JRS Dispatches No. 80

from Jesuit Refugee Service
Published on 16 Oct 2000
Refugee news briefings

The killers of Br Antoine Bargiggia were not deserters from the army, as originally held, but soldiers active in military service. Br Antoine, a JRS worker in Burundi, was shot dead by four men who stopped him at a roadblock as he travelled from Mutoyi to Bujumbura on 3 October. Initial reports indicated his killers were deserters from the army. However, according to the missionary news agency MISNA, the Burundian Minister of the Interior, Ascension Twagiramungu, implicitly admitted that the four men who held Br Antoine up were soldiers. According to sources, Br Antoine was stopped near Bugendana by four men who asked for a lift. Br Antoine refused, saying he was not authorised to take anyone in the car. The men insisted and he refused again. They ordered him to get out of the car and shot him. Br Antoine was with three young men who escaped. On 1 October, people had been asking around in Bugendana about the habits of Br Antoine, at what time he usually passed in the car. Speaking during the funeral of Br Antoine, held in Mutoyi on 5 October, Twagiramungu asked for pardon on behalf of the Burundian government. The church where the funeral was held was packed with mourners. The body of Br Antoine was flown to Milan on 7 October. Br Antoine, 43 years, was a member of the Friends of the Poor, a recently founded community from the Diocese of Milan. For 20 years he lived in Burundi, first in Mutoyi and later in Buterere, north of Bujumbura, where he was JRS project director. On 15 September, Sr Gina Simionato, an Italian sister, was killed in Gihiza by armed men when she was on her way to mass with other sisters.


Civilians are fleeing to Tanzania to escape heavy fighting between the army and rebels in Burundi. Intensified warfare rages countrywide, especially in the provinces of Cankuzo, Bururi and Gitega. Sources spoke of a reported increase in landmines and Burundian soldiers at the border to control movement in and out of Burundi. On 9 October, JRS in Tanzania said at least 2,400 refugees had entered Ngara district since 3 October. They are being taken to Mbuba transit camp from where they are transferred to Lukole camp. On 12 October, another 2,700 refugees reportedly arrived. JRS staff went to the border on 9 and 11 October. They report: "Along the route, we came across groups of refugees, both Hutu and Tutsi, from Cankuzo province. What we saw was very sad. We saw refugees, mostly mothers, fatigued by the flight, and children with swollen eyes due to lack of sleep and infection. The refugees carried their livestock (chicken, goats, sheep, pigs), intent on taking their only wealth (livestock) to the camps. But UNHCR vehicles had little room so the refugees had to sell the animals to Tanzanians at throw-away prices. We helped the refugees come closer to the road for easy transportation to the transit camp. Not all were willing to come until they were assured of security. The Tutsi are afraid to go the camp where most of the refugees are Hutu." According to refugees who were interviewed, the war escalates at night while during the day there is relative calm. However, gunfire could be heard across the border even as we tried to help the refugees. The army has reportedly been pushed back and the rebels control the areas around the border with Tanzania. The refugees claimed the rebels are soliciting support from civilians, demanding food and even livestock. As they could not afford to give in to these demands, the refugees were forced to flee into Tanzania. The rebels burned down their homes to punish them for not being "co-operative."


Karago camp in Kigoma region is facing a critical water shortage. Karago is the only camp open to receive new arrivals from Burundi. It currently holds 43,000 refugees and is fast approaching maximum capacity of 50,000. "The stream, which is the main source of the camp, has almost dried up. Water tankering has started but unavailability of water to be tankered is another nightmare and alternative arrangements are being considered," NGO sources said. "On a few occasions, the refugees in Karago had virtually no water and had to resort to collecting unclean water directly from a river located a long way away." There is a problem with soap rations, which the refugees use for bathing, washing clothes and cleaning dishes. The last time they received soap was over two months ago. Meanwhile, some food rations have been slightly increased to 80 per cent from 60 per cent. Cereals will remain at 60 per cent. However, despite the development, the refugees are complaining bitterly to the government, UN agencies and NGOs about the extended cut. "Some block leaders in Karago camp have reported that some refugees have started selling some of their non- food items in order to buy food," sources said. "An evaluation is under way to monitor the rise in the malnutrition rate due to the food shortage." According to UNHCR statistics, from January to October, there were 40,346 new arrivals from Burundi in Kibondo district. "A few continue arriving at Mabamba reception centre, but these numbers are nothing compared to the numbers in Ngara these days," said JRS in Kibondo.


UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, warned in a new report to the UN Security Council last week that he feared the ongoing conflict in Angola could threaten the peace and security of the southern Africa region. JRS Southern Africa director Joe Hampson SJ, writes: "Annan's report makes familiar reading for those following Angola's struggles in recent months. For our teams, the news only confirms on a macro level what they see on a daily basis: - influx of new Angolan refugees in north-western Zambia, where the last few weeks saw nearly 8,000 new arrivals, many from Bailundu, Andulo and Cazombo. JRS is concerned that preparations for their reception and assistance at Meheba seem strikingly inadequate; - new arrivals crossing into Namibia and eventually filling the overcrowded Osire camp; - the situation of new internally displaced people in Angola becoming more desperate, as numbers increase in sites where our teams are present: in Luanda, Negage and Luena. Annan's estimate of 2.7 million for the whole country is a new high; - fragility of the food-relief chain, both within and outside the country; - enormous disparity between the local economy and its marginalisation of so many, contrasted with the conspicuous consumption of the small Angolan élite, who in turn take advantage of the desperation of humanitarian agencies' efforts to combat poverty and starvation."


Newly displaced Liberians are in need of shelter, food and non-food items. Violence in northern Liberia has fuelled the internal displacement of thousands of people as attacks in Lofa county spread south to the town of Zorzor on the weekend 6 - 8 October. NGO sources said they heard the Lutheran hospital and school were burned. There are no reports of rape or beating, but some displaced people said their belongings were taken by soldiers. An assessment mission to Salayea district (the district next to Zorzor) on 12 October concluded that 51,973 people are in need of food and non-food items. The mission was led by LRRRC (government agency which registers displaced people and returnees) and included international and local NGO representatives. The mission reported that only one clinic is operating in the area and it has no drugs. The number of latrines is not sufficient for the increased population. Shelter also is insufficient. Many internally displaced people are sleeping in schools, clinics and markets. There has been a severe reduction in transport and commercial activities, leading to price hikes in the cost of food and transport. NGO sources based in Gbarnga said more and more people were coming. "LRRRC have registered 1,600 displaced people in Gbarnga, but they told us this is nowhere near the real picture. Many people are reportedly on their way, walking since the attack on Zorzor. No one can say what is happening. It is all discouraging and frightening," said NGO sources. "We do what we can to help those who have newly arrived and we pray this little country does not again find itself embroiled in violence, its people scattered to the four winds."


Liberian refugees are returning to Liberia from Guinea, fleeing xenophobic violence initiated by Guinean President, Lansana Conte's provocative public statements that the refugees were harbouring rebels and should "go home". Over 400 refugees arrived in Monrovia on 12 October following a two-day sea voyage. Many complained of being beaten and raped by Guineans. People are also coming into Liberia through the only border crossing which is currently open. Sources said on 3 October they heard some 150 people were crossing daily.


