Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of ECOWAS Commission, says the body is determined to make West Africa crises-free
| By Maureen Chigbo | Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is making effort to make life easy before refugees from Cote’Ivoire, who ran to Liberia during the crisis in their country, return home. As a mark of its commitment to this objective, the ECOWAS commission has resolved to end existing crises in the region to enable displaced persons to return to their home countries and pursue their legitimate means of livelihood in an atmosphere of peace and political stability while working to prevent the eruption of new conflicts. It is also giving food and other relief items to the refugees in Liberia.
Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, visited Ivorian refugees in Liberia, Monday, December 17, at the PTP Refugee camp in Zwedru, capital of Grand Gedeh County, more than 450 km south-east of the capital, Monrovia. He assured the refugees that ECOWAS was determined to make the region a zone of peace governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights. “We are here today because you are important, and we bring a message of solidarity,” Ouédraogo said, adding that the commission was working with member states, regional leaders as well as partners to restore peace to the entire region so that displaced persons can return home.
The ECOWAS president appealed to the refugees to live in peace and harmony with the host community and thanked the Liberian people and government for their generosity in accommodating refugees from other countries despite the nation’s own challenges.
Ouédraogo later made a symbolic presentation of some bags of rice from the Commission to the refugee leaders. This was ahead of the official presentation of 300 metric tons of rice which will be distributed to the refugees to the Liberian government. The president’s overall humanitarian assistance to refugees in Liberia is $800,000.
The Zwedru ceremony was attended by officials of the UN World Food Programme, WFP, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, as well as the UN Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, other refugee supporting agencies, which provided the helicopter for the Monrovia-Zwedru mission. Getachew Diriba, the WFP Representative and Country director, commended ECOWAS for providing “an African solution to an African problem,” and for being the first organisation to visit the refugees at such high level of authority.
Mtaisi Thomas, head of UN Field Office, echoed a similar sentiment while Fatima Mohammed, the head of the UNHCR Grand Gedeh Sub-Office, noted that apart from supporting Ivorian refugees in the country, ECOWAS and UN partners have contributed to the voluntary repatriation of more than 30,000 Liberian refugees from Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.
The refugee leaders seized the opportunity to list their concerns and also express their willingness to return home as soon as security improved and peace returned to Cote d’Ivoire. One of the refugees, with two wives and 11 children, thanked Liberians for their hospitality and requested for additional assistance to improve the lives of the refugees.
Liberia hosts more than 66,800 Ivorian refugees who fled the 2010 post-election crisis in their country. Zwedru accommodates 9,000 of them, while the rest are in four other camps in Liberia.
Earlier, Olaska Bah, a representative of the County Superintendent, thanked ECOWAS and the UN partners for assisting the refugees. He reiterated the host community’s resolve to continue to extend the hand of fellowship to the refugees, whom he also requested to reciprocate the gesture by being of good conduct.