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close this bookICRC Activities in the Congo (Brazzaville): 1994 - 20 April 2000 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 56 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAnnual report 1994: Congo
View the documentAnnual report 1995: Zaire (delegation also covers the Congo)
View the document13 November 1996: Update No. 96/4 on ICRC activities in Zaire
View the documentAnnual report 1996: Congo
View the document15 May 1997 - ICRC News 97/18: Congo: Emergency operation for Rwandan refugees
View the document11 June 1997 - ICRC News 97/22: Republic of Congo: ICRC back at work
View the document12 June 1997 - Press Release 97/18: Republic of Congo: ICRC urges respect for humanitarian rules
View the document17 June 1997: Update No. 97/01 on ICRC activities in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville)
View the document18 June 1997 - ICRC News 97/23: Republic of Congo: ICRC resumes work in Brazzaville
View the document25 June 1997 - ICRC News 97/24: Republic of Congo: A light in the darkness
View the document16 July 1997 - ICRC News 97/27: Republic of Congo: The exodus continues
View the document23 July 1997 - ICRC News 97/28: Republic of Congo: Daily supplies ferried across river Congo
View the document7 August 1997 - ICRC News 97/30: Republic of the Congo: Front-line activities
View the document28 August 1997 - ICRC News 33: Brazzaville and Kinshasa: Medical aid on both sides of the river Congo
View the document5 September 1997 - ICRC News 34: Brazzaville/Kinshasa: Relief work progressing
View the document17 September 1997 - ICRC News 97/36: Republic of Congo: Water and hygiene: A priority
View the document28 October 1997: Update No. 97/03 on ICRC activities in Congo-Brazzaville
View the document24 November 1997 - Press Release 97/31: ICRC deplores death of Red Cross volunteer in Brazzaville
View the document4 December 1997 - ICRC News 97/48: Republic of the Congo: Water running again in Brazzaville
View the document24 December 1997: Update No. 97/04 on ICRC activities in the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville
View the documentAnnual Report 1997: Republic of the Congo
View the document9 January 1998 - ICRC News 98/01: Republic of Congo: Red Cross messages: A success story
View the document8 April 1998 ICRC - News 98/14: Republic of the Congo: Open day for the Brazzaville media
View the document4 May 1998 98/01: Update No. 98/01 on ICRC activities in the Republic of the Congo
View the document23 December 1998 - ICRC News 98/51: Republic of the Congo: Renewed fighting in Brazzaville
View the documentAnnual Report 1998: Republic of the Congo
View the document12.08.1999 - Fact Sheet: ICRC in the Republic of Congo
View the document23 December 1999 - ICRC News 99/51: Republic of the Congo: ICRC visits pool region
View the document26 January 2000: Fact sheet: ICRC in the Republic of Congo
View the document17 February 2000 - ICRC News 00/05: Republic of the Congo: Assistance for refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
View the document23 March 2000 - ICRC News 00/10: Republic of the Congo: Displaced persons return to their villages from Brazzaville
View the document6 April 2000 - ICRC News 00/12: Rwanda: ICRC repatriates Zimbabwean prisoner of war
View the document6 April 2000 - ICRC News 00/12: Republic of the Congo: ICRC starts humanitarian flights to northern Pool
View the document20 April 2000 - ICRC News 00/14: Republic of the Congo: Last IDPs return home

Annual Report 1998: Republic of the Congo

Republic of the Congo

Devastated by two conflicts in recent years, in 1993-4 and again in 1997, the Republic of the Congo began the year in a state of precarious stability. In January the government initiated a process of national reconciliation, and a three-year period was set for the country’s transition to democracy. A law to prosecute those accused of genocide and crimes against humanity was adopted by the parliament at the end of August. Throughout the year, Angolan forces, which had intervened during the conflict in 1997, maintained a presence in the country’s main towns of Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and Dolisie.

Efforts made by the authorities to disarm the militias had little effect on the endemic insecurity in the capital and other parts of the country. In the south-west and the southern outskirts of Brazzaville, strongholds of exiled opposition leaders Pascal Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas, armed groups refused to surrender their weapons and there were sporadic outbreaks of violence. In April, in the southern region of Bouenza, armed elements took control of the country’s main hydroelectric dam for six weeks, disrupting the power supply to densely populated southern areas, including Pointe-Noire, the country’s economic hub, and severing rail links with Brazzaville, before a negotiated settlement was reached.

