Liberian Refugees At Buduburam Camp In Ghana Demonstrate, Stirring Up Rage In A Country That Gave Them Santuary For Eighteen Years, But Hey, Before You Condemn Them, Remember That No One Knows Tomorrow

patiricias-favorite-photo-by-barry-reeger.jpg

Kwamena Bartels, who is the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Ghana in West Africa has warned Liberian refugees living at the Buduburam Refugee Camp against their protest demonstrations. The Minister has demanded an end to the demonstration, making clear to the refugees that they have stretched his country’s patience to its limits. He has warned the demonstrating refugees at the Buduburam Camp in Ghana that their demonstration is illegal, and that they are violating the Public Order Act of 1994 that prevents such public disruption as is reportedly being displayed by these refugees.

The Liberian refugees are not happy about being asked to assimilate into Ghanaian society after almost two decades of living in a camp and isolated from the larger society. Others who are considering being repatriated to Liberia are demanding 1,000. a head for their voluntary return to their native Liberia. All of this is causing anger both in their host country of Ghana and among people who think that such attitude from refugees is a sign of ingratitude and a lack of feelings for their own plight as war refugees.

For nearly eighteen years, an average of 35,000 Liberians have resided in the Buduburam Camp in Ghana. But the camp has also been home to other African war refugees, and most recently, there are reports that other African refugees from Togo, Sudan, and other African countries have made the camp their home. Of course, we who have followed Liberian news know that during the 1990s and up to the last year, many Liberian refugees and other nationals posing as Liberian refugees have been resettled in the US and other western countries from the Buduburam Camp. The presence of newer refugees from around other wars in Africa coupled with the presence of Liberian unwillingness to return home or settle permanently in Ghana has of course added to the strain of living in the Buduburam camp even while placing an added strain on the host country of Ghana.

kwamena-bartels.jpgKwamena Bartels, Minister of the Interior

I was browsing around the web in search of information on this pressing situation in Ghana, and stumbled upon a Ghanaian blogger’s site. Despite the moderate tone of the blogger, the comments from the readers were the harshest I’ve seen in a long time, and I couldn’t help feeling the frustration of both the refugees and those who felt the need to take their anger out on the Liberian refugees. There were comments like, “How dare these ugly Liberians try to bite the hand that feeds them?” “How ungrateful?? Some actually commented, “God Bless Ghana!” “Throw out these ingrates,” and on and on. After reading these harsh comments, I couldn’t help but wonder when we as Africans will ever learn from our common mistakes? I wondered when Liberians as a people will also learn? The fact that we are now all over the globe is not sufficient reason to quit the fighting and complaining, maybe.

“Nobody knows tomorrow,” we used to hear. Years ago when my family and I arrived here to the US, I met a woman from Sierra Leone who introduced herself to me by calling me “one more ugly Liberian.” Without even getting to know me, she narrated her story of how Liberian girls used to steal Sierra Leonean men from Sierra Leonean girls, and how now my country was fighting an ugly war because we deserved what was happening to us. She claimed that we would all die like rats. I met her at the Michigan State University campus soon after we fled the war in the early 1990s. I was on a speaking trip with my husband to address the African Christian fellowship that year, and to my shock, there I was being reminded that my losses and my near death experience and my destitute state at that moment in the early 1990s was due to a simple matter of women on the two sides of the Mano River fighting over men. Haha, I could not help but feel sorry for my African sister. I could hardly argue with a woman who thought that the social issues over men palava were sufficient reason to send an entire nation to hell or that these very silly reasons were enough to wish a country of both men and women dead, and particularly to another woman who had never had any reason to be a part of her fight.

Of course, these are different times and these are different issues today, but all reveal themselves in the same stupid fights.

Sadly however, it was not long when her country, Sierra Leone, was also pulled into the war raging in Liberia. So, how dare those who claim that Liberian refugees are ungrateful also call them such ugly names when no one knows tomorrow.

Wasn’t it the cruel leader, Samuel Doe of Liberia who warned us Liberians during the early days of the civil war that “the rat’s trap is not for the rat alone?” Ironically, he was referring to us Liberians, not to other Africans, but his comments would go on to be true of not just Liberia, but for the entire region around Liberia. Don’t get me wrong; Samuel Doe was not the sort of person to quote proverbs to us Liberians. But our people also say, “If bad luck calls your name, banana breaks your teeth.”

