Liberia’s Civil War Refugees Face Despair as Ghana Camp, Their Home for Decades, Is Demolished

Liberia's Civil War Refugees Face Despair as Ghana Camp
Displaced settlers take shelter at a local primary school as homes are demolished at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in the Gomoa East District, Central Region, Ghana. March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko Purchase Licensing Rights

Liberia’s Civil War Refugees Face Despair as Ghana Camp, Their Home for Decades, Is Demolished

In Buduburam, Ghana, the echoes of displacement and loss reverberate among the ruins of what was once home for thousands of Liberian refugees. Among them is Wendell Elijah Mallobe, a 55-year-old who finds himself amidst the remnants of his former abode, a place that provided shelter for over three decades. The Ghanaian authorities, in a controversial move, decided to dismantle the camp that harbored 15,000 Liberian refugees, leaving them in a state of destitution.

Mallobe, a survivor of Liberia’s brutal civil war, vividly recounts the tragedy of losing not just his shelter but also cherished possessions. “I don’t know anybody in Liberia. Nobody. They burnt the village I was living in,” he laments, encapsulating the profound loss that echoes through the displaced community. The demolition, initiated under the directives of traditional landowners, has left behind a landscape transformed into concrete rubble, erasing the once vibrant Liberia Camp that stood for 34 years. Amidst the wreckage, residents sift through the debris, attempting to salvage fragments of their former lives.

The genesis of this displacement dates back to Liberia’s civil wars between 1989 and 2003, where over 200,000 lost their lives, and countless others endured mutilation and rape. In the aftermath, the United Nations declared in 2006 that it was safe for refugees to return home. However, the reality proved more complex, with many refugees choosing to stay in the Buduburam-based Liberia Camp, grappling with trauma and lacking connections in a post-conflict Liberia.

Last week, the longstanding sanctuary faced its demise, leaving its inhabitants to confront a harsh new reality. Bulldozers plowed through the camp, sparing only the resilient palm trees as a testimony to the decades that had passed. As homes turned to rubble, the displaced sought refuge in improvised shelters like the Point Hope Basic School. Here, women, children, and the elderly huddled together on makeshift beds, battling the discomforts of cold nights and mosquito-infested surroundings.

The poignant narrative extends to Patrelizas Prowd and her one-month-old niece, forced to share a mattress with another refugee. Prowd describes the challenges her infant niece faces, from the uncomfortable cold to the relentless mosquitoes. The upheaval in Buduburam not only dismantles physical structures but also disrupts the delicate fabric of lives that found solace in the now-disintegrated Liberia Camp.


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