000 took refuge at the Sierra Leonean Embassy in Conakry, requesting to be repatriated. UNHCR does not consider repatriation as a viable option for Sierra Leonean refugees at this stage, but the Sierra Leonean government has made a boat available to those who want to go back. At least one boat was reported to have left yesterday with some 300 people on board. There are about 4,500 Sierra Leonean refugees still sitting at the embassy and conditions are worrying us. UNHCR is concerned about the risk of epidemic and is providing medical assistance to them through MSF, as well as water and food. UNHCR is also helping some 700 refugees gathered at our reception centre in the Matam area on the outskirts of Conakry.
(UNHCR does not consider repatriation as a viable option for Sierra Leoneans at this stage because of the still insecure situation in their country. Liberians who ask to be repatriated could be assisted when a repatriation operation resumes in October, at the end of the rainy season. So far this year 7,000 Liberians were able to go home under a voluntary repatriation programme led by UNHCR between May and July)
UNHCR confirms that it has received reports of a number of human rights abuses, including beatings and rapes, some of which were gang rapes. These abuses took place during a wave of detentions last weekend following remarks by Guinea's president alleging involvement by foreigners in cross-border attacks that reportedly left at least 80 people dead. Some abuses occurred in the detention centres, while others may have continued when people were released. We are still investigating the cases.
UNHCR and other UN agencies have announced a special contribution for Guineans affected by the recent spate of cross-border attacks and requested the government establish proper security in these regions. UNHCR will transport WFP food to the towns of Massadou, Madina Oula and Forécariah. Five tons of food have already gone to Massadou. A UNHCR mission from Conakry is leaving for Forécariah today to bring support and assistance to our staff there and to reassure refugees in camps in the Forécariah area who were frightened by the heavy fighting earlier this week. Forécariah is home to some 27,000 refugees, out of the total 330,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea.
UNHCR's regional director for West and Central Africa met with President Lansana Conté on Thursday and delivered a message in which the High Commissioner is urging the Guinea authorities to continue providing protection to the refugees. President Conté assured UNHCR of the government's willingness to do so, and at the same time appealed to the international community to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. Guinea has the second largest refugee population in Africa.