Deteriorating security situation

The security situation in the southern Pool prefecture deteriorated considerably in the last few months of the year. Attacks by Ninja militias on Congolese security forces in the larger towns of Kindamba, Goma Tsetse and Kinkala and in surrounding villages forced thousands to flee into the bush, to Brazzaville or to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dozens of civilians lost their lives, while others were subjected to brutal treatment by both sides.

In mid-December, the troubles spread to southern districts of Brazzaville (Makelekele and Bacongo), inhabited mainly by civilians originating from the south-western regions, and to the Bouenza prefecture. The resulting large-scale military operations in the affected districts of the capital caused more than 200,000 persons to flee, mostly to the Pool prefecture and to a lesser extent to northern Brazzaville, where they found shelter in public buildings, schools, churches and private houses. According to official sources, more than 400 people were killed in the violence, and the general insecurity in Makelekele and Bacongo prevented displaced civilians from returning home. Private houses and public installations were looted or destroyed in the areas affected by the fighting. State employees (including health personnel) fled their places of work, and public life came to a total standstill in the rest of Brazzaville.

The food situation in the capital became increasingly critical and prices of basic commodities and fuel doubled over the last three months of the year. The supply of goods from Pointe-Noire was disrupted, and the border with Kinshasa remained closed most of the time as of the beginning of August.

Coordinated approach by the Movement

At the beginning of February, the ICRC delegation in Brazzaville became independent from the former ICRC regional delegation in Kinshasa. Owing to the conflict, the ICRC remained the lead agency for organizing the Movement’s coordinated response to needs, while the Federation continued to assume its lead role in relation to the institutional development of the Congolese Red Cross.

Reorientation of activities

Humanitarian needs declined steadily in the early part of the year and the ICRC was able to phase out some of its emergency programmes, such as supplying food, material and medical assistance to health facilities. Although other aid agencies began to withdraw their staff as of April, the ICRC stayed on in order to develop water-supply and sanitation projects, agricultural rehabilitation, protection of and visits to detainees, promotion of humanitarian law and cooperation with the Congolese Red Cross.

At the end of March, as the overall health situation had returned to its pre-conflict status, the ICRC handed back management of 15 of the 19 integrated health centres (CSI*) in Brazzaville to UNICEF and Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit, which were responsible for running the centres before the conflict. Support for the remaining CSI was to be provided by Brazzaville’s Central Pharmacy. Repairs on four other badly damaged health centres was completed in July.

* CSI: Centre de santntI>

Emergency material assistance to the worst-affected quarters of Brazzaville also ended in March. In its stead, the ICRC launched a new programme for the most vulnerable groups in the capital, in close cooperation with the Congolese Red Cross. It also continued to assist workers and their families through food-for-work programmes, and to provide support for social welfare institutions.

With the Congolese postal services functioning once again, the Red Cross message service between Brazzaville and other countries was suspended at the beginning of May. Nevertheless, Congolese abroad were still able to use Red Cross messages to trace family members in Brazzaville with whom they had lost contact since the conflict.

Driven before the ADFL* advance on Kinshasa in May 1997, some 12,000 Rwandan refugees had crossed over into the Republic of the Congo, settling in camps along the border. In the process they lost all means of communication with their relatives and some children were separated from their families. In mid-July 1998 the Red Cross message service was extended to the entire Rwandan refugee community, enabling them to contact family members with whom they had lost touch.

* ADFL: Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire

Rehabilitation of water installations

In the first half of the year, the ICRC continued to help the SNDE* bring installations damaged during the 1997 conflict back into operation through maintenance and logistic assistance to the SNDE in Brazzaville and the north of the country. Once the worst of the conflict-related problems had been resolved, the ICRC discontinued its assistance but remained on hand in case of emergency. In mid-September the ICRC signed an agreement with the SNDE to rehabilitate its central maintenance workshop, which had been damaged and looted during the 1997 conflict. Work was completed by the end of the year.

* SNDE: Soci Nationale de Distribution d’Eau, the national water board

In May and June respectively, the ICRC and the SNDE signed agreements with the authorities of the Plateaux and Cuvette regions, for rehabilitation of the water-treatment plants in the regional capitals, Owando and Djambala. The Owando plant became operational at the end of August.