Indonesia has invited the UN Security Council to send a delegation in mid- November to the refugee camps in West Timor. The Indonesian government previously refused to allow the delegation to visit but now says progress made in restoring security in the refugee camps should be observed. UN agencies withdrew from West Timor following the murder of three UNHCR workers by rampaging militias on 6 September. There is now no international presence in the West Timor camps to offer aid or protection to the refugees. Refugees have told JRS workers in West Timor of their need for rice and medical care, and have asked for assistance to cultivate the land, so they can move away from dependency on aid relief. At a meeting held on 3 October between the Atambua bishop, Mgr Anton Pain Ratu SVD, and the pro-integration (UNTAS) leaders of the refugees, one leader from Ainaro district said teams who wished to help the refugees could enter the camps as they were working to secure the security of aid workers in every camp. A team of five doctors and 10 nurses from the Catholic doctors' union of Indonesia, Perdhaki, has started to work in the Atambua camps. They arrived on 3 October. The chairman of Perdhaki in Atambua district, Fr Alex Kobesi, said most refugees in Atambua have not received medical care since the day militia leader, Alivio Mendonca Moruk, was killed (5 September). Medical care has become one of the priorities which must be attended to as soon as possible.


Refugees in the West Timor camps are asking about the possibility of return to East Timor. JRS in West Timor reported on 11 October: "Over the past week, we have continually been meeting refugees who want to return to East Timor. They approach us secretly to ask if there is a chance for them to return safely. It has been said registration will take place on 26 October in Tuapukan camp (Kupang) to determine the number of refugees who want to return to East Timor, as well as those who wish to relocate on Wetar island." The TNI (Indonesian military) have told the UN they plan to relocate 400 refugee families of hard-core militia members to Wetar island. Many refugees are reportedly confused about how to go back to East Timor because there are no longer any agencies working on repatriation. "It is our final decision, we don't want to make the wrong decision anymore," said some refugees. "If there is a return program again, we will be the first to register." JRS in West Timor reported on 6 October that 418 refugees were ready to return to East Timor as soon as possible. They were scheduled to go on 15 October by navy ship to Los Palos. The majority of these refugees are milsas (described as semi-military but different to the militia) from Los Palos.


Education to change perceptions which create barriers to refugees is essential, said JRS Europe director designate, John Dardis SJ. Speaking during the launch of a booklet, "Refugees and Forcibly Displaced People", in Dublin on 2 October, Fr Dardis said: "Good refugee policy is not just a narrow matter of legislation. A change must take place at both personal and political levels. The biggest barriers to refugees and displaced persons can be in our minds. Yet sometimes these are the hardest barriers to dismantle. In tackling this, human rights education is vitally important." Tackling the refugee problem world-wide required that the root causes of forced migration be addressed. "These causes include poverty, conflicts, violations of human rights and impunity... Without concerted action to tackle poverty and inequality, conflicts will continue," said Fr Dardis. "Refugees and Forcibly Displaced People" is part of Trócaire's Christian Perspectives on Development Issues and has been published by Veritas in association with Catholic development agencies from England, Scotland and Wales. Written by Mark Raper SJ and Amaya Valcarcel of JRS, the book offers a vision of refugee issues in the new millennium.


JRS Southeast Europe director, Stjepan Kusan SJ, writes about recent developments in Yugoslavia: "The words 'Serbia' and 'Yugoslavia' have often been used in relation to wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic was the key person behind this. In 1989, he took power and clung to it for 10 years by skilfully engineering nationalistic mass euphoria, invoking the dream of a greater Serbia. The support Milosevic enjoyed was fuelled by mythological reinterpretations of Serbian history where losses became victories. Losses in recent wars were so evident that even Milosevic was unable to explain them away as triumphs, although he tried to do so. Milosevic faced opposition, but his detractors were not clear in their ideas. Indeed, much opposition was not against Milosevic as dictator; it seemed to be rooted in disappointment with his incapacity to realise the national dream he had stirred. The same intoxicated mass which once backed Milosevic has now discarded him. All manner of support has been promised the newly elected president, Vojislav Kostunica, by an over enthusiastic international community. But the road ahead will not be easy. As a Serb Orthodox priest who has lived abroad for years, wrote in a Swiss newspaper, Neue Zuercher Zeitung: '...The 'yes' to Kostunica is not a 'no' to the Serb nationalism that has caused so much trouble. Most Serbs simply want a better life and a strong country. Once the euphoria has passed, their expectations will be hard to fulfil. The party of Milosevic is still heavily represented in parliament, and Kostunica will find it difficult to maintain his coalition now that its main purpose - the overthrow of a dictator - has been accomplished... Kostunica cannot just cuddle up to the rest of Europe, or accede to the West's wishes on Kosovo. Difficult times lie ahead on all fronts.'"


