Monrovia – As the deadline given for Liberians and others to vacate the decommissioned Buduburam Refugee Camp in Gomoa District in Ghana draws nearer, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), through its President Bishop Kortu K. Brown is calling on the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to exert more concrete diplomatic efforts to abort the possibility of hundreds of its citizens returning home in a disenchanted and frustrated manner.
It can be recalled that the Government of Ghana sometimes ago requested thousands of Liberians residing on the camp to vacate the area in line with the agreed deadline of September 30.
Following the end of the grace period given, the country’s security actors early attempted to go ahead with the demolition in a bid to compel Liberians, who considered themselves as refugees, to relinquish the camp to make way for development.
But their actions met a stiff resistance from not only Liberians, residing on the camp, but scores of other refugees from neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
The situation prompted Ghanaian authorities to extend the demolition exercise of the decommissioned refugee camp to December 2 of this year.
But speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa at his residence recently, Bishop Brown stated that the George Weah led administration should ensure that Liberians staying in Ghana as refugees are treated fairly in keeping with international protocols and statutes.
He said in the wake of a pronounced demolition of the camp by the government of Ghana, the wellbeing of Liberian refugees staying in the country must be a paramount concern of the Liberian government.
He noted that though the Buduburam refugee camp has been decommissioned by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) following the conduct of two successive elections in Liberia, the Weah led government should not sit supinely and allow its citizens to return to the country in a disenchanted mood.
Bishop Brown emphasized that government should intensify its efforts to encourage its Ghanaian counterparts to temper “justice with mercy” and allow Liberians to live happily in Ghana as Ghanaians are also living happily in Liberia.
“The Council is very much concern about the plights of Liberians in Ghana, and we have discussed these concerns in several meetings. We need to know and understand the challenges our brothers and sisters are faced with in Ghana. Just as Ghanaians expect Liberians to care for their brothers and sisters in Liberia, so as Ghanaians should also care for Liberians in Ghana. This is where the government comes in. the Liberian government should be very concern about her citizens. We have to find a way to bring this to a logical conclusion”.
Bishop Brown recalled that about four years ago, churches and other pro-democracy groups raised concerns to discourage the government of the United States from sending hundreds of Liberians who were residing on a TPS status back home.
He noted that government should copy similar intervention to discourage the Ghanaian government from going ahead with its planned demolition of the Buduburam camp, especially in the wake of harsh economic constraints and challenges in Liberia.
He noted that though the Council is not fully informed about the statuses of Liberians residing in Ghana, the LCC is fully aware that refugees in foreign countries must be reintegrated, repatriated or made to settle in a third country.
Bishop Brown disclosed that the Council would pay a “solidarity visit” to Buduburam very soon to hear from the Liberian refugees and others.
According to him, a committee has already been constituted to carry on the exercise.
He emphasized that the aim and objective of the trip will help provide firsthand information on the plights of Liberian refugees in Ghana and to also find solutions to addressing those plights.
Bishop Brown disclosed that the committee will also hold separate meetings with Liberian and Ghanaian authorities in the capital, Accra on finding a solution to the current situation at the camp.
He pointed out that in keeping with “African brotherhood”, the LCC’s committee will be recommending the extension of the demolition exercise which intends to affect more than 11,000 inhabitants currently at the camp, including women and children.
He expressed the hope that the situation will be settled in a timely manner to help curb the high level of fear and others that have gripped residents on the Buduburam camp.
“We hope that we can find amicable solution to the current challenges Liberians are facing in Ghana”.
Bishop Brown indicated that it will not augur well for Liberia and its citizens for thousands of Liberians to unhappily return to their motherland in such a disgraceful manner or form.
He emphasized that immediate actions are needed to ensure that Liberians do not die pre-maturely from starvation and frustration as a result of the current situation in Ghana.
He noted that it is important that Liberia’s international partners also step in to find amicable solutions to the concerns being raised by refugees in Ghana.
Bishop Brown further urged authorities of the of the Ghanaian government to take caution over its planned decision to demolition a camp serving which has housed thousands of Liberian and other ECOWAS citizens for over three decades.
He said it is important that concerns and problems confronting Liberians and others at the camp be solved in a prompt manner.
He noted that most of those residing at the camp prefer to live in Ghana as compared to returning home and in keeping with African solidarity, Liberia and Ghana should diplomatically work together to handle the current situation in a way that will not cause confusion between both nations.
Bishop Brown predicted that the decision of the Ghanaian government to demolish the camp would have a negative spillover in other nations, including Liberia if the planned demolition exercise goes on as planned and scheduled without putting in place measures to address the concerns raised by those occupying the area.
“Some people still want to live in Ghana. Liberia and Ghana should work together to bring a reasonable solution to this current situation. We hope that the Liberian and Ghanaian governments will handle it in a way that it will not have any spillover or hard feelings between the people of Ghana and Liberia because, Liberians here are watching and listening”.
He noted that though the Council does not pray or encourage a reprisal from any nation, including Liberia on the matter, the LCC believes that a high level of serious and concentrated diplomacy will help close the chapter on the saga.
The latest statement made by the LCC, through its President comes in the wake of numerous complaints raised by Liberian refugees staying at the Buduburam Camp.
The Liberian refugees at the camp described themselves as the “worst unfortunate integrated people living in the world”.
They claimed that since the demolition pronouncement was made by the Ghanaian government, they have been having sleeping nights, as traditional chiefs in the country have begun allocating acres of land to themselves at the camp.
The Liberian refugees claimed that though they have made over three decades in Ghana, the separate residential permits given to them by authorities in the West African nation prohibit them from engaging into commercial activities or working to earn a living or cater to their respective family members.
They maintained that the branding them as “prostitutes and criminals” by a local official of the Ghanaian government has made it impossible for them to be resettled in a third country of their choice.
In a video posted by Cititube, a local television station in Ghana, the District Chief Executive for Gomoa, Mr. Salemon Darko Quarm was heard alleging that the Buduburam camp is being used as a hideout for prostitution and other crimes.
Mr. Quarm also alleged that many of the crimes committed in nearby cities are linked to persons inside the camp.
The Buduburam camp was opened when thousands of Liberians fled civil crisis which broke out in Liberia in 1990.