UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: UN agencies to help displaced return home
NAIROBI, 22 March (IRIN) - UN agencies have begun to return to Brazzaville, where they are to start immediate humanitarian operations, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced in New York on Friday. The move followed improved security conditions over the past weeks, he said.
The immediate priorities of the UN agencies are to assist in the return of displaced populations to two abandoned neighbourhoods of southern Brazzaville, and to obtain more information on the situation of displaced populations in the Pool and Bouenza regions, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier told IRIN from Brazzaville on Monday.
The return of an estimated 26,000-30,000 people, now staying in displaced sites of northern Brazzaville, to their homes in the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville will begin as soon as government authorisation is provided, which could be sometime this week, Charpentier said. Many displaced persons have already started going to Bacongo and Makelekele during the daytime to prepare for their return home. The southern neighbourhoods have been placed under the protection of gendarmes, rather than the army.
"The UN agencies, with the government and other partners, will work to improve health and education structures" and other basic social services in Bacongo and Makelekele to facilitate the return and resettlement of the displaced, Charpentier said.
Fighting between government forces and Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas in December 1998 led some 200,000 residents of Bacongo and Makelekele to flee their homes. Some moved further south towards the Pool region while others fled to displaced centres or friends' homes in northern Brazzaville. Meanwhile, WHO said last week that some cholera cases had been confirmed among people affected by an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease in Brazzaville.
Charpentier said the UN was now holding talks with the government with a view to assessing and providing assistance to populations in Pool and Bouenza. Insecurity has so far prevented UN agencies from accessing those areas. An estimated 100,000-120,000 people who fled towards Pool in December remain unaccounted for. The Pool region itself has been the scene of conflict since late September 1998.
Contradictory information has been received about the humanitarian situation in Pool, but the condition of the displaced "is certainly precarious", Charpentier said. It is not known, for example, whether or not they had access to food stocks.
The latest UNHCR update on the Republic of Congo, issued last week, said more than 22,000 people had fled fighting in the Pool region for the Luozi area of neighbouring DRC.
Meanwhile, some 224,000 children, representing 42 percent of the country's school-age population, have been deprived of schooling since December as a result of the conflict, according to the country's Parent-Teachers' Association, cited by the Pan-African News Agency (PANA). Areas most affected by the school closures include Pool, Bouenza, Niari and southern Brazzaville, it said.
News agencies over the weekend reported a fresh wave of fighting between government forces and Ninja militia. AFP quoted army spokesman Jean-Robert Obargui as saying on Friday that five soldiers had been wounded in fighting at Loumou, some 20 km northwest of the capital. Other clashes were reported in the southwest, towards Linzolo. The army spokesman told the Associated Press that Ninja militia in Mbanza-Ndounga, located some 60 km from Brazzaville, had received reinforcements from the Umbe area of the DRC, but he said Kinshasa authorities were not involved.
In a separate incident, five civilians were killed on Saturday when Ninja militia attacked a vehicle carrying merchants some 45 km north of Brazzaville, news agencies reported.
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 16:20:32 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: UN agencies to help displaced return home 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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