GHANA REFUGEE BOARD ORGANIZES WORKSHOP FOR MEDIA HOUSES
By Nii Ako Sowa |11 May 2016
A high level delegation from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, visited Ghana from 11 to 14 May 2016 to meet with Ivorian refugees in Ghana to update them on recent developments back home, and to inform them about the return and reintegration conditions, with a view to encourage them to voluntarily return home to help rebuild their country.
The Ivorian delegation, led by Ms Mariatou Kone, Minister of Solidarity, Social Cohesion and Compensation of Victims met with urban refugees in Accra after paying a courtesy call to the Minister for the Interior, Hon. Prosper Douglas Bani. On behalf of the Ivorian Government, Ms Kone offered apologies for the loss of lives, property and employment, as well as the suffering and challenging situations which Ivorians, particularly those in exile, were put through as a result of the post-electoral crisis. “I would like to take this opportunity to say sorry, I know many people have suffered, and many more continue to suffer,” she said.
She also used the opportunity to further assure the refugees of the government’s commitment to consolidate the peace the country is currently enjoying, and encouraged them to return to be part of the process to rebuild the country.
In their remarks, the refugees expressed gratitude to the government of Ghana and the UNHCR for hosting them, and for providing assistance to them in their time of need. All of the refugees highlighted their love for their country, as well as their desire to return provided their grievances are addressed, inter alia the lack of amnesty law; limited freedom of speech for the media; detention of political prisoners; release of frozen accounts of opposition members; publication of the report from the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation; poor and biased involvement of the religious leaders; lands and properties lost/taken.
Additionally the refugees requested an increase in cash support as well as the cessation of statements considering refugees in Ghana as self-imposed exiled persons denying the forced nature of their exile. “We miss our country, we Ivorians, we miss our country very much,” said Ferdinand, one of the refugees, to the applause of the others.
On behalf of the Ivorian Government, Ms. Kone with the support from the Government experts assured that concrete steps to address their concerns are in place, including the release of, individuals imprisoned as a result of the post-electoral crisis, as well as the publishing of the reports conducted by the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation and the National Commission for Reconciliation and Compensation for the Crisis Occurred in Côte d’Ivoire (CONARIV for its acronym in French).
She also informed the refugees that the government has extended its compensation package for returning refugees who had evidence of lost property. “The road to reconciliation is a process; it will take some time to adequately address all your concerns. However be assured that the country is ready to receive you,” Ms Kone mentioned.
In closing, Madame Aissatou Dieng-Ndiaye, Deputy Representative of UNHCR in Abidjan, emphasized that the decision to return to Côte d’Ivoire is voluntary an a personal decision one had to take devoid of any force. She further went on explain the repatriation process to the refugees. “When you do make your decision to return home, UNHCR will be there to accompany you,” she said. Over 20,000 Ivorian refugees fled into Ghana during the height of the 2010 post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. The voluntary repatriation process from Ghana began in 2011 following the signature of a Tripartite Agreement between the Governments of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and UNHCR, since then 203 Ivorian refugees have been assisted to return. To date, Ghana continues to host and facilitate durable solutions to some 11,000.