— As LRRRC, partners conclude plans for the repatriation process
The Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) has disclosed that it is finalizing plans with partners to repatriate Liberians who are living in Ghana with former refugee status.
The Liberian civil war came to an end in 2003 following a Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in Ghana that led to the formation of a transitional government for Liberia and subsequently the first post-war democratic elections. However, some Liberians who fled from the civil crisis are yet to return due to some factors, including the lack of a place to live, as well as the fear of encountering those who killed their loved ones.
As crucial as the decision might be, the LRRRC said recently at a stakeholders’ conference in Monrovia that it has made significant progress with support from partners in ensuring that the repatriation process is done before the end of this year.
“Following a high power delegation from Liberia here, headed by our Foreign Minister, Hon. Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah to Accra, Ghana a few months ago, we had fruitful discussions with the authorities in Ghana and we mutually agreed to find a common ground on how Liberians who have lived as refugees in the Buduburam camp be allowed to be there as we fast-track plans to repatriate them. And, today, we have come to report that 1539 former Liberian refugees in Ghana have been profiled and are willing to return home,” Rev. Festus R. B. Logan said.
Logan is the Executive Director of LRRRC and the secretary on the board of directors of the Commission as Varney Sirleaf, Minister of Internal Affairs is the chairman of the board.
LRRRC’s boss said at the stakeholders’ meeting in Monrovia that even though the former refugees are no longer persons of concern to the UNHCR, the UN agency is collaborating with the Commission to see that success is achieved in the repatriation process.
“We are not working in isolation. We are thankful that the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), ECOWAS, government and the Ghanaian Government are supportive of our efforts,” he said, adding that he takes due note on the suggestion that the leaderships of the religious community in Liberia and all other relevant partners are included in the decision making processes and their execution for the good of the people concerned.
Kwabena Okubi-Appiah, Ghanaian Ambassador assigned near Monrovia, was at the stakeholders’ conference and he assured the Liberian Government through the LRRRC that his government will do all it can to collaborate in efforts to repatriate the former refugees.
Ambassador Appiah said the “politics” suggesting that Ghanaians don’t want to see Liberians live in Ghana is misleading and “anti-bilateral.”
“We are ‘small brother’ to Liberia. Liberia is 175 years old now in its independence and we are only 65 years old as an independent country. We are grateful not only for the past but for even today and the future that Liberia served as a big brother we ran to for consultation on how to gain independence from colonial rule,” he said. He expressed the hope that Liberia develops to truly represent its age of existence as a free country.
“Ghana can never ask Liberians to leave Ghana,” Amb. Appiah said. “At the time Ghana was struggling for independence, Liberia was more or less a place to seek advice from. I am very happy that the government is making an effort to resettle its own nationals and in doing that you have set up a commission headed by Rev. Festus Logan.
“It is in order that the commission has met with its partners today to discuss the way forward. I encourage all of you to contribute towards resolving the issues of resettling our brothers and sisters who are in Ghana and are willing to come back home to contribute towards the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.”
According to the Ghanaian diplomat, the local people of Buduburam gave the land to their government back then so that their fellow African brothers and sisters could have a place to settle away from war but now that the war is over, the need to develop the land to get on par with other places in Ghana is paramount.
For the UNHCR, Kelvin Sentata, Protection Officer said his office will continue to work with the LRRRC in its efforts to repatriate those Liberians who have expressed willingness to return home.
Workapoe Workanuan, Registration Assistant at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) thanked LRRRC for exerting efforts to repatriate the Liberians but cautioned that the package suggested for the returnees be augmented in order to allow them begin a befitting life, each.
LRRRC reported US$4461,700 has been earmarked by government and partners persons returning home. This means, each returnee is expected to receive US$300 and provide a transit place for them as they work out modalities to locate their loved ones and move on their own.
Workapoe Workanuan said the amount of US$300 is infinitesimal (small). He suggested that the sum of EURO 1400 or its equivalent in United States Dollars is given to each returnee so as to enable him or her to start a business or acquire a skill to fit in Liberian society.
Liberia Returnee Network (LRN) also committed itself to working alongside LRRRC on the repatriation of Liberians from Ghana.
E. Tyrone Marshall, Executive Director of LRN said his organization has secured a parcel of land to construct housing units for returnees who have no homes in Liberia due to either the destruction or loss of their properties or were not born in Liberia.
“We have launched a fundraiser campaign targeting over US$900,000 for this and we are confident we will succeed. We were all once refugees and we know what it means to return to a home where there is almost nothing for you to begin with,” he said.
The Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) was represented by its secretary General, Rev. Chris Toe. He assured LRRRC LCC’s support in its drive to repatriate the former Liberian refugees.
Emmanuel Wheinyue, Assistant Minister for Press and Public Affairs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, represented Minister Varney Sirleaf and thanked LRRRC for the work done and acknowledged the goodwill of the Ghanaian government over the years.
“I am particularly happy that Ambassador Appiah was a part of the Ghanaian air force in the 1990s that came to restore peace in Liberia. Appiah, now retired military personnel serving as a diplomat in the same country he once risked his life to keep peace in, has won our hearts. Thank you,” Wheinyoue concluded.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was represented by Cllr. Reuben C. Sirleaf, senior legal counsel of the Ministry, and others assured LRRRC of his Ministry’s commitment to work with it (LRRR) continuously on efforts to repatriate former Liberian refugees.