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Letter of the Day: Arrest of Liberians in Ghana a Test of Democracy, Inefficiency

The Editor,
Please let me take this opportunity to present a clear scenario of the factors associated with the current attitudes of the Ghanaian authorities in the .arrest of vulnerable, helpless and powerless women of the Buduburam Liberian Refugee camp which is located at about 45 minutes drive from Accra. First of all, let me take this time to correct Mr.Gbassay Golee and co-worker who previously wrote about the incident about the Buduburam refugee camp.
The camp was established in October, 1990 when the first influx of refugees arrived in Ghana after the killing of President Samuel K. Doe in Monrovia. The killing of President Samuel K. Doe was an act that was master minded by the than leadership of ECOMOG under the directives of the Ghanaian peace-keeping force. So, the hatred that we are seeing today by arresting these peaceful women is something that is back dated from the very onset of the Ghanaian peace-keeping mission in Liberia.
Notwithstanding, if an individual is under consistent pressure and attacks, they might not always remember what is conscious taking place at the time. So, many Liberians despite of the Ghanaian military involvement in handling Former President Samuel Doe over to Prince Johnson of the INPFL to be killed with the intend to bring peace in the country, did not realize how most Ghanaian because of extreme nationalism, nepotism, hatred and extreme wickedness always hated Liberian refugees staying, schooling and living in their country. The camp did not start in 1996. The camp was established back in 1990.
I first became a resident of the Buduburam refugee camp back in June, 1995 when me along with my sisters and brother sort greener pasture from previous political, military and social upheavals in Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Unlike all the other three countries mention here, most Liberians considered Ghana as a safe haven. To them Ghanaian were considered generous people. In part this generalization is true, because under the leadership of Former President Jerry John Rawlings,refugees had the fullest support of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) leadership. Never a day during President Rawlings leadership where Liberians requested to leave the country forcefully or threaten by his administration. Most of the threats at the time came from
The opposition party of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) which was under then lead by John A. Kofour who is current the Ghanaian president. The NPP during most of her political platform use the threat of sending refugees back to their country, because the refugees were brought in the country by Rawlings. These threats were also enforced by local Ghanaian residents around the camp through kidnapping children to be used for ritual purposes, rapes, arm robberies and claiming land from some refugees after they paid X amount of money to their local Ghanaian neighbors to build their home.
The economy of Ghana in some way is flourishing because of the foreign exchange the refugees are importing in the country daily. Most refugees at the Buduburam refugee camp get their financial assistance from family and friends who live overseas. The refugees at the camp have no job even if they are qualify to work. If they are qualify to work, they have to option a work permit from the government a process that most refugees can not afford, because they don't have the money to undergo those frustrating processes.During my 11 years stay at the camp, I usually generated money from growing local vegetable crops which are sold in the local Liberian refugee markets. Refugee women and men who had some money to initiate a micro-business can not be allowed to sell their goods into the Ghanaian market place, but rather do their selling on the camp.
Over the years during my stay in Ghana, refugees have experience malpractices both from the Ghanaian local residence and the government under the presidency of J.A.Koffour through the Military. In February 2003, at about 4:00am about 200 well armed Ghanaian military and Police force surrounded the Buduburam Refugee Camp with the mission that refugees are rebels and as such kept arm in their homes and were also training rebels to destabilize the country. From 4:00am to 6:00pm on February 23, 2003, all the men of the camp were commanded to assemble at the soccer field where the women held their peaceful protest few weeks ago. After thorough search by both the armed soldiers and police, no arms were found neither did they find a site that was supposedly to be used for training rebels to escalate the country into civil unrest. The accusing of Liberian refugees are trouble makers, violent, prostitutes, robbers and thieves are all conclusion held on grounds that the government of the NPP party and it supporters have negative stereotypical behaviors against refugees a factor that one can conclude today to be the variables which is underlying their arrest of our mothers, sisters, daughters and children.
Over the past 17 years in Ghana, Liberian refugees have been law abiding, peaceful, humble and never violated any local or state laws of the Republic of Ghana. Most of the cases of violent activities on the camp came as a result of either the UNHCR not playing her role as refugee agency or the government using some clandestine acts of invasion violating the basic human rights of powerless, harmless and vulnerable people.I am not saying here that some refugees were not obedient in some way or the other, but most refugees at the camp are people who respect law and order.
The current situation happening at the camp at this point was something that was premeditated and planned by the government years before. In 2005 when I was still at the camp, rumors amongst local Ghanaian citizens was such that now that the camp was about to be closed, " you refugees will go back home whether you like it or not and if you dare not go, you will what will make a you to leave....." these were some of the statements by local Ghanaian citizens living around the camp. These people come of the camp regularly with the intend to visit and just look at the infrastructures that refugees built during these years of exile and they envy them. Refugees were able to built huge churches, schools, houses, recreational centers, and so on and these people create hatred that these things are built for refugees. Why should they be so naive? Does
being a refugee means that you should not be entitle to those basic things? In fact, who provided these things for the refugees? Is it the government of Ghana or UNHCR and her implementing partners? None of these infrastructures were built for refugees except for few school buildings that were constructed by UNHCR and one was later seized by the local Ghanaian chief and the hospital which was just reconstructed and few facilities added in 2005.
The government arrest of these women shows how evil hearted the current government is in relations to refugee issues. This hurt me personally, because some of us have develop friends with some Ghanaians and their government's behavior is about to spoil that relationships. Refugees over the past years, have been denied basic needs such as education or scholarships, proper health care,sanitation problems, food and proper nutrition, safe and clean drinking water and employment opportunities for those who are qualified to work. Very few Liberians have the opportunity to work in Ghana.
Both Decontee Tarlue and Tenneh Kamara where both women that I have worked with in Ghana at the Buduburam refugee camp. They are both hard working, committed to creating awareness of refugee issues as well as engaging in community based initiatives to foster self-help and sustainability. The women's protest that generally categorized by a peaceful move that never involve nakedness in any kind. Some media reported that these women were naked a statement that was publicized by the Spokesperson of the Ghanaian National Police Force. These statements are false as I have been in close contact with students of the Buduburam Student Movement, Network of NGOs and local concern individuals. It is clear to note here that the current action of the police and military was a clear indication of the government anti-refugee sentiments that has so engulfed their minds in dehumanizing refugees and taking their rights from them.
The issue here is not reintegration. Liberians were not a part of the country. We can only be reintegrated in Liberia, but not Ghana. We can only be integrated. Integration in Ghana is not a choice that can be forced on an individual. It is a matter of choice not force. How can Liberians be integrated in a society that rarely accept them and consider them humans?
Most Ghanaian consider Liberians to be robbers, thieves, liars, rebels and prostitute. Being a refugee is not something anybody want to be. It is a life associated with internal pain, isolation, extreme poverty and a warehouse of stereotypes. In Ghana, when you identify yourself as a refugee, the community consider as an outcast and lawless person which is not true. I have some friends who are national of Ghana and they become surprise when they come and see how refugees are living...peacefully.
The government of Liberia and the international community as well as UNHCR need to take immediate step to handle this disgrace on our continent. Why should a people who call themselves civilize behave in such a way that is characterized by wickedness and lost of human dignity. Is this the freedom and justice we are proclaiming daily in our national heritage? I stand to defend any position taken in this article. If the United Nations through its refugee agency is planning her role, this incident shouldn't have happened.
Thanks,
Jenkins MacedoWorcester State College jmacedo1@worcester.edu

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