UN blames RUF and Liberia for attacks in Guinea

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IRIN - Guinea, 9 January - The UN Security Council has been unusually clear in placing the blame for the cross-border attacks on refugees and civilians in Guinea. A UN statement left it clear that the blame for the attacks was to put on Sierra Leonean RUF terrorists/rebels, and called for a tighter weapon embargo to be enforced by all states, "particularly Liberia". 

Members of the United Nations Security Council today reiterated their call on all States to refrain from providing military support to rebel groups responsible for cross-border attacks into Guinea and from "any act that might contribute to a further destabilization of the situation on the borders between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone." The Council called for the early implementation of the Abuja agreement and urged all States - particularly Liberia - to abide by its earlier statement which had called for all UN Member States to stop providing military support to the rebels carrying out the attacks. 

While it has been clear that the attacks on Guinean towns, villages and refugee camps have been organised from Sierra Leonean and Liberian soil, so far no proof of RUF or Liberian involvement have been published. Officially, the Liberian and Guinean governments have blame each other for not preventing cross-border attacks. Most theories have, so far, however indicated RUF attacks, supported by Liberia, on Guinean border societies providing shelter for Liberian oppositionals and rebels. Evidence pointing that way has so far only been private statements by RUF fighters.

The Guinean south-west has been plagued with cross-border attacks since September last year by terrorists entering from the neighbouring states. Tens of thousands of civilians, traumatised by the brutal attacks, have fled to Conakry (the Guinean capital), other peaceful areas of the country or even left for Sierra Leone. The area houses almost half a million refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, which now are being uprooted violently another time. The regional centre Guéckédou, having 100,000 inhabitants only some months ago, has turned into a ghost town, with only 3,000 residents remaining. 

In this dangerous situation, the Guinean Government has asked for international help, not to become the third country in the region after Liberia and Sierra Leone to fall into civil war and dissolution. Member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) so far have decided to mobilise a 1,600-member military mission to Guinea to help control the cross-order attacks. It seems, however, that these ECOMOG troops only will serve as an observer mission, contrary to Guinean pleas.

While Guineans rest doubtful to whether a possible ECOMOG observing force will give them any protection at all, the move has been warmly welcomed by the UN Security Council and the UN refugees agency (UNHCR), which have been highly engaged in the spillover of conflict into Guinea. Expressing its support to the efforts of the ECOWAS, the UN Security Council today said that it agreed that the crisis in Guinea required a regional coordinated response. 

Also the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, said today that "the initiative of ECOWAS is key" in the border areas of Guinea. "But UNHCR's impression is that it will not be implemented only by the will of this regional institution - they need support in terms of money and logistics to make it effective," he however continued.

In a response to the critical situation in Guinea, the UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski today also announced that the agency would be "sending an emergency team to Guinea’s volatile bec de perroquet (parrot’s beak) area, where up to 250,000 refugees and internally displaced people are in urgent need of food and medical supplies." 

Aid agencies estimate there could be 70,000 internally displaced Guineans and 180,000 refugees in need of help. "Many told the UNHCR security team last week that they were desperate to leave the strife-torn border area where they remain stranded," according to Kris Janowski. The situation in the area, briefly visited by UNHCR security officials last week, is believed to be much worse than elsewhere in Guinea, as no assistance has reached it since early December.

Source: Based on UN sources, IPS and afrol archives

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