The head of UNAMSIL, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, chaired the fourth meeting of the Joint Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) in Kenema, a follow-up to the last one held on 17 July in Bo.At the meeting, UNAMSIL reported on progress made in the ongoing disarmament in the Kono and Bonthe Districts. The discussions also looked at the commitment of the Civil Defence Forces and the Revolutionary United Front to the disarmament programme, other developments in the Sierra Leone peace process, the national recovery programme and the future of the DDR programme.Meanwhile, the UN’s refugee agency has issued a joint communiqué with Sierra Leone’s Government asking returnees who have been living in Freetown’s three transit centres to vacate the premises.The transit centres are presently sheltering more than 8,000 returnees who came back to Sierra Leone in November 2000, following fighting and insecurity in refugee camps in Guinea, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Most of the returnees currently in the transit centres are of the Kono ethnic tribe and originate from an unsafe part of Sierra Leone.UNHCR has been organizing regular convoys from the three transit centres to other resettlement sites and hosting community projects in the east and south of Sierra Leone, but most returnees have been reluctant to move, arguing they cannot return to their home areas, the agency said. A new site will open next week in the southern Moyamba district to accommodate these returnees as close as possible to their home area. Transfers will be done on a voluntary basis but refugees who decline will eventually have to find alternative accommodations.UNHCR is currently assisting a total of 56,373 Sierra Leoneans who have returned from Guinea since last September. Only 4,323 have been able to return to their homes in safety. The rest are being accommodated and assisted in temporary resettlement sites and hosting community projects until their areas are declared safe for a permanent return.
“The numbers of internally displaced persons currently sheltered at the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Bentiu are swelling,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said referring to the acronym for the UN Mission in the country.More than 12,000 civilians are currently seeking refuge, he noted. The majority of them are women and children.The figure comes one day after reports that opposition forces took control of the state capital, Bentiu. UNMISS today received reports that anti-Government forces are also now controlling Guit and Rubkona Counties in Unity State.UN military patrols also identified thousands of displaced civilians gathered in the vicinity of Bentiu Hospital and the compound of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).Later in the day, an UNMISS official confirmed that the Mission had managed to get all remaining civilians out of the hospital and into a safe location.Since the hostilities that erupted between the Government and opposition forces last December, an average of 75,000 civilians have found refuge from violence in UN bases across the country.UN ‘blue helmets’ conducted a number of patrols yesterday, including in Bentiu and Rubkona, where the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) headquarters was described as “empty” with a few SPLA soldiers deployed in Bentiu.Looting of shops by civilians in the state capital was also observed. The patrol also witnessed some 40 bodies on the streets in Bentiu, Mr. Dujarric said.Speaking to journalists yesterday in Juba, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer said the number of people seeking shelter in Bentiu doubled over the past few days to at least 9,000 people.Mr. Lanzer said he felt “a certain sense of outrage”, as UNMISS, UN agencies and other aid agencies made efforts to deal with immediate consequences of the ongoing violence.About a million people in South Sudan have been forced from their homes due to the conflict. The UN continues to advocate with the country’s authorities for political and security solutions that will allow the displaced to return to their homes or seek abode in any other part of the country. read more