By Edmund Mingle
Wednesday, 02 April 2008
THE seemingly innocuous demonstrations by Liberian women and children at the Buduburam Refugee settlement last month were part of "a wider plot" by some persons to cause mayhem and threaten the peace of the country, Interior Minister, Kwamena Bartels said yesterday.
Although he did not give details of the plot, Mr Bartels said the "government is aware of the presence of a number of ex-combatants at the settlement and will not sit down unconcerned for our national security to be jeopardized."
He was speaking at the Meet-the-Press series at the Ministry of Information yesterday on the situation at the settlement following resistance by some of the refugees to repatriation
Mr Bartels recalled that following intelligence reports, the government on March 22, directed the security agencies to arrest a number of "ringleaders" of the demonstration and some people at the settlement whose activities posed a threat to national security.
The operation by the security agencies, he said, resulted in the arrest of 107 Liberians out of whom 77 were released after screening. Sixteen of the remaining 30 arrested were repatriated on account of their involvement in activities leading to insecurity at the settlement, twelve have been granted bail and are under investigations while two others are being held for undisclosed immigration offences.
He said that those arrested were found inciting the refugees against the authority of the state, which led to the break-down of law and order at the settlement, with the potential of a spill-over to neighbouring towns.
Apart from other actions that caused insecurity and amounted to the disregard for the rule of law, Mr Bartels said, the demonstrators prevented the distribution of daily food rations to the vulnerable, caused the closure of schools and drove out the leadership of the Welfare Council from the settlement for not supporting their cause.
In addition, some of them caused public nuisance by resorting to stripping themselves on the main road in front of the settlement.
"Ghana, as an independent sovereign country, has the right to protect herself from subversive elements and would take any action to protect the peace in the country without apology to anyone," he said.
Mr Bartels said the leaders of the demonstration succeeded in creating an anarchic state at the Buduburam settlement, and the government had to intervene to protect law abiding refugees, adding that it was to maintain sanity at the settlement that the government, on March 17, relocated 663 of them to the Youth Leadership Training Centre at Kordiabe, which is now designated a refugee settlement.
However, all the children, the sick, pregnant, lactating mothers and the elderly were returned to Buduburam "on humanitarian grounds" to rejoin their families.
Mr Bartels described the demonstration by the protesting refugees as illegal because police permission was not sought.