11 000 Ivorian refugees in Ghana afraid to go home

2016-07-13 07:12


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Egyeikrom - Five years after the return of peace to Ivory Coast, 11 000 Ivorian refugees living in Ghana are still afraid to go home despite an upbeat economic climate in the world's top cocoa producer.

While the international community deems it safe for those involved in a decade of trouble to return, Ange-Pelagie Baya said: "We would prefer to die of hunger rather than go back."

A UN refugee agency-brokered meeting has begun in Abidjan to prepare for the return of all the Ivorians who fled the bloody post-electoral violence that erupted in 2010-11.

Cannot return

Ivory Coast's social cohesion minister Mariatou Kone has pledged that "no-one would be arrested on their return" and indicated a possible amnesty for those opposed at the time to current President Alassane Ouattara.

But of the 11 000 Ivorian refugees in Ghana, only four have officially returned since Kone visited Accra in May.

Ouattara won a second mandate in October on pledges of restoring longtime stability following the troubled 2010 elections which saw him compete against former strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

Gbagbo now is behind bars on trial in The Hague following the deaths of about 3 000 in post-election violence in 2010-2011.

In Ghana's Central Region, the 2 200 refugees at the Egyeikrom camp, all of them Gbagbo supporters, are adamant they cannot return.

"We can't go back as long as the (Ouattara) regime remains," said Baya.

Baya doesn't recognise Ouattara's legitimacy as president, labelling him a "rebel" and a "foreigner".

Yet she admits life as a refugee is harsh. "We don't have anything here, just a bit of work in the fields during harvest time."

Aid promised

Food distribution to the refugees was stopped in November and only 3% of the aid promised by donors to the UNHCR has been allocated since the start of the year.

"The donors would rather invest in the country, given that the situation in Ivory Coast is stabilising," said the UNHCR spokesperson in Ghana, Nii Ako Sowa.

With growth at 8% last year, Ivory Coast, Ghana's neighbour to the west, is no longer a priority for aid.

Read more on:    ivory  |  ghana  |  west africa

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