Monday, February 14, 2011

Operation We Care for Liberia: Statement on Liberian Refugee situation in Ghana

Mr. Bernard Gbayee Goah
Operation We Care for Liberia
Statement on Liberian Refugee situation in Ghana
According to, 5 (five) Liberian refugees have reportedly been shot dead by Ghanaian police at the Buduburam Refugee Settlement outside Accra during a riot over leadership.

  According to the report, the incident occurred Sunday February 6th when a group of Liberian refugees attempted to install a new leadership, despite calls from the refugee board to halt the process. Deputy Information Minister for Information Services, Jerelimink Piah, has confirmed the incident.

Operation We Care for Liberia is deeply concerned about the manner in which Liberian Refugees are treated in Ghana and the potential consequences it may cause, not only for Liberians living in that country but for the West African sub region. Much has been witnessed as well as written about with regard to the disproportionate use of force by police and army forces and the violation of Liberian refugee’s integrity and rights in their host country Ghana.

Bullet Shells from Ghana PoliceSource:
We believe that the premise of the Ghanaian police argument -- that it acted fully within its rights in defending its laws to the detriment of Liberian refugees living within Ghana -- has gone unchallenged not only by the United Nations and human right groups, but also by the current Liberian Government under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Ghana police, the argument goes, had to resort to the use of force in order to restore calm at the refugee settlement in Gomoa District because there were fire arms present amongst the refugee populace. We believe that such argument does not hold water because credible information from eye witnesses at Buduburam revealed that at no time were refugees in possession of fire arms during the shootings neither did refugees carry fire arms at any time in Ghana.

Liberian refugee girl shot by Ghana SecuritySource:

Operation We Care for Liberia is concerned about the use of constitutional responsibility by the Ghanaian police only to infringe upon the rights of Liberian refugees living in Ghana. We believe such actions are a complete violation of the United Nations refugee law.

While we recognize the good will of the people of Ghana for hosting Liberian refugees over the years, we are concerned that the habitual use of excessive force by the Ghanaian police against refugee men, women and children is unacceptable at all levels.

We condemn Ghana for not handling the situation peacefully to calm whatever condition(s) that may have led to such inhumane action carried out by its police force against the refugee populace at the settlement.

As events unfolded we have also received credible information that the Ghanaian police have extended its area of activities deep within the refugee settlement. Nobody seems to be in any rush to remind Ghana what “responsibility to protect” means under international law. We call on ECOWAS and the international community to pressurize Ghana to desist from such practices immediately!

Liberian arrested by Ghana PoliceSource:
 President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s continuous silence and lack of intervention compels us to believe she has no interest in providing protection for Liberians living abroad. We, at this time, wish to inform the people of Liberia that President Johnson-Sirleaf’s action mirrors nothing else but “don’t care behavior”. As such, we demand answers from the President for exhibiting such (contra-Liberian interest) behavior.

Similar incidents of army harassment and brutality against Liberian refugees occurred sometime in 2004. During that period several hundred refugee men were arrested and detained at an open soccer field near Buduburam refugee settlement in Gomoa district Ghana. These refugees were made to stand under hot sun for 12 hours without food and water. Also in March 2008 several hundred Liberian refugees mostly women and children, were arrested and taken to an unknown locations while staging a sit-in protest at the Buduburam settlement in Ghana to press their demands for “what they saw as dissatisfactory arrangements to have them repatriated back to their now devastated country Liberia”. They complained that those who championed the deaths of their relatives and destroyed their future were the same people in control of the Liberian government. According to their spokes person at that time, Miss Amelia Beh, without the provision of basic necessities to start their lives all over, it did not make any sense for them to return to Liberia venerable to political manipulation by government officials as a result of mass poverty and hunger across the country.

Operation We Care for Liberia condemned such actions carried out by the Ghana military at that time; we still condemn these actions today, and will continue to condemn them in the future until they cease.

