Togo's Security Minister is quoted by the BBC saying that 3,500 refugees have crossed into Northern Togo from Ghana following ethnic conflict and land disputes. Ghanaian blogger and journalist Ato kwamena Dandzie discusses the issue in his post titled Our First Refugees.
He argues that Ghana has successfuly produced first batch of refugees:
After years of proclaiming to the world that we are the most “peace loving” people on earth, we have ‘successfully’ produced our own batch of refugees. News reports suggest that hundreds of Ghanaians fleeing tribal strife in the northern territories are being housed in refugee camps in Togo.
It’s a big shame, isn’t it?
He is suprised that the news went to London first before getting back to Ghana. He writes, “We are here in Ghana and the news passed us by, went to London before finally getting piped back to our bosoms through the BBC”:
First, it’s quite sad that the sad episode of our refugee movements only came to our attention through the BBC.
We are here in Ghana and the news passed us by, went to London before finally getting piped back to our bosoms through the BBC. Even government officials were unaware of the refugee movements. That’s what you get when your intelligence agency delights in acting all stupid, scaring iced block sellers to death – like they did last week at the BNI offices.
Instead of bowing their heads in shame for their shortcomings (failing to restore law and order to the strife-prone communities and being unaware of the refugee movements) government officials are rather blaming the BBC for exaggerating the refugee numbers.
One of his readers, Felix Mawulolo Amegashie, wonders how investigative journalsits, bloggers and regional reporters in Ghana missed this story:
27 May 2010 | 10:07 AM
Isn't it a shame , that we have investigative journalists, bloggers, regional news reporters, and media men all over Ghana who take interest in political commentary than in social issues as this?
How come the refugess eluded all of us and had to take the BBC to break the news?
In any case , why blame govt alone for this mess? Was it govt that created the disturbances in that area?
Its a failure on the gate-keepers (the media) to report this for all of us instead of a foreign media throwing the dirt at us.
This is an indictment on the quality of the media Ghana has.
At, ur attempts to lay the blame at the doorsteps of the President is very myopic.
Historical and cultural records tell us that borders are just imaginary lines. There are Ghanaians all over the world running away from either poor working conditions, conflict, bad governance, political persecutions, poor education, terrible infrastructure and are living in enclaves.
Do we classify them too as “refugees”?
Does it matter how many refugees went to Togo?, Ato asks:
But government’s tango with the UN refugee agency and the Togolese authorities over the number of Ghanaian refugee in Togo points to one of the causes of the backwardness in our society – dwelling needlessly on trivialities!
The question is does it matter the number of refugees?
Even if there are six Ghanaians seeking sanctuary in unstable Togo of all places, it should give government cause for concern. Now is not the time to argue over the inconsequential. This sort of shameful, inexplicable denial makes a laughing stock of our nation. The earlier it stops the better.
He advises the government to stop ethnic violence first before encouraging the refugees to go back to Gahana:
But the people fled their communities for a reason. They didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to take a hike to Togo with their mattresses and TV sets on their heads. They’ve had enough of the senseless violence and they feel the only way for them to live in peace and tranquility – even if without dignity – is to become refugees. Until the violence stops it wouldn’t make sense for government to encourage or gently prod the refugees to return to their communities.
I heard the deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, saying that government believes it’s better for the refugees to be on our side of the border than on the Togolese side.
The refugees will most probably not agree with him. If he went to Togo and told them that they’d pelt him with balls of kenkey – or whatever they are being fed with by the Togolese authorities.
It’s better for the refugees to be where they feel safe. And if it’s in Togo, so be it. Instead of taking panic decisions, government should carefully think things through and it would come to the realization that this is perhaps a great opportunity to finally resolve the conflicts that have sent our compatriots scurrying into foreign territories for refuge.
Mus Dee, Ato's reader, thinks that the refugees must be left alone to find their own solution:
27 May 2010 | 10:16 AM
Infact those people knew the consequences they would be facing having this useless conflict within their communities, why then do they flee from their homes to Togo as refugees. Ato, infact we must leave those people for them to find their own solution. Since when has the government being confronting them. Enough is Enough.
Another reader, Kwesi, says:
27 May 2010 | 04:29 PM
Talk is cheap and its really cheap in Ghana. Is Ghana getting better or bitter?
The last Northern refugees that moved to Accra are mostly living at Kokomba Market now called Sodom & Gomorah, visit that place and you will weep (if you have a heart). Its a pity and shame in this mordern times to have our own people living like sub-humans in their own country, yet we could give $3,000,000.00 to Haiti. Let's our leaders be serious for once and set their priorities right,charity begin at home.
Just watch,very soon NDC will begin to blame NPP for the refugee problem in the NORTH.
WHEN WILL THE PETTINESS STOP? ITS SAD……..Oh God free us from egoism,lust,greed,anger and hatred and fill our hearts with LOVE so that we live in PEACE & UNITY.