But what happened to Liberia, the home of the once mighty US dollar in Africa, the place where immigrants were always welcome, the gateway to the United States, the place where Ghanaian nationals felt at home and lived becoming part of us, the place where Africans were always welcome– what happened to these now refugees could happen to just any one country or to any other African in our unstable world today.

Having said this, let me get down to the real issue.

Is it true that some of the refugees who are angrily striking out against the option to assimilate into the Ghanaian society or be returned to their homeland of Liberia have also reportedly prevented their own children from attending school and food from being distributed? Sad, isn’t it?

But isn’t it too late for any strike or demonstration against a country that has kept them alive in its borders all these years? This is not to say that life has been the most wonderful for them in the camp. In fact, here are some quotations of visitors to the camp and a petition drive for your review of conditions:

***

—–A Petition For Increased Involvement of the UNHCR on behalf of the refugees in Buduburam Camp, Ghana — http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/buduburam/

“...While formal labor statistics are not available, it is painfully clear that most of the camp’s residents have no consistent employment and rely on odd jobs such as transporting loads by wheelbarrow. Those individuals who have family members or friends abroad to send them money via Western Union are somewhat better-off. Living costs at the camp are quite high. For example: 2 euro per day per person for water (which may or may not be potable), 36 euro for a 25-kilo sack of rice.”

____________

“…Life on camp is difficult for the Liberians – its difficult for them to get jobs off of camp (Ghanaians are always appreciative that they’re here) and with 40,000+ of them its hard to survive. At meetings one of the main topics is always people worrying that people are literally starving here on camp, especially children. There is no running water or electricity on camp. People are super nice here but I’ve been asked a couple of times what am I doing here to help the people... “

“…The camp is dirty as santitation is a HUGE problem on camp but the people are just doing what they can to get by…

“…The Liberians all really want to go back to Liberia or of course to the States or Europe but they dont have the funds and back in Liberia they dont have anything to go back to – no home, no job, family scattered all over the globe or dead…”

—-“Welcome to Buduburam” November 19th 2007 by Danielle Welcome to Buduburam Refugee Camp (Web blog posting)–November 19th 2007 , a blog by Danielle_____

***

Yes, conditions have not been great for the refugees. Anyone who has been a refugee knows that conditions for all refugees around the globe are never easy. The status of a refugee in many parts of the world means that you do not become a part of that country. You are set aside to hopefully be returned to your homeland or be resettled in a new place some day. For these Liberians, it has taken some eighteen years. Some others of course, joined them in the last few years, but for many of these refugees, the camp is now home. But to go on a demonstration and stop your children from attending school, to defy the host country’s laws, to demand payment in order to guarantee a return to your original homeland is a major mistake.

No matter how we take it, Ghana has done well by Liberians.

Ghana stood up for Liberia during the civil war, opened its doors to help Liberians fleeing to find a place to lay their heads, and despite the conditions of the camp, (which had more to do with the United Nations than with Ghana) it is about time that Liberians get out of the camps and return home. Those who have been offered sanctuary to settle in Ghana should take the opportunity instead of causing another war in another country. It is about time that Liberians stop complaining and move on. Many of us have relatives in that camp, and must do all we can to encourage them to move on when the opportunity comes up.

Other people who still call themselves Liberians are just tired of the names we have inherited from the war as a people. Yes, we know that there are many former combatants among the civilians. But hey, the war is over- okay, let those who do not want to fight live or move on-okay.

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33 Responses to “Liberian Refugees At Buduburam Camp In Ghana Demonstrate, Stirring Up Rage In A Country That Gave Them Santuary For Eighteen Years, But Hey, Before You Condemn Them, Remember That No One Knows Tomorrow”

  1. Dystin Johnson Says:

    I was a volunteer from the UK at Buduburam Settlement last year and am horrified by the arrests that have happened there yesterday (March 17th). The writer here has not made clear the nature of the demonstration held by the refugees; the women and children of the camp where holding a sit down peaceful protest on the football field of the camp, sleeping there in the cold overnight and bearing the heat during the day. Of course no mother wants to take their child out of school, but all the people of Budu have to fight with is their actions, and I personally am hugely proud that they choose such powerful and peaceful means to make their ignored voices heard.
    Many on camp wish to be repatriated back to Liberia, however the $5.00 grant currently on offer is a barrier to those people returning to their country, the fear of course being that life will become even worse than in Ghana – come on, think realistically of being in that situation – to take your children into further poverty and misery? Would you do it? I am not denying that there is naivety about some refugees in that the ‘holy grail’ of being settled to a Western Country is a goal that is seen through rose colored spectacles and unrealistic, however the prejudice towards Liberians in Ghana is disgusting and ignorant, pitching African against African in a lack of understanding for a fellow human being’s struggles and history.
    Yes, there is much that the refugees can do to aid themselves more in a peaceful future, many find this a challenge because of the battle scars they carry, but 99% do try very, very hard if not for their own final peace but then at least for their children’s; there is not a person in this world that does not struggle for that.
    Surely the need here is compromise and further mediated discussion? Arresting women and children exercising (as I see it) a right to peaceful protest is not an answer. Twenty years is a short time, and their will be ‘growing pains’ towards assimilation and re-settlement, but please make sure that when you think of this place and these people, do so with an openness and willingness for understanding, these were the qualities of the beautiful Liberian children I had the honor to work with in Buduburam Settlement.
    Dystin Johnson – London UK