During the 2008 crisis at Buduburam, We condemned President Ellen for blowing a good opportunity to convince Liberians that their government would care for them in a time of crisis by not asking the Liberian consular in Ghana to travel to the refugee settlement right away. Instead, wasting tax payer money, the President dispatched a delegation from Liberia to Ghana only to return to Liberia with the issue unaddressed leaving Liberian living in Ghana venerable to abuse by the Ghana police and military. The President’s actions leave us to question the role of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Liberian ambassador in Ghana.

Liberian refugees hiding in bushesSource:
Also, President Johnson-Sirleaf travels the world frequently to pick up meaningless awards that do not benefit the suffering Liberian population. Travelling to next door Ghana in order to solve problems affecting her own people seems just very impossible for the Liberian President. She would rather travel to the United States more than six times in six months for no reason other than to protect her legacy. President Johnson-Sirleaf must understand that it is the primary responsibility of her government to protect its citizens in times of crises especially so abroad. We seriously question the President’s judgment at this time.

The fact that military force was used on a refugee settlement resulting in the deaths of refugees is troubling. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must understand that Liberia has the right to intervene in other countries where its citizens happen to reside, to protect their interests no matter their status. To see Liberians brutalized and killed under the very nose of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf while the rest of the world remains silent in response is unhealthy for Liberia and the entire West African sub region.

Liberia may have limited jurisdiction over its citizens residing abroad, such as consular protection. While we believe such jurisdiction should be exercised with respect for the principles of sovereignty and friendly relations with Ghana, we are also aware that protection of human rights is a matter of international concern amongst all countries, including Ghana. Therefore we insist that President Johnson-Sirleaf confront the government of Ghana on the matter of protecting Liberians living in Ghana.

Ghana may have an interest in the well-being of its citizens, particularly those living around the Buduburam refugee settlement. We believe such interest, however, does not translate against refugees rights under international law.

Ghana may have a constitutional responsibility to restore law and order within its territory, but this does not in any way imply a right under international law to use excessive force on armless civilian refugees living at the Buduburam refugee settlement.

Refugees rounded upSource:

If Ghana is unable or unwilling to protect Liberians residing on its territory from police or military harassment, then the protection of human life and dignity becomes the responsibility of Liberia itself, ECOWAS and the International Community.

We therefore call upon ECOWAS, the government of Liberia and the international community to consider their responsibilities to protect refugees living at Buduburam and that humanitarian intervention at the settlement be carried out immediately in order to prevent human suffering and protect the population of refugees against the use of force by the Ghanaian police.

We believe such intervention is necessary and legitimate at this time because the existence of evidence of crimes committed against civilian refugee population at Buduburam is undisputable. Military gun shots were fired in the settlement and five refugees killed from gun wounds.

It is also our understanding that Liberian refugees have fled the settlement and are now hiding in nearby bushes and other places. Delaying an adequate response to the situation at Buduburam may result into more deaths and starvation of Liberian refugees. We call upon the United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees hiding in bushes around the settlement.

The Liberian government must work toward creating an amicable economic and political atmosphere livable enough for human dwelling in order for Liberian refugees to be repatriated from Ghana to Liberia.

We lastly condemn the Ghanaian police action at Buduburam because such action does not only violated international norms and principles, but also demonstrates how and to what extent the notion of “excising the laws of one country ” can be abused. It shows clearly that the misapplication of the rights of a country can result in a punitive, rather than a peaceful intervention, and that the disproportionate use of force by a host country pursuing its own questionable objectives can lead to human suffering.

Again, we believe that potential consequences of the habitual use of force on Liberian refugees by Ghana police and military have the propensity to affect not only the relationship between Liberia and Ghana but would as well derail the ongoing peace process in the West African sub region. We therefore demand that the current violation of refugee integrity and rights at Buduburam cease at once!

Enough is enough at this time!

Bernard Gbayee Goah
President, Operation We Care for Liberia

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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