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High Commissioner in West Africa

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in West Africa

16 May 2003

The High Commissioner today is in Sierra Leone. On Thursday, he met Sierra Leone's president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. They both expressed concern about the situation in neighbouring Liberia which the High Commissioner had described as going from "bad to worse" during a visit to Liberia's capital, Monrovia, earlier this week.

During the meeting with Sierra Leone's president the High Commissioner praised the progress the West African country has made in normalising the situation after ten years of civil war. He also urged the Sierra Leone leader to continue supporting the return of Sierra Leone refugees from neighbouring countries. Later in the day, Mr. Lubbers visited the Tobanda refugee camp where he met with Liberian refugee women who represented the population of eight camps in the Kenema district of Sierra Leone. The purpose of the meeting was to check to what extent women are now involved in the management of camps, food distribution and other key tasks. The need for greater involvement in the management of camps by refugee women was one of the key recommendations made in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse in West Africa refugee camps last year. The women told the High Commissioner that they were now much more in control of the situation and more aware of their rights. In the town of Koidu, the HC visited the Alladura primary school for Sierra Leone children who recently returned to their country from Guinea and a settlement that houses Sierra Leoneans who had their limbs cut off during the civil war. Later today the High Commissioner is scheduled to travel to Guinea - the fifth and last leg of his 8-day West Africa mission before returning to Geneva on Sunday.