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Published: April 2nd 2008
Can you think of the scariest moment in life?
I've had few but the scariest have been the 2 car accidents that I've had. Besides that I'm scared of being home alone at night - with the woods behing my house and "house noises".
What about the moment that you've felt the most helpless?
I can't really think of a moment right now but last Saturday (march 22) was both the most helpless and the scariest day of my life.
I woke up around 7/7:30 and felt like I was in the middle of the serengeti in the midst of the migrating wildebeest. The yells and screams made me quickly realize where I was at and jumped out of bed and outside to see hundreds of men running. The women and children were out - screaming at the men to run, run faster - tears rushing from their eyes. I live in zone 9, after which is zone 10 and then the camp ends and the bush begins - this is where the men were running to. I gave my cell to my friends and called all the children into my house where I had them sit quitely. The women were rushing up, opposite of the men, to the top of camp to find out information. I immediately called my friend Justin at home (around 3 am there). Soon after I received a call from the US Embassy here in Accra where I had to relay the information about what was going on and was given the direct line to the military here in Accra in case I needed help getting out of camp and to safety.
Here is what happened:
The Ghanaian police arrived on camp (and was told later on by the second call that I had received from the embassy that the Ghanaian police had entered the camp to arrest 5-10 men who were believed to have robbed and beat up some people on camp - again, the camp is small if such a thing had happened we all would have heard about this) and started arresting any man that they could get their hands on. The broke into homes and pulled men out of bed, the went into churches where services were being held (again, this is Africa - church is 24/7), dragged men from the public bathrooms, etc. As soon as this started happening everyone started screaming for the men to run from camp. They grabbed their id cards (UNHCR cards) and started to run out of camp to hide in the bush. Thousands of men were in the bush. Police were coming in both in uniforms and civilian clothing with guns (not just lil old handguns but big shot guns/machine guns). They didn't care who you were but if they caught you they put you on one of the buses. To some people they took the id cards and snapped em right in half. The Ghanaians eventually came with reinforcements and started heading towards the bushes to see who they could capture there. The women who live around me felt so bad for me because I was crying (sorry, can't say I've ever been through such an experience!) but really I was terrified but not so much for myself but for the people of the camp - the children who have had their mothers taken and now their fathers, the fathers/brothers/sons who were arrested, the wives who aren't sure if their husbands/brothers/fathers/sons were arrested. I wanted to do something but was helpless and couldn't do a thing to protect these people. I stayed locked up in my house with abuot 5 children and was just trying to keep them occupied. All day long people were on edge and most of the men didn't come back til late that evening and lots slept in the bush that night. We were told there would be another raid around midnight or 2 am so most people stayed awake just in case. I packed my small backpack just in case it did happen again and I needed to get out of camp. The lady from the embassy that I talked to said I should leave camp and that it wasn't safe but I've never felt anything but safe. Fortunately for me I am an American citizen so the Ghanaian police wouldn't be able to do anything to me. On the news the Minister of the Interior here in Ghana was stating how the men that they arrested were all ex-combatants (BS!). Some of the men that were arrested came home that evening, some stayed in jail for about a week and the rest were put on a plane that evening for Monrovia. A bunch of the men that were arrested were all playing basketball up at the court near the entrance to the camp and a lot of them were sent back to Monrovia or stayed in jail - it just doesn't make any sense that they were all arrested - as though the men that the Ghanaian police were "looking for" just happened to be all together playing basketball that morning. The UN "washed their hands" of this whole incicdent and didn't appreciate what the Ghanaian government did and told them to stop the deportation. The Ghanaian government said that it was "repatriation and not deportation" - sorry, but deportation is mandatory and repatriation is voluntary - these men did not VOLUNTEER to go back to Liberia. This Friday the "big decision" comes from all parties as to the fate of the Liberian refugees here on camp. It's just so sad because while I can understand the viewpoint from all sides (though I cannot understand the viewpoint from the side of the Ghanaian government because htey have been nothing but violent and hostile during the past month and a half) I just want to know at what point was it forgotten that these people are just that...people..human beings. The lady from the embassy said there was nothing they could do - I understand, they're not Americans - but I would only hope that if such a civil war had occurred in America that people would be concerned about us and would want to help, would step in when there was injustice against others.
When was humanity replaced by politics? When did people start focusing on their job and the money that its bringing in and lose their ethcis, good will, care and kindness towards other humans, emotions, etc?
People have been asking about things that they can do - as of right now I'm not sure but as soon as we hear what is going on on Friday I will let people know.
On a different note: After all this I decided I needed to get away for a few days to "clear the head". I went to Cape Coast last week for a few days and then to the Ivory Coast again (had to renew my visa since I was already 2 weeks overdue). At Cape Coast is where to of the castles are that the slaves left from to board ships to head to Europe and the Americas. It was quite a surreal feeling to be there - to see where the women and men were kept in different rooms with two small holes near the top for air - hundreds of people kept in one small room. You saw the small drainage system for their waste and saw the shackles for their hands and feet. And of course you saw the "Door of No Return" - pretty emotional.
Sunday is my birthday - the big 25! yikes! I bought some beautiful fabric in Cote D'Ivoire and am having a "birthday dress" made with it. I'll spend Sunday here on camp with all my friends and neighbors and then Monday morning will be heading up north to Mole National Park to see the elephants for a few days.
Love to all,
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