UN refugee agency will appeal for funds to rehabilitate refugee areas in Guinea

UN refugee agency will appeal for funds to rehabilitate refugee areas in Guinea

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers
The head of the United Nations refugee agency has pledged to help raise funds to rehabilitate the areas in which Guinea hosted half a million refuges from civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia over the past 16 years.

At the start of a trip to four West African countries to assess repatriation programmes, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers said yesterday the agency would appeal for support for Guinea after the refugees left.

The UNHCR representative in Guinea, Stefano Severe, added that $300,000 left over from the repatriation of some 93,000 remaining Sierra Leoneans last year would be put towards rehabilitation.

They were responding to a plea from Guinean Minister of Territorial Administration Kiridi Bangoura. The donor countries have linked their assistance to better governance in Guinea, one of the poorest countries in West Africa, and better management of government funds.

“UNHCR is the only partner that can take leadership to organize a roundtable on solidarity with Guinea in the post-refugee situation,” Mr. Bangoura told Mr. Lubbers. “There is a need to rehabilitate areas affected by 16 years of refugee presence, particularly in the area of Gueckedou that needs reconstruction.”

Gueckedou in southeastern Guinea was the centre of refugee activities until rebels mounted a bloody attack there in 2000.

Mr. Lubbers’ six-day tour will take him next to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, all of them having suffered in recent years from civil war or turmoil and having had citizens flee to neighbouring countries. He is to meet UN representatives, senior government officials and returnees.

Mr. Lubbers was to join a return convoy from Sierra Leone, where he was today, to Liberia, where he would spend two days reviewing repatriation programmes.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said it would spend $14 million on helping internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to go back home and reintegrate themselves into their communities in the 13 counties declared ready for repatriation.

Two other counties, Grand Kru and Sinoe in the south, have not been declared peaceful enough for returns.

More than $5.5 million would be spent on non-food items and setting up added distribution outlets, $3.5 million would pay the IDPs' way home and the remaining $5 million would fund reintegration projects in their areas, UNHCR Representative Moses Okello said.