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Published: March 21st 2008
You have to choose...
Thumbs, long sleeve, short sleeve or smile
Well, choose already...
If you don't know what it means then it sucks to be you because no matter which you choose its going to hurt and affect the rest of your life!
Thumbs - all your fingers except the thumbs are cut off
Long sleeve - your hands are both cut off at the wrist
Short sleeve - from your elbow and down is cut off
Smile - a blade is taken and cuts around your lips, cutting them right off
This is what Liberians were faced with during the civil war. Women were raped - soldiers would order men to rape their sisters/daughters/mothers and when they refused they were either killed or forced to hold her down while the soldier raped her. I've heard stories where a father and son had to hold the daughter/sister down while the soldier raped her. Her mother was screaming and wouldn't stop so the soldier cut off her head and made the woman that he was raping hold her mothers severed head in her hands while he raped her.
If you were walking in the streets and a soldier came up to you and ordered you to give him your boots you didn't refuse - if you did you were either slaughtered on the spot or they would just cut your feet off - now not only have you lost your boots but your feet as well.
Homes were looted and burned to the ground. Monrovia, the capital, was completely destroyed by missiles, bombs, guns etc./
Brief history of Liberia (from CIA world factbook)
"Settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR launched a rebellion against DOE's regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003, peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country will take many years."
So when I first arrived here to Buduburam I wrote about the three options that the refugees have 1)resettlement to a third country 2) repatriation back to Liberia and 3) integration into the Ghanaian society
Well, for the past month female Liberians have been at the top of camp on the soccer field protesting. If they can't be resettled to a third country then they want to go back to Liberia. However, the UN was only offering them $5 US dollars, recently they raised it to $100 but can you imagine having to start your life again with only $100 dollars ($100 per adult and $50 per child)!?!?!?!? At least here in camp they have a roof over their head, have some sort of a job (selling water, fruits, vegetables, etc.). While they say that Liberia is "safe" to go home to what the people aren't saying is that everyone is flocking to Monrovia - no one lives outside of the capital because its not safe there. There is no infrastructure in Monrovia - no running water, everyone has to have a generator as their is no current, etc. There is not enough housing for people so there are tons of people living in the streets. Anyways, the women have been protesting for a month for $1000 for each person to be sent home (money for housing, food, new clothes/things for the house since they can only bring about 20 kilos with them back home, school fees since schools are not free, start some sort of business, etc.). Africa may be cheap for westerners to come travel to but its still not as cheap as you would imagine, especially in a country such as Liberia which is rebuilding as if it was a completely new nation since everything was burned or bombed during the civil war. Lebanese refugees were offered thousands of dollars to return home (stated on the BBC yesterday).
Well, this past Monday I woke up to women screaming and crying running throughout camp. They were coming to let everyone know that armed Ghanaian police had just arrived at the top of camp and ordered women to be put on trucks, children were put on trucks as well. They were taken to remote locations across Ghana and forced to sit in fields in the hot sun without food or water. Later they were taken to a camp (some sort of volunteer or summer camp or something that is not currently in use) and have been held ever since. 649+ Women and children were taken and are facing deportation. They said that they were arrested (the women are innocent and who can arrest children). I know quite few children on camp whose mothers were taken and are now left in the care of friends or other family members. So these children may lose their mothers if they are deported and if they're deported then they're forced to leave all their belongings behind. From the few times we have heard from the women they are not being properly fed and are not given enough water (perhaps only 1 or 2 times a day - did I mention how hot it is here?!?!?!)
Today we found out that one woman has died and 2 women had miscarriages due to being bitten by scorpions. The Ghanaian police have stated that they were bringing order back to camp and ending the violence. Well let me tell you, I spent hours sitting on that field since I know many of the women due to my work and all that it was was a peaceful demonstration - no violence, no disorder, no chaos. The women even asked that the Liberian men refrain from joining them to ensure that it remained peaceful. The week and a half leading up to it some of us voluneers were working with the heads of the women, the Ghana Refugee Board and UN as mediators to open up discussions as to what could be done. The Ghana Refugee Board should feel ashamed as they opened up by stating that if the women did not get off the field that they would send in the military (note: back in 2003 out of nowhere military camp to camp and called everyone to the field where their lives were threated by the head of the military who arrived via helicopter - the men were then ordered to stay on the field for hours to be searched for weapons). Now the Ghanaian government is facing a lot of international slack by telling people such as BBC (and shame on them for not "fact checking) that the women were running around naked (again, was on that field every day and no one was ever naked) and running into the main road stopping traffic (again never happened). The thing is is that the women just want to talk with the UN and want nothing to do with the Ghanaian government since it is well known that the Ghanaians don't like the Liberians (in fact I wouldn't recommend coming to Ghana besides to see the beautiful beaches because Ghanaians don't like foreigners in general and I have only found the majority of them to be rude and unhelpful). This issue has been getting more and more international coverage but most of what they are receiving is incorrect info from the Ghanaian government who are just trying to cover their butts but now there are some international human rights lawyers who have come to the aid of the Liberians and are doing all that they can to help them.
Right now I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help. My friend Justin just went home so the two of us have both been actively contacting human rights organizations, etc. - he on the U.S. side making phone calls while I'm sending emails to organizations from here.
Please keep these women in your prayers - as well as everyone here on camp because who knows what the next step might be with everyone here and the Ghanaian government.
Check out videos of Buduburam (see what the camp is like and there are some videos here of the protest as well)
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