Gabon hosted more than 15,000 refugees at the end of 2000, the vast majority from Congo-Brazzaville.

Refugees from Congo-Brazzaville

Refugees fled to Gabon in 1999 to escape civil war in Congo-Brazzaville.

The exact number of refugees was unclear. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) initially registered 13,000 refugees and estimated that at least 3,000 more remained unregistered. By late 2000, UNHCR had registered 17,000 Congolese refugees. Gabonese officials estimated that up to 30,000 Congolese refugees were in the country, many of them living uncounted with local families.

Many registered refugees lived in four urban areas of Gabon, where they found shelter in public buildings and large private structures, as well as in private homes. Others lived in rural areas near the border between Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.

UNHCR distributed humanitarian assistance to refugee populations at 30 locations. First UNHCR and then the World Food Program provided most food aid during the year, and the Gabon government purchased some 200 tons of food and airlifted it to refugee areas in March when food relief from international donors ran low.

UNHCR constructed new latrines, improved wells, and distributed material for home construction in refugee areas. Refugees also received vaccinations and support for agriculture and other income-generating activities.

A modest number of Congolese refugees repatriated in early 2000 because government jobs awaited them in their home country. A UNHCR assessment in late 2000, however, stated that "conditions are not yet conducive to any massive voluntary repatriation movements" to Congo-Brazzaville.

Despite relative peace in Congo-Brazzaville during the year, UNHCR and the refugee population remained cautious about repatriation because interludes of peace have repeatedly been followed by war in Congo-Brazzaville since 1993. UNHCR sponsored a series of cross-border visits during 2000 so that refugees in Gabon could personally assess security conditions across the border.

Although the 3,000 registered refugees living in Gabon's capital possessed registration cards, refugee populations living elsewhere in the country lacked clear identification documents or suffered harassment and occasional arrest when Gabonese police and soldiers ignored their documents.


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