On 19 March, a trainload of 2,300 displaced persons returned to their villages some 50 km from Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo. They were members of the rural population of the Pool district who had taken refuge in Brazzaville in late 1999 when fighting broke out around their homes.
The ICRC has arranged the return of more than 3,000 people since the beginning of the year, and provided them with food and other relief supplies. Lack of maintenance has left a number of roads in very poor condition and access to certain villages from Brazzaville is possible only by rail. The ICRC therefore asked the Ministry of Transport to make trains available free of charge to displaced persons who came from villages near the railway line.
This first journey by train, with ICRC delegates and first-aid workers from the Congolese Red Cross on board, lasted two and a half hours. There was jubilation among the returnees, who sang throughout the trip. A second train, scheduled for 26 March, is to take 1,800 displaced persons as far as Mindouli, 140 km from Brazzaville. This will enable two camps run by the ICRC to be closed, with only one - housing some 400 people - remaining in the capital.
Further information: Laurent Colassis,
ICRC Brazzaville, tel. ++242 81 12 08
Juan Martinez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 22 81, or mobile ++41 79 217 32 17