The Minister for the Interior, Mr. Kwamena Bartels has disclosed that demonstrations by Liberian refugees were orchestrated by some people with the objective of destabilizing the rather peaceful and democratic atmosphere prevailing in Ghana.
Speaking to the media yesterday, he said, “It may surprise you to know that the seemingly innocent demonstration by women and children was part of a wider plot by a number of persons to cause mayhem on the settlement as well as threaten the security of the country.”
The government, he said, “is aware of the presence of a number of ex-combatants at the settlement and will not sit down unconcerned for our national security to be jeopardized.”
Mr. Bartels said, based on intelligence reports, the government operated a swoop on some ringleaders and others whose activities posed threats to Ghana's security on the 22nd of March 2008.
The operation by the security agencies at Buduburam, he said resulted in the arrest of 107 Liberians and after screening, 77 of them were released.
Sixteen of the arrested thirty were repatriated to Liberia on account of their activities which had security implications for the country. He said 12 other Liberians have been granted bail and are under investigation. Two others are being held for immigration offences.
“Government will no longer tolerate the situation where people who have been given our hospitality continue to undermine the security of the state. Our national security is supreme and shall not be compromised on any account,” the Minister said.
He reminded refugees in Ghana that, they have a responsibility to respect the country's laws as well as refrain from subversive activities against the state.
Mr. Bartels said Ghana would continue to build on the good relations it has with Liberia whilst ensuring that its security is not threatened.
He said the government took a decisive action to send the demonstrators to Kordiabe to prevent the total breakdown of law and order and to also protect the interest of law abiding refugees.
Following the end of the war and the return to democratic rule and normalcy, the Government of Ghana on 22nd September 2004 signed a Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Liberian Refugees with the Liberian Government and UNHCR and which Agreement ended on 30th June 2007.
Mr. Bartels said no Liberian refugee in Ghana is here on account of fear of persecution and it is the belief of the Ghanaian government that the vast majority of them can return to Liberia in safety and dignity.
“Government has as a result requested for the invocation of the Cessation Clause under Article 1 (4)e of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention because the grounds on which they remain here are no longer valid,” he said.
The Liberians demonstrated because they did not wish to be integrated into the Ghanaian society and would resist every attempt to integrate them. “Let me once again reiterate that Government has not decided to integrate them nor does it have any intention to do so”, the Minister rebutted the refugees claims.
They wished to be resettled in a western country and wanted each Liberian refugee opting to voluntarily repatriate to be paid $1000 instead of the proposed $100.
He said since 19th February 2008 efforts by both the Ghana Refugee Board and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to engage the leadership of the demonstrators in dialogue but to no avail.
“Government on Tuesday 11th March 2008 met with the leadership of the demonstrating Liberians and warned them of the illegality of their actions as well as urging them to refrain from flouting our laws with impunity, failing which they would force government to act decisively including revoking their refugee status. Despite several pleas made to them to stop their illegal activities, they continued to defy and flout our laws with impunity. They stopped their demonstrations only on Easter Monday, the 24th March 2008.”
According to the government's own plan, he said, the refugees would have been repatriated on Monday 31st March 2008, but the Committee agreed that the refugees at the Buduburam settlement be dispersed and settled in smaller communities for better management and monitoring. The Committee will meet again on 4th April 2007 to formalize the modalities for their repatriation.
The meeting also agreed that the refugees who were relocated to Kordiabe be returned to the Buduburam Settlement which has been done.