Fr Kusan writes: "What can aid organisations now expect with the new state of affairs in Yugoslavia? According to a recent analysis of the Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more importance should be given to local NGOs. The analysis underlined that humanitarian aid appeared to be strongly linked to international pressure exerted on the regime of Milosevic, rather than the provision of impartial assistance to all in need. It is hoped that forgotten refugees in Yugoslavia will now be given proper attention. As relations with neighbouring countries improve, this attention should include assistance and encouragement to many of Yugoslavia's refugees to return home to Bosnia and Croatia."


Urban refugees in Kampala are facing increasing hardship and little assistance, reports JRS in Uganda. "The situation of refugees in Kampala is worsening. Many refugees are coming, mostly from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our office received 120 new arrivals on 2 and 3 October, mostly women and children," said Frances Phillipa, JRS program coordinator in Kampala. "They have nowhere to stay and nothing to eat. These people sleep in old, dilapidated houses, using papers and pieces of carton to cover themselves." JRS in Kampala delivers small-scale assistance in terms of food, lodging and medical care. "However, our resources are limited so we cannot adequately respond to the needs of refugees," Ms Phillipa said. NGO sources added: "This is not a great time to put pressure on UNHCR as its financial crisis is really biting into existing programs. However, something should be done for those refugees in Kampala. An ultimatum to go to the camps or else be given no assistance does not seem just."


Between 70 to 100 refugees per day are arriving in Zimbabwe, mostly from DRC, Burundi and Rwanda. At the moment, there is a shortage of food and accommodation in Tongogara camp (Chipinge) and the Harare transit centre to cater for the arrivals, said director of the JRS urban refugee program in Harare, Stanislous G. Rizik. "The allowance refugees and asylum seekers get does not see them through to the end of the month. They have been promised an increase, but this has not materialised as yet," said Mr Rizik. Some refugees were selling their blankets to buy food, he added.


Napoleon, a Sri Lankan youth who was about to be returned to Sri Lanka from India was stopped just before he boarded the plane, JRS South Asia reports. "Human rights groups claim he is on the hit list of both the army and the rebels in Sri Lanka, so he will be killed if he returns," JRS said. Napoleon was being held in the so-called "special" camps in India, where young men newly arrived from Sri Lanka are incarcerated on the suspicion of having rebel connections. Napoleon's family has a history of violent death. Two of the brothers were killed in 1995 by militant groups. His sister, Ida Carmelita, was raped and killed in July 1999 by five men who broke into her mother's house at night. Her murder attracted widespread media attention in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Following her death, Ida's brothers and sisters fled to a refugee camp in India. Her mother initially stayed behind, determined to bring her daughter's killers to justice. However, she also left when Kumar Ponnambalam, the lawyer handling the case, was killed in Colombo in January 2000. Forensic experts have confirmed that the bullets used in Ida's murder correspond to those usually used by the army.



Amaya Valcarcel writes: "The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has recently created a senior network to assess the international response to internally displaced people, looking for gaps in protection and assistance and proposing possible measures for improvement. Dennis McNamara, formerly Director of Protection for UNHCR, has been appointed as chairman of the network and special coordinator on internally displaced people. McNamara will conduct his first field visit to Ethiopia and Eritrea between 15 to 22 October. NGOs have been encouraged to play a role in the network. NGO representatives can be on the network country missions. Those who are present in the country in question can raise issues they feel should be addressed prior to each mission. Once a mission is complete and recommendations have been presented to the IASC, NGOs can follow up on the implementation of recommendations at field level. JRS has been involved in providing information and contacts, both in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Over the next nine months, four other countries will be visited by the network: Angola, Burundi, Colombia, and Indonesia."


