Monrovia - Liberia — The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, has assured Community citizens of the organization's determination to make the region a zone of peace governed by the rule of law and respect of human rights.
Addressing Ivorian refugees in Liberia on Monday 17th December 2012 at the PTP Refugee camp in Zwedru capital of Grand Gedeh County more than 450 km south- east of the capital Monrovia, he reiterated the Commission's commitment to resolve existing crises in the region to enable displaced persons return to their home countries and pursue their legitimate means of livelihood in atmosphere of peace and political stability while working to prevent the eruption of new conflicts.
Liberia hosts more than 66,800 Ivorian refugees who fled the 2010 post- election crisis in their country. Zwedru accommodates 9,000 of them, while the rest are in four other camps in Liberia. "We are here today because you are important, and we bring a message of solidarity," President Ouédraogo, told the refugees, adding that the Commission is working with Member States, regional leaders as well as partners to restore peace to the entire region so that displaced persons can return home.
The ECOWAS chief appealed to the refugees to live in peace and harmony with the host community and thanked the Liberian people and Government for their generosity in accommodating refugees from other countries despite the nation's own challenges. President Ouédraogo later made a symbolic presentation of some bags of rice from the Commission to the refugee leaders. This is ahead of the official presentation of 300 metric tons of rice to the Liberian Government for distribution to the refugees.
Speaking at the Zwedru ceremony which was also attended by officials of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN refugee agency UNHCR, as well as the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which provided the Helicopter for the Monrovia- Zwedru mission, and other refugee supporting agencies, the refugee leaders listed their concerns.
They also expressed their willingness to return home as soon as security improved and peace returned to Cote d'Ivoire. One of the refugees, with two wives and 11 children, thanked Liberians for their hospitality and requested additional assistance to improve the lives of the refugees.
In his welcome address, a representative of the County Superintendent, Mr. Olaska Bah, thanked ECOWAS and the UN partners for assisting the refugees. He reiterated the host community's resolve to continue to extend the hand of fellowship to the refugees, whom he also requested to reciprocate the gesture by being of good conduct. The WFP Representative and Country Director, Dr. Getachew Diriba, commended ECOWAS for providing "an African solution to an African problem," and for being the first organization to have visited the refugees at such high level of authority.
The Head of UN Field Office, Mr. Mtaisi Thomas, echoed a similar sentiment, while the Head of the UNHCR Grand Gedeh Sub-Office, Ms. Fatima Mohammed, noted that apart from supporting Ivorian refugees in the country, ECOWAS and UN partners have contributed to the voluntary repatriation of more than 30,000 Liberian refugees from Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.