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Conflicting Accounts of Ghanaian Police Raid on Refugee Camp

James Butty February 14, 2011

Ghanaian police Sunday raided the Buduburam Refugee Camp outside the capital, Accra, and there are conflicting accounts as to the number of casualties and the cause of the violence.

One account said as many as five Liberian refugees were killed by police and many more wounded.

But, a senior Ghanaian police official told VOA that one person, a woman, was killed and that the circumstances surrounding her death were being investigated.

Goblah Monloe, a Liberian in the camp, said the police came as the refugees were inaugurating their new leadership to replace the one that, the refugees said, did not serve their interests.

"We had a leadership problem; so, we elected a new leader. So, people that were doing the inauguration Sunday were on the scene and other refugees gathered when a group of police burst into the camp and they started beating people and arresting people; the police started throwing teargas," he said.

Monloe said the other refugees began stoning the police because they said they could not stand by while officers beat their colleagues.

He said the camp’s former leadership was removed because it had been cooperating more with Ghanaian authorities and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees rather than serving the interests of the camp’s residents.

“The leader that is in power, we noticed that he was not doing the right thing. He was in line with what the Ghanaian camp managers will tell him to do; that’s what he does. He doesn’t take care of the refugees’ affairs,” Monloe said.

He said the refugees have a council that is responsible for electing the camp’s leadership and it was that council that elected the new leadership.

Monloe said a police bullet hit a lady in the chest, who later died at a hospital.

“They (police) came on the inauguration ground and they started beating people. Everybody went into disarray; some of us, the refugees, started stoning them (the police) because they arrested some of our people. They (police) started shooting in the air. While shooting, we saw that the bullet hit the woman in the chest. I joined the group to carry the woman to the hospital but, within the process, she died,” Monloe said.

Kwesi Ofori, director of public affairs for the Ghanaian national police, told VOA authorities came to the camp to quell what he described as massive violence that was being carried out by the refugees.

“There was a leadership crisis among the Liberian refugees at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. As a result, police went there by intervening to de-escalate the violence, stabilize the security situation, (and) re-establish (the) rule of law in that camp. And, I am saying that the lady who died at the camp, the police (are) investigating to find out the circumstances that led to her death, and that the outcome of that will be made known to the public,” Ofori said.

He said the dead woman’s body was in police custody awaiting an autopsy.

Ofori said the Liberian refugees attacked the local clinic and destroyed its medical equipment as well as attacked the local police station.

He said he believes Ghanaian police operated within the best practices of any police operation.

A few years ago, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees offered money ($100) to Liberian refugees in Ghana if they would agree to repatriate.

Liberian Information Minister Cletus Sieh told VOA that, as far as the Liberian government is concerned, Liberians in Ghana were no longer considered as refugees.

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