Review on Policy Dialogue on Liberian Refugee Situation: Women Building Bridges for Reconciliation 30th April 2008
The Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa) and the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) located in Accra, Ghana in collaboration with the Ghanaian Ministry for Women and Children Affairs and the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre in Dakar, Senegal hosted a one-day policy dialogue meeting in Accra, Ghana on the theme: ‘Women Building Bridges for Reconciliation between Host-Refugee Communities in Ghana’. The proposed policy dialogue was necessitated by the recent tense situation surrounding the repatriation of Liberian refugees. The repatriation process designed to signify an end to the crisis in Liberia and a return to normalcy in the country has instead culminated in the arrest of Liberian refugees (women, children and men), created tensions as well as sparked off anger, frustrations and misgivings among refugees and the host nation; stalling the repatriation programme of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The reports on the situation on the Buduburam camp and the ensuing protests by the Liberian (in many cases visibly led by women) refugees opposed to what they view as an unfair repatriation policy implemented by the UNHCR resulted in two sets of conflicting positions and perspectives from the Ghanaian community and wider West African. One side of the argument stated that the Liberian refugees are ungrateful and unappreciative of the support given by the Government and People of Ghana during the years of asylum. The opposing view is that repatriation is a voluntary action as stipulated in the UN Refugee Convention and that the funds provided to refugees upon their return to Liberia by UNHCR are inadequate. These diverging views have yielded intolerance among both sides and raised threats of violence.
These developments transcends the more overt positions being articulated by both groups and further analysis is required given the potential of the situation to adversely impact on security concerns and relations in Ghana and West Africa. Furthermore, it has the potential of undermining efforts at enhancing regional integration and community harmonisation.
The collaborating organisations for the policy dialogue viewed the current tensions as symptomatic of deeper causes of conflicts common to West African states, which have experienced violent conflicts and civil wars on one hand, and states which have served as host communities to refugees dislocated and dispersed by wars on the other. For the collaborating organisations, addressing these issues and concerns was crucial for maintaining cordial relations between the citizens and governments of both countries; preventing violence; promoting peace, security and the respect of human rights; demystifying the post-war fears and uncertainties of refugees; and advancing the on-going UNCHR-driven RRRprogramme. The dialogue meeting aimed to provide the space for all stakeholders in the recent tensions to discuss and deliberate constructive ways of resolving these problems.
 RRR: Resettlement, Repatriation and Reintegration