Burundi + 4 more

UNHCR Country Updates: Great Lakes

Situation Report
Originally published
Country Updates - Great Lakes - 27 January 1999
  • UNHCR reduces staff presence in Congo Brazzaville after fighting obliges U.N. to declare security phase 4
  • Congolese refugees begin to return from Bangui, to Equateur Province (DRC)
  • Numbers of Congolese (DRC) refugees arriving in Kigoma continue to rise
  • U.N. Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator travels to the region to discuss humanitarian intervention in the DRC

Confrontations between the army and militias supporting former President Lissouba and Premier Kolelas degenerated during the past week into artillery exchanges in Brazzaville itself, with fighting reported also to the west in the town of Dolisie.

The instability was first felt in the Pool region southwest of the capital, which 40,000 people have now fled for the DRC. 20,000 are citizens of Congo Brazzaville, who are being helped by UNHCR in Bas-Congo, around the village of Luozi. The balance are nationals of the DRC who were living across the border and approximately 1,500 Africans of other nationalities.

UNHCR staff who were working in Brazzaville have been forced by the recent fighting to make daily trips from Kinshasa. A field officer who has remained in Loukolela camp, 400 kms to the north, reported that some of the estimated 3,000 remaining Rwandans at that camp and Njoundou may be leaving the sites. According to this information, a boat was sent by the Government to transfer volunteers to join the conflict from among the draft-age male population to Brazzaville.


U.N. Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths stressed staff security, restitution of stolen U.N. assets and the impartiality of humanitarian work when he met with leaders of both sides in the six-month old conflict in the DRC. The UNHCR Regional Representative in Kinshasa, Unicef and WFP accompanied the mission.

Roughly 600 of the 5,000 Congolese refugees who left Zongo, in Equateur Province, for the Central African Republic, have returned spontaneously to the DRC in the past few days. The group say they fled looting and killings earlier in the month. Their move back across the Oubangui River comes after calm has reportedly returned to Zongo and after the CAR Government stated its wish to transfer the Congolese from Bangui to Boubou, some 300 kms from the refugees' point of entry.


After consultations and agreement with ECHO, UNHCR will begin providing internally displaced camps in the northwest of the country with blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheeting. The agency's assistance will include transport and distribution of the ECHO-donated items to IDP sites in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri Prefectures.

A second Tanzania/Rwanda/UNHCR Tripartite Commission meeting was held in Arusha on Monday and Tuesday of this week at the request of the Rwandan Government. Among the issues covered at the session were the 13,500 Rwandan refugees in Tanzania and possible measures to deal with new influxes.


The Fourth Round of the Burundi peace talks, going on now in Arusha, is expected to close on 31 January. Observers, including UNHCR, were not able to address the gathering on issues of concern to them as time was given over to additional closed discussions between the Burundi parties.

During the debates, however, participants underscored the need to create a climate in Burundi which will encourage the return of its citizens. A Tripartite Commission meeting between Burundi, Tanzania and UNHCR is scheduled for Arusha in early March, during a session of the Committee on Reconstruction and Development.

Regional Heads of State met during the Arusha discussions and agreed to suspend economic sanctions imposed on Burundi in the wake of the July 1996 coup. The move was made to give further impetus to the peace negotiations.


The past weeks have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Congolese refugees arriving in Kigoma from South Kivu. Refugees say there have been more clashes between rebels and allied Government forces, particularly in the vicinity of Kalemie.

Over the first three weeks of 1999, seven-day totals have climbed progressively from 1,006 to 2,817 and to 5,976 (18-24 January). This Monday, 465 new arrivals brought the total since 2 August to 29,281.

Boats setting out from Fizi and the Ubwari peninsula carry families and belongings, indications that some residents are able to plan their departures. The recent arrivals relate that they have been warned by Mai-Mai warriors of more clashes with anti-Kabila rebels in the area, and say that a lack of boats and fare for the crossing has stopped more Congolese from fleeing.

This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.