JRS Asia Pacific information and policy officer, Mona Laczo, writes: "The Burmese army is one of three government military forces in Asia alleged to have used anti-personnel landmines during the past year. This was reported during a press conference held on 11 October in Thailand by Landmine Monitor researchers. 'Burma is among the top mine victim producing countries in the world, with over 1,500 victims last year,' said Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan of the Landmine Monitor Burma/Myanmar. The conference panel included landmine survivors from Thailand and the Thai- Burma border; researchers of the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Landmine Monitor Burma/Myanmar, and a representative from the Thailand Mine Action Centre. JRS volunteer, Emilie Ketudat, who is working in collaboration with the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines, facilitated the event. Lt.Gen.Thamasak Seniwong, representative of the Thailand Mine Action Centre pledged that Thailand would destroy 10,000 mines from its stockpiles both in November and December this year. In January, Thailand still had a stockpile of 411,625 anti-personnel mines, according to the Landmine Monitor 2000. 'We are glad to hear Thailand is getting started on destroying landmines in its stockpiles,' Emilie Ketudat said. 'Thailand proposed keeping one of the largest amounts of landmines for training purposes among the nations signatory to the treaty, but after a meeting in Geneva in early 2000, Thailand is reconsidering its needs.'"



A peace education workshop was held in Nimule from 25 to 29 September. JRS Uganda assistant director, Aden Raj, reports: "The workshop met with a grand response. Thirty-five participants attended, including community leaders, SRRA administrators, headmasters and school coordinators. As they shared their expectations of the workshop, participants expressed the desire 'to learn how to resolve conflicts effectively'. Others wanted 'to change my way of living to be an effective peace-maker'. The group discussed many root causes of conflict in the community: poor leadership, greed, nepotism, betrayal, misconceptions, polygamy, tribalism, unjust system of government, and the inability to forgive. Concepts became easier to understand as the group shared anecdotes from their own cultures and tribes. Women participated confidently in discussions. It is best to end this report with the words of Mr Emelio, Magwi County Asst. Commissioner, at the closing ceremony: 'Through this workshop, I have attained tools of conflict management... I promise you will find me a changed man in my work place. I promise to be a peace maker in the best way I can.' May these words come true for the whole group, and thus make this workshop a worthwhile effort."


Fr Joe Hampson SJ writes: "Earlier this month, a joint team from JRS and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was in Lukulu Mission, Mongu diocese, northwest Zambia, running workshops for NGO, church and government officials concerned with legal aspects of work with refugees. The workshops focused on the idea of accompaniment; and analysing emergency preparedness in the context of refugee needs."


Fr Hampson SJ writes: "The Angolan war reached a new intensity before the rains, fuelled by an oil rich government generous to its military, yet the counter-offensive by UNITA seems to target civilian targets particularly through landmines. This is why our projects for refugees, landmine affected and forcibly displaced, in the provinces of Moxico and Uíge, in Viana and in Luanda, are so important in trying to light a candle of hope and concern rather than curse the darkness of war, corruption and hatred. We have, for example, decided in Negage to assist in building of houses for newly displaced from Sanza Pombo, Puri and Bungo, using the skills of the displaced people themselves who make bricks, and do the carpentry and building. We are also involved in rehabilitating some school buildings, helping in teacher training, and encouraging carpentry and sewing groups, and farming self- help projects."


