President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday defended his government’s handling of a standoff with Liberian refugees who have flouted Ghana’s laws and affirmed the authorities would ensure that their repatriation was carried out in a way that would not harm the relations between the two West African nations.
He said Ghana was ready to dialogue and work out a convenient timetable with the United Nations High Commission (UNHCR) and other stakeholders so that the exercise could be carried through without bitterness and embarrassment to either country.
Kufuor was speaking when a Liberian delegation led by Foreign Minister, Mrs Olubanke King-Akerele, called on him at the Castle, Osu.
Other members of the delegation were Mr Philip A.Z. Banks, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Ambulai Johnson, Internal Affairs Minister and Mr Gabriel Williams, Deputy Information Minister.
They are in Ghana to convey to President Kufuor the Liberian Government’s regret for the recent unruly conduct of some of its nationals in Ghana and to work out a plan on how to get them back home.
Kufuor said Ghana within its means had treated the Liberians fairly for the better part of 20 years and their situation was no worse than that of their hosts.
He therefore warned that the Government would not allow any miscreants to mar the good relations the two countries had shared over the years.
Additionally, they would not want any bad example to undermine the peace and sec urity of the society stressing that this would be totally unacceptable.
Kufuor said the political situation (civil war) that caused the refugee camp to be set up for the Liberians no longer existed and no one could now claim to be a refugee.
Mrs King-Akerele said her Government regretted all acts by its nationals that breached the country’s public order law.
“We do not condone any such acts. We cannot sanction any act that contravenes your public order law.”
She said Liberia did not want to see its relations with Ghana torn apart by the unfortunate situation and gave the assurance this would not lead to reprisals against Ghanaians in her country.
The Liberian delegation has been holding talks with Ghanaian officials to find a solution to the problem.
Sources say a tripartite committee comprising the two countries and UNHCR would be formed to work out details of the repatriation.
The talks are also dealing with the evacuation of hundreds of the refugees who have been evacuated from the Gomoa Buduburam refugee camp, just west of Accra, to a leadership training centre at Kordiabe in the Eastern region.
Government last Saturday deported 16 Liberian men whom it identified as the ring leaders in demonstrations by the refugees, mainly women, who had been demanding 1,000 US dollars repatriation fee and resettlement in the US.
The Ghana government had planned to deport more refugees but stayed the action for the talks to resolve the issue. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also asked the Ghana government to halt the deportations while ordering the refugees to obey the laws of the host country where they have lived for 18 years.
In a challenge to the action of the authorities, a Liberian refugee has sued the government over his “missing” wife.
Patrick Ahossouhe has filed a writ of habeas corpus against the Minister of the Interior and Inspector General of Police to produce his wife Ms Chicider Lawrence who is one of those removed from the Gomoa Buduburam refugee camp to Kordiabe.
The writ was filed by two human rights activists – Mr Tuinese Edward Amuzu of Legal Resources Centre and Nana Oye Lithur of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
The writ is asking the Minister and the IGP to justify the arrest and continued detention of Ms Lawrence and reasons why the court should not order her release.
It is also asking the two officials to be restrained from taking “any further action inconsistent with her refugee status”. The case would be heard on April 2.