ACCRA, 28 May 2010 – The Ghanaian government will set up shelters for 1,000 returning refugees who fled to neighbouring Togo to escape violence in Bawku in Upper East region following land disputes that have been mounting since late April.
The Togolese authorities had set up temporary camps in Tandjouare, in the north near the Ghanaian border.
“It’s an emergency situation and the sooner a coordinated response can be taken, the better,” UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson in Ghana, Awurabena Hutchful, told IRIN.
Bawku has frequently experienced clashes between residents and migrants who came to the area decades ago to trade and put down roots. The violence often falls along ethnic lines, with the Kusasi and Manprusi pitted against one another.
The last major clash took place in 2001 when 28 people were killed. Some 1,000 were killed in clashes over land ownership in 1994 and 1995.
UNHCR has provided tents, food and security for the refugees, said Hutchful, and will deliver more non-food items in a few days’ time. The agency and the Togolese government counted 3,247 refugees in Togo during a joint assessment, but the Ghana Deputy Information Minister disputes the figure, saying just 1,000 refugees need shelter.
A Ghana government team is being set up to rebuild all the houses that were destroyed in Bawku. Three trucks loaded with roofing sheets have already been dispatched. In the interim, “the government will have the refugee camp in Togo relocated here [Ghana] even if the rebuilding will be too long. We are of the view that it is better for them to be in Ghana instead of Togo,” said Deputy Information Minister, Samuel Okudjato Ablakwa.
The decision followed a 26 May meeting between Ghanaian President Atta Mills and Togolese national security coordinator, Gbevlo Lartey, and other Togolese officials to discuss a solution to the crisis.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]