A research project about the survival strategies of internally displaced people in Luanda took place between August last year and June this year. Seven researchers were involved in the project conducting interviews in the camps and different neighbourhoods. The research focused on: Food: the majority of the displaced people have access to only one daily meal; Employment: the vast majority is unemployed. They are mainly farmers, an activity they cannot undertake in Luanda. Clothing: Access to clothing is limited because of scarcity of money. The parents prefer to buy clothes for their children rather than for themselves. (Taken from the JRS Angola bulletin no.5, July/August 2000)


Days after the funeral of Br Antoine, the JRS team in Bujumbura visited Br Karoli, who shared the hut and mission of Br Antoine in Buterere. For the last three years, Br Antoine was director of a JRS project intended to help the most vulnerable. "It is important he feels we are with him, and that he has our support to continue Br Antoine's work. He will soon start going to the prison to take some food for the people, as Br Antoine used to do," said JRS Burundi. "Br Karoli wants to stay on in Buterere, but he cannot stay alone, so we are waiting for someone to join him."


JRS in Burundi reports: "The JRS dispensary in Munanira was robbed again on the night of 7 October. No one was hurt. Eight people came to the dispensary at 1am through the coffee plantations. They held the watchmen at gunpoint and knocked on the room of JRS nurse, Meg Hicks, to wake her up. The intruders asked for money, threatening use of arms. Meg gave them money through the window, so they did not enter the house and left 20 minutes later. This is the second attack on the dispensary. The first took place on 28 July, when armed men broke in and stole money, a radio receiver and a cellular phone. Meg recognised the voices of the robbers, and is sure they are the same people who came the first time. Although embassies and OCHA have recommended that aid workers do not venture out of Bujumbura, three JRS members went to Munanira from Bujumbura to meet the team there and to bring the expatriates to the capital. We are much aware of the courage of Meg and Sylvie Clement, the watchmen, and all the personnel of the health centre. All of them want to do as much as possible so the population will continue to receive support and service." Sylvie said: "Fortunately, the JRS local workers at the dispensary continue to serve the population which is in great need. At present, there is a severe malaria epidemic in the area. Half of our team is sick and two members have lost a child due to this epidemic. There are no other clinics in the area."


Two new JRS projects are set to start in Kosovo to cater for landmine victims and disabled women. One project mirrors a successful project which has been under way in Bosnia for three years, providing assistance to landmine victims. JRS will draw on its experience there to build a similar service in Kosovo. The program will aim to integrate mine survivors into society and to reduce their dependency. It will work on four levels: medical (procurement of prostheses and operations), material, legal and psychosocial. Between June 1999 and July 2000, 484 people have been affected by mines in Kosovo, 101 of these were killed. The other project is aimed at providing training for disabled women to enable them to be self-sufficient. JRS will set up a sewing training centre in Ferizaj, Cassava, together with Handikos, a local association of paraplegics and paralysed children in Kosovo. JRS will run the new services from its base in Macedonia which was set up in April last year to respond to the needs of ethnic Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo at the time.


JRS personnel have been visiting camps in Atambua. The team evacuated from the area following the murder of three UNHCR workers last month. They are now gradually returning to work there. JRS Indonesia director, Edi Mulyono SJ, writes about a visit to the camps in Atambua on 4 October: "We visited refugees in the camps of Atapupu, Mahoni, Tenuboot, and Haliulun. We also went to review progress in an agricultural program we helped set up when we gave seeds and fertilisers to refugees who started cultivating land on loan from local residents. The results so far are great. "We went to Haliulun camp, where refugees from Maliana district are staying. We introduced ourselves and heard the stories and needs of the refugees. Their most pressing need is rice to feed their families. Some sisters give them nutrition for children once a week. The refugees want land, seeds and fertilisers to start an agricultural program. They also need soap. The youths asked for a ball to play volleyball or football. JRS personnel will continue communicating with refugees in the Atambua camps to see what we can do for and with them. I think we have made progress in reviving the JRS presence among the refugees."


HEADLINES is a new bulletin from and for the social apostolate of the Society of Jesus. It hopes to give brief, regular, interesting items of news, to stimulate contacts, share spirituality and promote networking - in each Province, in each Assistancy, a