(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Pool region normalising, ICRC says

[Congo] View of Mindouli, in the Pool, south of Congo. [Date picture taken: May 2006]
Laudes Martial Mbon/IRIN

The humanitarian situation is finally normalising in the Republic of Congo's war-weary Pool region, according to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

"Despite some ongoing banditry, it's a long way from what it was in 2002 and 2003," Christophe Martin, head of the ICRC delegation in the country, said on Monday at a news conference in the capital, Brazzaville.

Civil war in the Pool region between 1998 and 2002 caused massive displacement of civilians and destroyed infrastructure.

Martin said the ICRC maintained a humanitarian presence in the Pool region because it remained cut off from the rest of the country, and "neglected by the central authority".

The Swiss-based organisation provides health facilities, clean water and agricultural support but by January 2007 plans to close its offices in Mindouli, a sub-prefecture 140 km south of Brazzaville and one of the most populated areas in the country before the fighting, with 70,000 inhabitants. Barely 25,000 people had returned to their homes as of May.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in ROC, which issued a report in March 2005 describing the situation in the Pool as a "neglected crisis", remained circumspect. "There has been some improvement in the region," said Bamouni Dieudonné, OCHA's humanitarian adviser and head of office in RoC, on Tuesday, "but to say that the crisis is over – I can't believe it.

"There are still vulnerable areas which need special attention," he said.

Some 15,000 weapons have not yet been retrieved in the Pool region and Brazzaville, although plans are under way to do so with a US $2 million project funded by the European Union and the UN Development Programme.

About 5,000 former rebel fighters in the Pool region with Frederic Bintsangou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi, are also to be demobilised by the country's National Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration Bureau, which is receiving $17 million from the World Bank.

lmm/dh/oss/mw

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