Thanks to everyone who has pulled together as we struggle to help relieve the Human Rights fight our Liberian refugees in Ghana have experienced over the past years and now more so over the last few weeks. The news that 500 Liberian women with their children were thrown into trucks and buses at 4 a.m. when no one was looking, that troops from the Ghanaian military actually tear gassed these women who were only acting non-violently by sitting out to have their voices heard was very heartbreaking.
From the past news, the women who are rightful human beings were tired of the injustices they have suffered over the years, and without their men, took up this project of letting the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR know their wishes. They only asked for $1000.00 if they were to be repatriated to Liberia, and were told by the UNHCR that their demand was too high. Well, we have discovered that the amount is not too high for refugees who have had nothing to live on for almost two decades to ask for. If they should be repatriated to Liberia, where there are no jobs yet, where the country is recovering from a fourteen year war, where returning refugees have no lands or homes or food waiting for them, how is $1000.00 too much to ask of the United Nations Refugee Organization that is spending more than ten times as much on other refugees from other countries? The government of Ghana reacted to this attempt to be heard by rounding up innocent women into trucks and buses, so we must stop their deportation. We must not allow this to happen to our already traumatized war victims. War is not a one nation problem. Let Ghana remember that Liberia was home to hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians for over a century before the Liberian civil war. Let the people of Ghana make their government work things out with the Liberian government as well as the UN so that human beings are treated like human beings.
Liberian women sit out, a sit out that caused them to be thrown onto trucks to a secret location.
Liberia’s President Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf soon after her 2006 inauguration in Monrovia.
As I have watched this incredible event in Ghana, many human rights activists have also been following with me. Unfortunately, I am not too well from flu, but the matter makes my flu worse because these people are not only refugees in a far away place. They include my younger sister-in-law, many relatives, friends, and other very great Liberian mothers who have been made low by war. Yes, they are not perfect, and their host country of Ghana has done well, and yet, they have suffered many injustices and abuses that should be brought to the world’s attention. They cannot and should not be repatriated as if they were dogs.
Today, there is finally some news from Liberia, a statement from President Sirleaf on the state of the crisis there. Of course, like any government, it is a very diplomatic statement. But I was encouraged by the statement however. The fact that she is also strongly urging talks by dispatching a representative to Ghana to discuss the crisis. Sadly, the government statement also focussed more attention on the violation of the laws of Ghana by Liberians, apologizing to Ghana and promising citizens of Ghana living in Liberia safety than on the injustice of rounding up sleeping protesters onto buses. I do hope that the Ghanaian government will in turn be peaceful as President Sirleaf is seeking to be. That Ghana will also promise Liberians living in Ghana safety and equal treatment as human beings, and get them off that camp or whatever to be returned to the Buduburam camp where their departure can be processed properly.
On the other hand, I am proud of the Liberian House of Representatives that according to The InquirerThe Inquirer News Paper in Monrovia, strongly expressed their disappointment in Ghana’s actions in a statement. Up until now, I had ignored this group, and even though I do not agree with all they do, this is a plus for them. Thank-you, my people. Read the pasted clips from The Inquirer
“—-At the same time, the House of Representatives has expressed anger over the behavior of the United Nations High Commission on Refugee (UNHCH) against Liberian refugees residing in the West African State of Ghana.
At its regular session yesterday, members of that august body said the demand made by Liberian refugees living in Ghana that UNHCR should give them US#1000.00 as a resettlement benefit before returning home is reasonable as compared to US$15,000 being spent by the UN agency on the construction of shelters for each Sierra Leonean family in Liberia.
Montserrado County Representative, Edward Forh said if such an amount can be given for the construction of shelters for the Sierra Leonean refugees then it’s difficult to believe that the UNHCR cannot spend US$1,000 for Liberian refugees under the same program.
He said UNHCR must not practice double-standard in dealing with the refugee issues by turning down the Liberian refugees’ US$1,000 requests. He then described the action by the Ghanaian Government against Liberian Refugees as unfortunate and called on plenary to request from the UNHCR what he calls equitability.
Other representatives are appealing to plenary to cite Information Minister, Laurence K. Bropleh to provide explanation on the status of the refugees and the treatment against them by the Ghanaian government.”
–Excerpted from The Inquirer Newspaper in Monrovia, Liberia
Before I close on updating you, let me say that I spoke with an official at the Refugees International, with The Advocates for Human Rights based in Minnesota, several of you who have expressed concern over these women’s plight, sent out e-mails asking you to kindly sign the new petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/buduburam/
Now, here is a news Columnist from Monrovia, Mr. Ekena Wesley, who was also a resident in the camp for many years, repatriated voluntarily years ago, and is now living in the hard times in Monrovia even while making a difference. I am proud of his efforts to keep writing and serving his country. Here is what he had to say:
Can Ghana’s Interior Minister Seriously Call These Women “Ungrateful Refugees?”
