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Liberian refugees refuse to go home...And Amb Olusola has sleepless nights

Posted by By RAZAQ BAMIDELE on 2007/02/27 | Views: 820 |

Liberian refugees refuse to go home...And Amb Olusola has sleepless nights

When crisis was rocking Liberia to its very foundations, an average foreign observer was not in doubt that it was Nigeria, the giant of Africa, that would bear the brunt of the conflict.

When crisis was rocking Liberia to its very foundations, an average foreign observer was not in doubt that it was Nigeria, the giant of Africa, that would bear the brunt of the conflict.

And expectedly, when the crisis refused to abate, Liberian nationals took to their heels and the consequence of the flight was the establishment of a refugee camp in Oru, a sleepy town in Ogun State.

But when the crisis subsided and normalcy returned to the war torn country, Nigeria never envisaged that the headache the refugees had inflicted on the nation would refuse to go away.
The direct recipient of this imported migraine on behalf of the nation is no other person than the chairman, African Refugees Foundation (ARF), Ambassador Olusegun Olusola.

According to him, in spite of democracy and the call of the Liberian President, Mrs Johnson Sirleaf to her Ďchildrení to come home, they have refused to answer their motherís call thereby causing the refugees friend, Olusola, sleepless nights.
In an interview with Daily Sun in Lagos recently, the concerned former Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia took the opportunity to warn Nigerians against violence in the forthcoming election, saying, "Nigerians cannot afford to be refugees in other countries."

Refugee situation in Africa
Our concern at this moment is the repatriation of Liberian refugees who have been living in Nigeria for many years. And the president of Liberia, Mrs Johnson Sirleaf has asked them to return home.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has already concluded plans to send them home. But the refugees do not want to return. They are afraid of their future.
They donít have jobs available for them in Liberia. Some of their homes have been destroyed during the war. And it is just not enough for the Liberian president asking them to come home. There must be assurances of rehabilitation when they get there.

Are they enjoying in Nigeria?
They are not enjoying anything in Nigeria. Go and see them at Oru Refugees Camp. I have joined in burrying many children and some young people who were afflicted by HIV/AIDS.
Some of them want to go to colleges of technology and universities, but they can not afford it. We have got to go round begging the universities to see if they could take a few of them. There is a school that they attend at the camp.

So, I donít think they are enjoying themselves there. But that is the only place that can accommodate them. Some of them in two or three, sleep on a three-foot bed.
What concerns us at the African Refugees Foundation is the improvement of quality of life in Liberia itself. And the readiness of the Liberian authorities to receive these refugees from different parts of Nigeria, not just from Oru Refugees Camp (Ogun State).

There is a corp of refugees that generally hang around on the bar beach regularly. Itís also of a concern to us at the African Refugees Foundation. This is because when they are in trouble, they approach us. Sometimes they can approach us peacefully, sometimes, they can get out of hand. And that is why we believe the Liberian government, in cooperation with our government ought to make special resources available to enable the ARF, in cooperation with the UN High Commission for Refugees to repatriate them, to prepare ground and appropriate facilities for them when they get back home.

Visit to Liberia
Our representative has visited Monrovia in collaboration with UN High Commission for Refugees. They have observed the facilities available. We, at the ARF do not consider these reception facilities adequate and we have conveyed our views to the UN High Commission for Refugees.

Lesson for Nigeria
More importantly, we in Nigeria must not begin to think of Liberia refugee situation as something that cannot happen here. It is when you see the trouble in other peopleís territories that you begin to look at your own preparation for the future.
We, at the ARF believe that the omens that we read and see about our preparation for the election in Nigeria are unsatisfactory. And any situation like that, that can lead to conflicts and wars, we would generally advise and warn against it.

This is because if there should be a break down of law and order in this country, if we cannot successfully manage the transition from one civilian government to another civilian government and conflicts break up within any sector in Nigeria, whether in the South-South area, whether it is in Lagos because there is a lot of tension, whether it is anywhere in the country, it can spark repercussions that can endanger the sustenance of Nigeria. And it can create a large corp of refugees of Nigerian origin. Displaced people moving across borders into other parts of Africa.

Now, there is no one single African country in West Africa that can accommodate Nigerian refugees; and because of our characteristics, we would want to take over other peopleís territories and so they wonít want us. Ghana does not want us. Benin Republic cannot afford us, while Cote DíIvoire is already in trouble.

Preparation for elections
Yes, we must make sure that we do not allow the run-up to our election to be poorly managed to the extent that it would cause conflicts, so that we do not become refugees in our own territory.
If the elections we are preparing for now are not well managed, it could erupt into conflicts and violence in certain parts of the country to begin with and there would be no time because the government would be involved in preparing for the election to meet the challenges of such disruption. And we appeal to political leaders to bear this in mind. We are reminding that when there is trouble, we will not be talking to these political leaders because they will vanish.

Are you reaching out to those concerned?
I am reaching out to them through you as a press man because you are in the public domain. There is no government functionary interested in peace and conflict resolution that does not know about what we are doing at the ARF. It is not a secret society.
We preach action and reaction. We know that if we do not take care of peace in this country, and we let things go out of hand, no African country can accommodate Nigeria refugees. And we have said it to political leaders.

Our interest
In fact, we at the ARF do not want to keep refugees. We do not want refugees. We prevent the occurrence of refugees.
When we have refugees on our hands and they are all over Nigeria including Oru Refugees Camp, we donít like it.
And that is all what we are saying. We are in the business of the ARF to prevent those incidents and conflictual tendencies to let people, most especially political leaders know that the disagreement among them that can not be solved at the round table can only lead to conflicts.

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