    • Adrian R Bailey Says:

      i want to cry every day cos i have made friend with 7 people on the cam sum have lost muthers & farther & sum have lsot there whole family i know of two boys who are just 17 years old they have know one at all to turn to . i am not working but yet i send the 6 friends i know on the camp what money i can . one of my friends has a niece that all the family he has left in the worl he dosent know whare the rest of the family are . the 7 friends have asked me to help them come to the uk . i sat one night working out with one friend in the cam how much it would cost for them to come to the the per person it would cost for one person to travel to the uk £550 to £650 pounds . the pepole in the wetsen world don’t know whats going on in Ghana or know about the camp there . if i had the money i would help them to come to the uk

  2. poetryforpeace Says:

    Dystin,

    You are my hero. Thanks a million for your input. There are many readers who have and will be helped by your insight and comments. I have not been to Buduburam, but I already have found the support for my trip out there in July, so it they are not all cast away in a new camp or deported, I might see what you have seen. But we need to use the few resources we have to help bring the news of Liberian refugees and refugees everywhere to the forefront across the world. Thanks a lot and Bless you.

    Patricia

  3. Ivan Says:

    I really do not know what going on with the Ghanaian They did a great job by letting liberians into their Country for which I know that Liberians will also do for the Ghanaian if they were in need. But this does not give the Ghanaian Government the right take the Liberians LOST Liberians or Rats.
    I was in Ghana before coming to the U.S. I have seen Liberians been Killed, cuts and placed infront of the Camp and there was nothing done about it. The police did not do anything about 3 deaths that I was. My cusin went to Ghana from the U.S and was killed by some Ghanaian that we all know that they did it, but the police did not do anything again because Liberians are Refugees In Ghana.
    Now MY 2 OLDER SISTERS and my little SISTER are in the HANDS of the police In Ghana. IF ANYTHING HAPPEN TO THEM, IT WILL NOT GO FREE THIS TIME!!!! EYE FOR AN EYE.
    THANKS THE GHANAIAN BUT LIBERIANS ARE NOT DOGS AND CATS

  4. poetryforpeace Says:

    Thanks, Ivan. I think we need to call on the Liberian government as well to see what they are doing to alleviate this situation. I have not heard anything yet, so I’m posing questions.

    Patricia

  5. Henry Johnson Says:

    Ghanaian shouldn’t be that weaked to Liberian. They strip Liberian women in the streets. They beat some of them. Some fled in the bushes to take rescue. I want the international community to know about this. If it’s how to threat refugees. How would one be so unhuman and uncivilize.

    By not knowing how to deal with simple problem.
    I think Ellen need to do some thing about the Liberian refugees in Ghana. They are being persecuted every day by some inhuman Ghanaian folks who don’t have concious.
    My words to the Liberian in Buduburam is for them to go back home to help develop our grt nation. “Land of the free”
    Because it was the same thing with Nigerian living in Ghana during the Biafra war.

    They were being persecuted just like the Liberian refugees is today.

  6. cecil Says:

    Africa can never be a united states of Africa, Liberia has refugees camps on its soil from other African countries , what a shame helpless women and children sitting in a open field because they fear to go back home from memories of the war have been beating by Ghanaian police , these people have lost everything in life ( family members, property) they are not ungrateful, being a refugee is not a crime , they are the victims, they did not ask to for what people like Charles Taylor, prince Johnson and so on have done to them and their family members , I can understand them not wanted to go back with most of the war lords still passing around in Liberia some which are in the present government as senators , what is $100 , be careful how U treat refugees cause one day U could end up in their shoes

    • james Says:

      when will liberians learn frm the horro that took their country divide them all over the globe…..if liberians re try to turn againts ghanaians,then the world hve a problem.Charles Taylor did not think of the liberian people as human being,he killed ,cut,burn thousands of his own people for several years.And ghanaian recieved u as brothers and sister becus no one no`s tomorrow….and now u liberia ‘refuges’are turning againt the ghanaian people and the government….LORD HAVE MERCY……..james frm NIGERIA………

  7. dave massaquoi(liberian student in nigeria) Says:

    THANKS FOR THE INSIGHT SO FAR. I APPRECIATE YOUR WORK. MAY GOD HELP MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS TO GET OUT OF THIS SITUATION.