The ICRC continued to supply water by truck to the Kintele camp for Rwandan refugees until the end of the year, when the task was handed over to UNHCR.

Efforts to gain access to detainees

A number of people were arrested in connection with the 1997 conflict or for security reasons. Following the events, the ICRC made representations at the highest level with a view to visiting places of detention. A formal proposal, drafted in cooperation with government consultants, was submitted to the government in mid-May. Although the ICRC received positive signals with regard to this proposal, the signing of the document was postponed because of the outbreak of hostilities in December.

Dissemination for the armed forces

The ICRC concentrated its efforts on resuming its dissemination programme for the armed forces, on hold since May 1996. In September, an offer of technical support for the incorporation of humanitarian law in instruction programmes for the armed forces at all levels, including new recruits, was formally accepted. From October, sessions began throughout the country to familiarize young recruits (former militiamen) with the ICRC’s mandate, Red Cross activities and the basic rules of behaviour during armed conflict. Two seminars were also held under the agreement before the end of the year, one for members of the Chief of Staffs office and the other for instructors. The ICRC also established contacts with the gendarmerie and the police force with a view to initiating a dissemination programme for these units. As regards civil society, the delegation approached the Faculty of Law of the Marien Ngouabi National University and the Universitibre du Congo in order to encourage the introduction of a course in humanitarian law, and donated a standard set of reference books to both universities.

Emergency response to end-of-year crisis

As disturbances spread throughout the Pool region from the end of September, the ICRC provided support for local health facilities caring for the sick and wounded. After negotiating with the relevant authorities, delegates gained access to more than 10,000 displaced people stranded in two sites (Kinsoundi and Kingouari) in the troubled Makelekele area of Brazzaville. Food, material assistance and medical supplies were dispensed to displaced people in the capital’s northern neighbourhoods. On 21 December, the ICRC flew in two loads of urgently needed medical supplies to treat the wounded who were arriving in Brazzaville’s hospitals. Congolese Red Cross volunteers, working with the Federation’s support, dispensed first aid and transported the wounded to hospital. Following a survey by an ICRC team to determine protection and assistance priorities, daily convoys were set up to supply displaced people with water and medicines, as well as to provide them with a degree of protection.

IN 1998, THE ICRC:

- kept up its efforts to obtain access to all detainees falling within its mandate;

- established a network to collect allegations of excesses perpetrated by armed elements against the civilian population in Brazzaville, with a view to discussing the problems identified with the relevant authorities on a confidential basis;

- exchanged 4,763 Red Cross messages between Brazzaville and various destinations, some of which were from and for Rwandan refugees;
- reunited 95 unaccompanied Congolese children with dose relatives; registered 300 unaccompanied Rwandan children;

- distributed 284.2 tonnes of food (rice, beans, vegetable oil and salt) to 70,000 beneficiaries, including families taking part in food-for-work programmes, institutions for the disabled, unaccompanied children, street children and social welfare cases;
- donated 255 kg of seed, agricultural implements and 400 tonnes of food to 3 agricultural cooperatives around Brazzaville to help the population regain its self-sufficiency; provided 20 agricultural cooperatives with a total of 100 wheelbarrows;
- provided 3,500 families with vegetable seed kits and hoes to enable them to resume market gardening; supplied a stock of 100 kg of soya seed to replenish the seed bank of the Centre de Vulgarisation des Techniques Agricoles in Brazzaville;
- under food-for-work programmes, had several fishponds and 3 lakes which had been plundered during the conflict cleaned and restocked with tilapia;
- up to March, in close cooperation with the Congolese Red Cross, supplied 11,900 non-food kits (each comprising a tarpaulin, jerrycan, cooking pot, 2 blankets and 1 kg soap) to 89,000 people whose houses had been damaged or destroyed during the conflict in 1997; distributed 2,806 similar kits to 15,700 beneficiaries, including unaccompanied children, street children and the disabled;