By Ekena Wesley
Monday, March 17, 2008, the BBC Focus on Africa Program in a live interview with a its correspondent, David Amanor told its millions of listeners that it was inconceivable that the Ghanaian Police resorted to a heavy-handed approach to dealing with Liberian refugee women who had only been staging a peaceful sit-in since February 19, 2008.
David Amanor referred to the presence of tanks that had been positioned at the Refugee Camp by both the Police and Military. Could it appear that some full-scale war had started from the thin air? Few days ago, we made our views known about the way forward in view of the complexity of human kind and the obtaining variable of different situations that will dictate where we stand from time to time. This does not indicate any form of ambivalence as it were.
The BBC journalist who is anchored with the African Service, we supposed was vacationing in his home country but he did maintain some objective orientation in the face of the heavy-handedness associated with the action of the security forces that descended on the Refugee Camp. Hundreds of women had been bundled up and taken to unknown destinations. One account suggested Tamale in the North while the other said Aflao towards Ghana’s border with Togo. A Police source said Shai Hills in Eastern Region of Ghana. What could be the motive in all of this folks?
Despite the semblance of peace that has prevailed ever since Liberians took refuge in Ghana, there have equally been some of the harshest and appalling moments for the refugees. We heard live on the BBC a text message from one Ghanaian to the BBC branding Liberians as trouble-makers who have abused the traditional so-called hospitality of Ghana. That does not only sound frivolous but clearly points to the ignorance of the texter who doesn’t know Ghanaians live in other parts of the world.
What would be the justification for heavily clamping down of women simply carrying on sit-ins and that are no threats to public order although the authorities claim that was the case? That was out-rightly contested by the BBC correspondent in the live interview on Focus on Africa after he had visited the camp to get firsthand information about the grotesque media stunt with a view to besmear the refugee women. If anyone decides to question the credibility of the BBC on grounds that David Amanor’s analysis contradicts those of the authority reserves the right to do so but the truth will always triumph.
Mind you, when we seize such opportunity to reckon certain pattern or trend, it is on the basis that our research stems from the independence and objectivity of the likes of the BBC. For some, the BBC might not be the Gospel according to Precision Journalism and we won’t be surprise why they hold such thoughts.
Strangely, a senior member of the administration in Accra takes to an international broadcast network to present a total contradiction of what the BBC had reported. The sitting Minister informed the world that the women were in their nudity. Gush! What is the meaning of that? This is a questionable representation of the entire event the BBC correspondent had presented on the refugee women sit-in action. The BBC questioned the manner in which the security forces had acted in response to a non-violent protest action.
So, in the name of damage control, the world gets fed with innuendos as a cover-up for the use of extreme force on the refugee women. Liberians are a grateful people and will at no time ignore the role of West African governments that have and continue to provide safe havens for our people when conflict had beset our nation. There were times refugee took responsibility for many things the vast majority knew nothing about simply at the expense of deliberate generalization.
There is an entire community called ‘Agege’ made pre-dominantly of Ghanaians in Logos, Nigeria. Every county in Liberia has what is referred to as ‘Fanti Town’. What is the point here? We are all guests in each other’s country but some of us often become extremely xenophobic to the core. Our political leaders cannot use glamorous meetings to preach one thing while the reality on the ground is entirely different.
The refugees left their country under perilous conditions for safety. Even if they err, they should not be treated inhumanely although the current reality in Ghana seems not to be what is being media-framed. Let our hospitable brothers and sisters don’t taint the spirit of their so-called hospitality. We need each other from time to time. While it is true we disagree with the demands of the refugees on the one hand, we are sadly baffled that amid the independent account gathered by the BBC the women could be bused in so hostile a manner. But the authorities say something totally obscure.
We again followed closely David Amanor’s report on Network Africa by Tuesday morning after his earlier interview of Monday evening Focus on Africa). Stuff like a breach of ‘Public Order was drawn out of the window and dismissed by the Network Africa’s report. Why?
Evidently, the journalist saw such thing as such violation. The Interior Minister suggests that Ghanaian law requires that permission is sought five days prior to any demonstration. Was that the case? David Amanor’s report did not say ‘a demonstration’ but described the refugee women’s action as sit-in, which did not interfere with traffic or cause any disturbance let along breach of public order. Total subterfuge!
Worst still, we are fed with such trash as: ‘Liberian refugees are ungrateful’. This is a joke and no African who has ever visited this country; lived here and even rode on the backs of the generosity of Liberia’s tolerance will bear testimony to this open verbal diarrhea coming from a senior public servant. If such comments emerge from the highest echelons of state power – what else can we believe?
We have absolutely no reason to present Liberians in a style that is opposite their orientation. It does not benefit us in any respect and so we do not seek to brag about it. A complete joke that refugees are ungrateful. Mind those who forget their history are doomed. Although it is unclear yet, there are plans to deport the refugee women according to highly placed sources.
Mr. Ekena Wesley is a freelance journalist residing in Monrovia, Liberia. My younger brother-in-law, Media Consultant, Award Winner-2006-2007 Columnist of the Year, and can be reached at the following number: 00231-6-846-052