Symbolizing mass repatriations in West Africa UN refugee chief joins convoy

On Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers bade farewell to 17 trucks carrying 205 Liberian refugees across the Mano River bridge, the natural boundary between Sierra Leone and Liberia, which has seen scores of thousands fleeing in both directions from civil wars and violence ravaging each country.“We are here today to celebrate another repatriation,” Mr. Lubbers said at the Sierra Leonean border town of Gendema, referring to the ongoing facilitated repatriation of Liberians that started last October and has so far brought more than 2,100 refugees home.He was also pointing to the organized repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees that started in 2000 and ended last July, bringing home 280,000 refugees, 178,000 of them with UNHCR assistance.Mr. Lubbers said that after years of difficulties, it was a miracle that there was now peace in Sierra Leone. “There was a rough moment here, but the time has come to speak of violence as something of the past,” he said. “I can see that you are really prepared to live in peace and harmony.”He stressed that peace starts at home, in the family and community, and encouraged the education of girls in particular.In Gendema, hundreds of people including staff from UNHCR and partner agencies, government officials and locals gathered to welcome Mr. Lubbers, who is on a four-nation, six-day tour of West Africa.During his two-day stay, he met with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, UN Special Representative to Sierra Leone Daudi Mwakawago and other officials in humanitarian and development work. He has already visited Guinea and after his stay in Liberia will go next to Côte d’Ivoire. read more

Read More