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Sierra Leone: security situation in Freetown improves

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: security situation in Freetown improves

26 January 1999

Improvement in the security situation in Freetown has permitted several humanitarian missions from Guinea. Yesterday the UNHCR representative to Sierra Leone made a visit from Conakry. Other agencies have succeeded in the distribution of some basic supplies to the local population. Nonetheless the situation in some parts of the capital and other areas of the country remains very unstable.

On Monday an aid flight planned jointly by U.N. agencies and NGOs to Kenema was again cancelled for security reasons. An estimated 50,000 displaced are now crowded into the town, and ECOMOG is considering moving the group 20 km west of Kenema because of the proximity of rebel forces. A UNHCR local staff member in Kenema who made contact with UNHCR in Guinea reported that fighting continues as close as 16 km to the town.

UNHCR national staff in Freetown yesterday described the battle between ECOMOG and the rebels for the capital. One staff member was held in her house by rebels for 14 days, managing to escape only three days ago. The UNHCR Representative who visited Freetown was also told that a staff member of the non-governmental agency "Concern", who worked on the repatriation of Liberian refugees, was killed as he tried to escape from his house. which rebels had set on fire.