  8. poetryforpeace Says:

    Thanks, Dave. Thanks Cecil. We are all hoping that the governments of Liberia and Ghana will work to end this sad experience. Many of our relatives cannot find their children or find their mothers still.

    Patricia

  9. Hilaryqb Says:

    i am gonna show this to my friend, man

  10. goodfish Says:

    where is the united nations
    i think this is their jop they have to do something imediately
    i have recived too much complaining from that camp in ghanna

  11. Christine Carter Says:

    I am friend by email with some people from this camp. They do not have proper sanitation, food or good shelter. They do not have the medicines they need. These are basic needs of every human being. I wish to see this changed. How do we change this? Who do we ask? These are people who have been traumatized by war and need a chance to rebuild their lives. Where do we go to ask for help? These are fathers, husbands, mothers, wives, and children. They are people. A chance to live and make a living for their people is a basic human right.

  12. poetryforpeace Says:

    Hi Christine,

    Your comments renewed the grief I am still going through. I have not blogged my recent visit to Buduburam Camp where I visited refugees and my sister-in-law, took photos with her, and left her there and went to Liberia. Two weeks later, she died suddenly because of lack of medical care. She was just recently buried in Monrovia, and I feel too sad yet to confront the memory of what I saw in the camp and how a young girl at thirty-eight dropped and died just two weeks after I was there to see her.

    Thanks for responding to this. I will blog my memory there and of seeing her after twenty years just to lose her again, when I am comfortable to open up.

    Patricia

  13. C.S. Nyonneoh, Liberian living in Ghana/buduburam cam Says:

    Let the people of Ghana know that….the Liberians that they are suffering today, will be the same Liberians they will run to tomorrow.

    • james Says:

      U CAN BLAME GHANAIAS FOR YOUR SUFFERING`S ”NYONNEOH’U SHOULD RATHER BE GREATFUL TO THEM FOR SOME REASON…….WHAT IF THE PEOPLE OF GHANAIAS AND THE GOVERNMENT DECIDES TO TAKE ALL LIBERIANS BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY?.ITS THEIR LAND AND COUNTRY.. THE UNITED NATION CAN NOT QEATION THE LAW OF THE COUNTRY…………SO THE ARE STILL PEOPLE WISHING FOR WAR IN THE REST OF AFRICAN COUNTRIES..I DIS AGREE WITH UR COMEMT SAYING GHANAIANS WILL TO RUN TO LIBERIA…………..LET US RATHER UNITE AND PRAY FOR PEACE ACROSS AFRICA……………………………..JAMES FRM NIGERIA….

  14. poetryforpeace Says:

    I agree with you, C.S. Ghanaians have always needed Liberians. Can anyone recall that the largest immigrant community in Liberia and the largest naturalized population in Liberia before the Liberian civil war were from Ghana? Yes, Ghana, that was not the most populous nation had the largest immigrant community in Liberia. There were Ghanaians living as far away as in my home village of Tugbakeh. I had a teacher from Ghana who taught us songs in Akan. Today, Ghana is great, so everyone has forgotten.

  15. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  16. megan fox Says:

    Sign: umsun Hello!!! rcuwwymhyw and 5736ssgfhphzye and 4428Thanks. We look forward to hearing from you again and for your opinions on the world of work.

  17. Terry Obruni Says:

    All the real Liberia People I met in Ghana – are real good people – GOD bless Liberia –
    And thank-you Ghana for taking care of those people for 18 years – We are all Human beings – but LIFE goes- am i lie
    GOD BLESS GHANA.
    PEACE to all

    Terry – AMEN

  18. Eliza Says:

    Hello I am Eliza I am a Ghanaian Living in Ghana.Please I want to make some thing say some thing on this internet.I am not a Liberian but I am hearing so many bad thing about the Liberian which of cause is not right.Do you know what is going on in Ghana?My own Ghanaian people are the one that is not treating the Liberian good here.When the food come for the Liberian for our Ghanaian people to give the food to the Liberian people they will sell the food.I don’t like what they are doing to then Ok so let us stop saying bad thing against then…………….

