CWS Situation Report: Guinean civil strife/refugees - 05 Feb 2007

from Church World Service
Published on 05 Feb 2007
Nearly 60 people have been killed in recent violence between Guinea President Lansana Conte's government and trade unions. Union members rioted during a general strike, accusing the president of mismanaging Guinea's economy and condoning corruption.

While Conte's appointment of a new prime minister helped end the strike, instability may send refugees across the border into neighboring countries, especially Sierra Leone. Fighting in Sierra Leone's 11-year war pushed half a million refugees into Guinea, and conflict in Guinea could again push refugees back across the border.

The border between Guinea and Sierra Leone slices through the ancient Mende, Temne and Krio ethnic groups. Such an environment would allow Guinean refugees to blend into the Sierra Leonean culture with relative ease but could cause considerable strain on economic, governmental and community support systems, officials said.

Response: Representatives of the Council of Churches of Sierra Leone (CCSL), a long-time CWS partner have met with officials in the disaster management unit of Sierra Leone's Office of National Security. The CCSL is helping coordinate a response among members of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International network in order to help avert a humanitarian crisis.

CCSL is assisting governmental and non-governmental organizations in pre-positioning reception centers and transition camps for displaced persons. CCSL and ONS planners have identified natural points of along the porous border, where assistance could be needed. Reception centers will be located in Gbalamuya, Thawuya, Kitchum, Kukuna and Sainya, and transition camps will set up in Mambolo, Kambia Town, Madina and Kamakwie.

CCSL expects to provide non-food items such as tarpaulins, health kits, medical supplies, jerry cans, mats and blankets to the centers, as well as food, as food prices are rapidly rising in both Sierra Leone and Guinea. CWS expects to support CCSL humanitarian efforts.

Media Contacts:

Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676;
Jan Dragin (24/7), 781-925-1526;