- up to the end of March, provided regular medical assistance to 14 health centres and ad hoc supplies to a further 5;
- rehabilitated 23 health centres heavily damaged during the 1997 conflict; provided cleaning products and furniture and cleaned the premises in cooperation with the Congolese Red Cross;
- in November, provided assistance (soap, blankets, jerrycans and dressing kits) for the treatment of 30 wounded in the Kinkala and Vindza health centres;
- following the renewed hostilities in December, carried out 52 emergency medical evacuations from camps for displaced people, and Makelekele and Bacongo;
- transported more than 200 exhausted, weak or sick people emerging from hiding in the bush for their return to Brazzaville;
- from mid-December, assisted the 3 main hospitals in Brazzaville (university teaching hospital, the military hospital and the Talangai hospital) caring for war casualties and 3 ad hoc health facilities for displaced people staying temporarily in the Kinsoundi and Kingouari regions; distributed according to its own priorities medicines and medical supplies donated by WHO, UNICEF, Caritas and other humanitarian agencies;

- supplied tools, machinery protection equipment and other materials to rehabilitate and support the two key water-treatment plants in Brazzaville (Djiri and Djou which produced 70,000,000 litres a day for 80% of the city’s population;
- provided some 250 tonnes of chemicals and laboratory equipment to the Djiri and Djoulants to improve the quality of drinking water and facilitate quality control, and provided 20 tonnes of plumbing equipment to allow major repairs to the heavily damaged water-distribution system;
- gave food for work to 80 SNDE technicians who were still not receiving salaries;
- completed the rehabilitation of the SNDE’s central maintenance workshop, comprising reconstruction of 7 workshops, together with their electrical, plumbing and compressed air networks, and replacement of most of the looted tools and equipment;
- in March, provided the national electricity board with transport to enable it to replace and reconnect a 2-km-long cable to restore power to the Djiri water plant after a 3-week interruption in supply;
- continued to provide drinking water to 22 places in Brazzaville as needed and regularly supplied water by tanker truck (a total of 13,000,000 litres) to the Rwandan refugee camp at Kintele until the end of December, when this task was handed over to UNHCR;
- dug 4 new boreholes and equipped them with hand-pumps for the population of south Brazzaville not connected to the mains network;
- carried out a survey of the water-distribution network and hygiene conditions in Pointe-Noire in order to find the cause of the high incidence of diarrhoea in the city;
- constructed a 25,000-litre reservoir in Pointe-Noire, and installed ground protection devices for 13 boreholes supplying the town;
- in response to a cholera outbreak in Pointe-Noire, constructed a 25,000-litre reservoir and 2 double latrines and carried out other plumbing and repair work in the Tie-Tie hospital;
- provided technical materials for the Owando and Djambala water-treatment plants in the northern regions, rehabilitated damaged structures, repaired or replaced equipment and supplied 20 SNDE workers with food for work;
- in December, installed 2 collapsible storage tanks and 24 water taps at the university teaching hospital, supplied clean water to 2 hospitals and installed generators to enable their operating theatres to function;
- installed 15 collapsible storage tanks and water taps for over 30,000 people displaced by the disturbances who had settled in parts of north Brazzaville, provided 210,000 litres of clean water to 11 camps for displaced people and built 75 pit latrines at sites for the displaced;
- supplied the civil security service with disinfection and sanitation materials (gloves, body bags, blankets, masks, lime and chlorine) for collection of the dead in troubled areas;

- in April, together with the Federation, financed and took part in a meeting of 40 members of the Congolese Red Cross Central Committee, during which a programme of National Society activities in 1998 was approved;
- jointly with other components of the Movement, conducted a training programme for 13 future trainers of Congolese Red Cross first-aid volunteers;
- rehabilitated the former offices of the Congolese Red Cross in Brazzaville for use by the National Society’s national headquarters and communal branch, which had to move out of their premises for security reasons;

- in May, organized an information conference on humanitarian law for 50 high-ranking officers from the Ministry of Defence and the military academy;
- organized an ad hoc dissemination session for 5 officers and 80 non-commissioned officers during a military training course in mid-September;
- held a 3-day workshop in November for 17 officers responsible for training within the armed forces, gendarmerie and police and followed this up with a 5-day “train the trainers” seminar for 37 officers;
- held 11 dissemination sessions for a total of 2,200 young recruits (former militiamen);
- in mid-December, conducted a seminar for 37 instructors of the Congolese armed and security forces and senior officials of the Ministry of Defence to train the trainers of humanitarian law;
- conducted dissemination sessions for university professors and students interested in international law;
- when the violence broke out during the second half of December, produced and broadcast 2 radio spots to explain the ICRC’s emergency operations and to raise awareness among all bearers of weapons of the need to respect Red Cross personnel and property.
- organized several refresher courses for Red Cross volunteers working with displaced people.