  19. Eliza Says:

    Ghanaian Let us love the Liberian as we love our self.Remember the Liberian was the one who make us to start eating rice………….

  20. Rev. Steve Ben-Naimah Says:

    Dear Friend, I am pastor Steve. I was in the series of meetings held with Mr. Kwamena Bartels. I was arrested, jail and persecuted in Court for speaking to the media in defense of 659 women and congregants. I am here in the U S studying now for my masters degree. Contact me for revelation. Right now Liberian Refugees are being kill in Ghana. Five-5 Refugees were killed yesterday as they prepare for Church service as they tried to elect refugees leaders on February 13, 2011.
    Thanks, Steve

  21. poetryforpeace Says:

    Steve,

    These are serious charges. Can you help me verify the source of your information that five Liberians were killed yesterday, Feb. 13? If there is a newspaper source, a person and contact number, etc., please call and leave your number at my e-mail at: pjabbeh@gmail and I will respond to you by calling you for that information. We need to contact some Human Rights people if this is so and find out who’s doing the killing of our people. I can blog that also.

    Thanks

    Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

  22. Joe Says:

    There is nothing much I get to say to the Ghanaian people that is in this country…………You people get to know that the Ghanaian that is in Liberian are many then you guys are treating us like this………..Do you people know that some of our parent are know were to be fine now……….Because is all about what happen yeserday……….I over hear that police man overradio saying that they dad not short at any one on the came testerday……

  23. Joe Says:

    some of our friend were kill yesterday……..then the police are saying that we were storning then that is wat kill the people that were kiss………..May God punching that from your mouth ………..only God will judge you all……….Remember that Ghanaian are in Liberian too ok……Watyou do to us here if we haven to go back home we will do that same to your people too ok………..

  24. Joe Says:

    May God punching those that say bad thing about the liberian ……………..I am hearttoday but I will not forget about wat happen to our Liberian bro and sister……

  25. Sally Black Says:

    Hello friends,

    bless all Africans as we the people of the entire world discover our inner peace and spread it outward to our famlies, our communities, our cities, our nations and our world.

    We must stop fighting, stop creating the other. We are one.

  26. poetryforpeace Says:

    Thanks, Sally.
    Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

  27. james Says:

    GO BACK HOME AND DO THE SOME TO GHANAIANS IN LIBERIA AND SEE WHAT WILL HAPPEN…..GHANA IS A VERY PEACEFUL COUNTRY,DAT SOME OFF THE WEST AFRICANS GO FO HOLIDAYS AND ITS A PLACE TO BE……U LIBERIANS CAN NOT DAMAGE THE IMAGE OFF GHANA…….IF U CONTINUE THIS KIND OFF TRAIT TO GHANAIANS I PROMISE U,NO COUNTRY WILL COME TO UR AID NOT EVEN NIGERIA OR THE UN…………TRUST ME AND MARK MY WORDS……..JAMES FRM NIGERIA…..

  28. poetryforpeace Says:

    James,

    You have no basis for your argument. Ghanaians have always lived in Liberia, have always enjoyed our country, and no one can come on this site and speak of Ghanaians as though they do not need others. What’s happening in Ghana to Liberian refugees is a Human Rights violation, and cannot be tolerated. War is not one man’s problem. Today, it is Liberians needing refuge; tomorrow, it will be Nigerians, Ghanaians, etc. Right now, people in the Ivory Coast are now in refugee camps in Liberia. Do you want the Liberian government to raid their camps and kill some of them? When you leave a comment on this blog, be careful what you say.

    Paricia Jabbeh Wesley

  29. Marion Says:

    @James, Do you think it is not important to speak out when innocence lives are being wiped off the surface of this earth just for something that could be easily resolved through conflict resolution? Moreover, could you have the same view if it was a different nationality? You see, in time like these let’s carefully choose our words. Let’s use critical reasoning and see it from a widely perceptive. Those people could have been your brothers, sisters, mother, or even your child. Could you have seen it the same way? Those kinds of behavior will never being African together because we always cover the wrong other do and the wrong we do. Once again thanks sis Patricia for leaving such a wonderful comment

  30. poetryforpeace Says:

    I appreciate you, Marion. I really value such a voice and the kind of discourse you offer. James is not seriously analyzing the problem. Liberia has contributed so much to Ghana that the last country on earth to treat our people badly should be Ghana. Again, thanks for your comments.


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