UNHCR Boss Impressed
…Says repatriation of Liberian Refugees Begins in Oct

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 6, 2004

Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the security situation in the country is far better than what it was a year ago.

Commissioner Lubbers who arrived in the country Monday evening, made the assertion yesterday when he visited several Internally displaced camps and cantonment sites in the country.

The UNHCR boss assured Liberian returnees in Perry Town that they will be resettled, and the over 350,000 Liberian refugees will be repatriated later this year or beginning October.

Mr. Lubbers said about a year ago, things were very bad in terms of security saying, “now we can begin the repatriation of Liberian refugees” .

At the VOA cantonment site, Commissioner Lubbers met with ex-combatants and UNMIL’s force commander Gen. Daniel Opande.

The force commander Mr. Lubbers on the current security situation as well as the deployment and ongoing disarmament exercise in the country.

The UNHCR’s boss praised both Gen. Opande for a job well done and the ex-combatants for making what he termed as the best decision in moving Liberia forward.

In a related development, the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Rudd Lubbers yesterday, visited the Perry Camp Way Station that is home to more than 4,000 Liberian returnees from neighboring Sierra Leone.

Mr. Lubbers’ visit is part of his country tour of UNHCR programmes in Liberia to acquaint himself with the situation of persons driven out of their homes by wars and disasters and see what can be done to help find solutions.

He was accompanied on the tour by UNHCR Branch Director (Liberia), Moses Okello, and the Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Mr. Philip Dwuye, amongst many others.

Prominent amongst those on hand to welcome Mr. Lubbers to the Way Station were UNHCR Field Assistant, Josiah Flomo, the National Executive Director of CCC, Mrs. Mariama Z. Brown, elders and heads of the various communities and blocks at the Way Station.

In her welcoming statement, Director Brown thanked Commissioner Lubber for the level of collaborative empowerment subsisting between UNHCR and national NGOs, especially CCC.

She recounted UNHCR’s efforts since the 1990s to work with local NGOs in order to ensure the total involvement of nationals in the emergency control efforts of their country.

“UNHCR has been with us since 1990, working with and empowering local NGOs. We think this is commendable. We want to thank you personally for this good policy,” Mrs. Brown told Commissioner Lubber amidst applause.

According to her, UNHCR’s policy of empowering local initiatives has the long-term objective of ensuring a national takeover when the services of the UN refugee agency were no longer as imperative as they are at the moment.

She praised the UNCHR local staff for “job well done,” disclosing that all assistance that was sent by the UNHCR world headquarters were being received by the targeted groups – returnees and IDPs.

She did not elaborate, but it is known that UNHRC provides, periodically, tarpaulin, blankets, mats, washing soap, cooking utensils, and other kitchen accessories to IDPs and returnees.

Also speaking during the occasion, the National Director LRRC, Mr. Philip Dwuye, thanked the UNHCR boss for his role in the peace process and especially for the upkeep of LRRC.

“When peace was difficult, Mr. Lubber asked Charles Taylor to leave. As a result of that today, we have peace in Liberia,” Mr. Dwuye said, disclosing that his official vehicle was provided by UNHCR.

He then hoped that when Mr. Lubbers visits Liberia the next time, it would be to consult on how to improve conditions in the country and not how to resettle or repatriate stranded Liberians.

For his part, returnee spokesman A.J. Amah Kannah expressed gratitude to UNHCR and its implementer for the Perry Town Way Station project, CCC, for working around the clock to help reorder their shattered lives.

He recounted the circumstances that necessitated their spontaneous return to Liberia and prevailed on the UNHCR boss to augment the assistance being given the returnees to include learning opportunities for their kids, vocational training for adults, and resettlement packages.

Presenting Mr. Lubber, UNHCR Branch Director (Liberia), Moses Okelo, recounted the difficulties associated with moving the returnees from the border crossing point in Bo to the Way Station in Brewerville and praised the determination of his staff serve humanity, CCC, and the resilience of the returnees.

According to Mr. Okelo, the spontaneous return of Liberians from Sierra Leone helped endorse the Liberian peace process and established confidence in the international community that the peace agenda in Liberia was mandatory and worthwhile.

He then thanked Mr. Lubber for revisiting the camp to see the returnees whom he had interacted with earlier in Sierra Leonean refugee camps.

In response, Mr. Lubbers acknowledged the kind sentiments expressed and indicated that what was collectively achieved by UNHCR and her implementing partners was the work of God without whom nothing would have been possible.

He praised CCC for ably utilizing the project funds, and intimated that such collaborative efforts between UNHCR and national NGOs would continue.

The UNHCR boss then promised to “read and re-read” statement presented to him by the returnees and see what would be possible.

It may be recalled that CCC constructed the Perry Camp Way Station, a temporary resting point for Liberians returning from exile, through funds provided by the UNHCR.

Initially an emergency depot in February, the Perry Camp Way Station is today a sprawling IDP community equipped with modern water and toilet facilities.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.