‘Doctors Told Me I Will Suffer Until I Die’ – Liberian Refugee From Guinea
Monrovia – Barbee Yekeson, 46, lingers in pain. With three broken ribs, life on a daily basis is becoming unbearable.
Like many Liberians who sought refuge in neighboring Guinea during the height of the civil war, light at the end of the tunnel looks dim.
‘Life Has Never Been the Same’
The father of five says, he encountered his ordeal as a refugee in neighboring Guinea when he was badly beaten by two security personnel, Mohammed Keita and Lout Kamara, on allegation of stealing Tarpaulin, a heavy-duty waterproof cloth, originally of tarred canvas.
The incident occurred in January 11, 2007.
At the time, Yekeson, says he fell prey to two Guinean soldiers who manhandled him. Since then, he laments, life has never been the same.
Over the past couple of years, he says he has been trying to seek help for advance medical treatment from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR) who were responsible for refugees in Guinea, but his efforts have come up short.
“The doctor told me I will be suffering until I die. The pain is heavy, three of my ribs are broken. I cannot do any physical work; My wife is our only source of income. I am dying slowly. I want the public to know that I want medical assistance to regain my health because I need to get back to my normal self, so I can be in a better position to help my wife and my children.”
Yekerson says he feels frustrated because some of his friends he went to school with don’t even recognize him anymore. “They try to ignore me – or pretend not to notice me. Every time I try to speak to them because of my condition, they look the other way.”
Madam Garmai Gbelee, Yekerson’s wife says carrying the burden of her husband’s dilemma is heart-wrenching.
The pair recently filed a formal complaint to the Liberian Government but that is not going anywhere.
Assaulted to Near Death
Mrs. Yekerson explains that in 2007 while
living as refugee in Guinea, her husband went to a site to gather demolished
structures amongst debris, particularly pieces of wood to use as fuel for
In the process, she says, two security officers of the Bureau of Correction for Refugee (BCR) at the Laine Refugee camp, Mohammed Keita and Lout Kamara, walked toward her husband and requested him to produce the old tarpaulin of the demolished building. “He respectfully told the officers that he had no knowledge of the tarpaulin in question. The officers insisted that the tarpaulin was in his possession and threatened serious consequence, if he failed to produce the tarpaulin.
She furthered explain that in her presence, her husband was assaulted to a point of helplessness. Appeals to solders to properly investigate the incident fell on deaf ears.
Upon hearing the news, a Refugees office personnel who had knowledge of the said tarpaulin, came rushing to the BCR station to confirm his innocence, but by that time Yekerson’s injuries had become so severe, his condition deteriorated further.
Mr. Yekerson’s proof of innocence came a little too late. Now his life is a living hell.
Realizing the magnitude of the crime committed, the BRC officers took Yekerson to the Medicines San Frontiers (MSF) Health post at the Refugee camp where he was kept for a week with no sign of improvement.
To make matters worse, Mrs. Yekerson says, the nurses bowed to the demands of the officers and ordered her husband to leave the health post, claiming there was nothing wrong with him.
In the wake of persistent pursuit of the case, doctors at the facility became furious and later directed the hospital to kick Yekerson out of the hospital and never give him any more medication, his wife, holding back tears, explained. “The responsibility of buying medication for my husband as well as the up-keep of the family has rested on me since the incident. A number of attempts were made by me and the LRC calling on those concerned to ensure appropriate measures be taken to restore my husband health but to no avail.”
Communicating with the justice Ministry
As a result of all her failed attempts to get redress, Mrs. Yekerson communicated her case with the justice Ministry in Monrovia to intervene.
In response, to the complaint the Ministry of justice convened a stakeholders’ meeting involving the UNHCR, the Foreign Ministry, the Independent Human Rights Commission (INCHR) and the complainant.
At the stakeholder meeting UNHCR said, its mandate is limited to asylum seekers; refugees and other forcibly displaced populations. The UNHCR further indicated that from the message, it was understood that the complainant is a former refugee in Guinea, which status ceased in 2013 and was accordingly informed by the Guinean Government. “As such, in principle, the complainant’s case would not fall in UNHCR’s mandate.”
With all hope now lost, Mr. Yekerson could lose his life over an international technicality and neglect from his own government.