By Morrison O.G. Sayon
The Executive Director of the Liberia Refugees Repatriation, Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Cllr. Abla Gadegbeku Williams, has proposed the hosting of a national conference intended to address the plights of some 32,000 Liberian Returnees.
Speaking over the weekend at the graduation ceremony of 220 returnees who completed a month-long Entrepreneurship Development Training in the field, Cllr. Williams called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to convene a conference involving all stakeholders involving with refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons to create an aggressive new blue print that will address in wholesome the plight of the remaining 32,000 returnees and other TDPs.
“In no doubt, every time as head of the LRRRC, when I reflect on what, how and why a person is considered a returnee, I’m quickly reminded of our obligation to work harder to ensure a speedy and sustainable reintegration process. But what drives me the most is your commitment to utilize these skills because in this way, you demonstrate the most your spirit would overcome and difficulties that far transcends the challenge you face,” Cllr. Williams said.
She furthered, “Some of the stories I have been hearing from returnees, and internally displaced people since taking over the Commission is that many returnees who were formally refugees in other lands survived there because of the hopes of returning home one day. They said to me, Madam Commissioner, “we accepted any, and all conditions because we knew where we lived weren’t home”. And so they tell me, when the opportunity to return home became possible; they volunteered in numbers to return. The irony for them as they narrated to me is that they returned home but to a new country they could not remember or that people/communities could not remember them either because they have been gone for too long, and have adopted a new culture, or they came back with huge expectations that make our sincere efforts to integrate them far too small.”
The LRRRC boss noted that the Government of Liberia, through the LRRRC, believes the that things are changing for which government is proud to say that over the years the commission has continue to work, with very limited resources, in the direction of making the complex process of integration much easier and faster.
“We have tirelessly engaged the support of our international partners for programs and projects that are much more than a few cups of rice, clothes or the traditional items given to Liberians when they return from refugee-exile. Our vision remains to make you independent in truly coping with the integration process in a sustainable and healthy way. That is why we have increased our focus on you gaining skills that can become life changers. Today’s program is a classic example,” Williams said.
She assured the returnees that government has never lost sight of the fact that it is not just these opportunities they seek to provide to returnees adding, “Whatever the mind conceives, and believes, it can achieve. Look around you, in your communities, and around the world and you will soon realize that those who have achieved the most, are often those who have conceived and believed firstly in themselves.”
On the issue of the deadly Ebola Virus that has surfaced in Liberia, Cllr. Williams noted, “To our people-Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced person, we encourage you to carefully follow the advice of the Ministry of Health on the recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus.”
She then appealed to UNDP and other partners for emergency assistance that will enable the Liberian Government to create the necessary awareness that will further safe-guide these people.