Guinea's reputation as a relatively peaceful country hosting nearly 400,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia changed dramatically during 2000 when Guinea suffered border attacks by Sierra Leonean rebels that drove refugees and local residents alike from their homes in border regions. Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees who have lived in Guinea for many years suffered an upsurge in harassment by local officials. Thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees returned to Sierra Leone in late 2000 to escape the increased dangers and economic difficulties facing them in Guinea.

At the beginning of 2001, an estimated 300,000 Sierra Leonean refugees remained in Guinea, as did some 90,000 Liberian refugees. An estimated 60,000 Guinean residents were internally displaced because of the border violence.

Recent Political/Military/Human Rights Developments

Attacks into Guinean territory were much less frequent in the first half of 2001, but security conditions in the country's border areas remained tense. Guinean soldiers launched military operations inside neighboring Sierra Leone to push Sierra Leonean rebels away from border areas.

Neighboring West African governments requested UN help to deploy African peacekeeping troops along Guinea's troubled border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, but the peacekeeping deployment had not yet occurred as of mid-2001.

Although Guinean government officials toned down their anti-refugee rhetoric in early 2001, refugees continued to face harassment as they attempted to move to safer locations farther from the border. Guinean soldiers, police, and civilian militia routinely forced refugees to pay bribes at highway checkpoints and committed abuses against refugees held in detention.

New Uprooted Populations

Estimates of the number of internally displaced Guineans in mid-2001 ranged from 60,000 to as many as 200,000.

More than 50,000 Sierra Leonean refugees transferred to new, safer camps in Guinea located up to 120 miles (200 km) from the border during the first half of 2001. Most traveled to the new camps on large truck convoys supplied by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Others walked or traveled on their own. Thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees – distressed by the situation in Guinea – continued to repatriate to Sierra Leone, either on boats from the Guinean capital, Conakry, or by foot. More than 50,000 refugees have repatriated from Guinea to Sierra Leone since late 2000. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, however, apparently chose to remain in Guinea's volatile border area as of mid-2001.

Government officials decreed that all Liberian refugees in Guinea should move away from the country's insecure border with Liberia. Guinean authorities officially closed the border with Liberia and reportedly blocked new Liberian refugees from entering Guinea. Some Liberian refugees managed to enter Guinea, however, by paying bribes to security personnel at the border.

Humanitarian Conditions

Humanitarian conditions in Guinea's border areas were difficult, but apparently were not a full-blown emergency during the first half of 2001. UNHCR officially stopped providing humanitarian assistance to refugees who remained in Guinea's border zone in an effort to encourage refugees to relocate to safer areas. Some refugees near the border continued to receive sporadic food distributions, however. Approximately 70,000 refugees throughout Guinea were receiving food assistance from the UN World Food Program (WFP) as of mid-year.

Most Liberian refugees have received virtually no humanitarian assistance in more than a year, even though Guinea's border insecurities forced some Liberian refugees to flee their long-time homes. Relief workers expressed concern in June about the nutritional status of Liberian refugees and prepared to conduct a nutritional study.

UN relief agencies appealed to international donors for $65 million to address humanitarian emergency needs in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia during 2001. WFP warned in June that it faces a potential shortfall of 17 million tons of food aid – equivalent to $10 million – in late 2001.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.