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NEWS : Local News  

UNHCR In Corruption Scam in Sierra Leone
By Abdul Karim Kabia
Oct 17, 2008, 17:06
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A Liberian Refugee, Alhaji Amara M’bonda on Thursday October 16, 2008 stormed the office of the Awareness Times to register his frustration over what he termed as "an abuse of his human rights" and alleged corruption by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sierra Leone, thus depriving him of his right to stay in a third world country of safety.

M’bonda is said to have suffered torture and unlawful detention in the hands of the Anti-Terrorists Unit of former Liberian President and Special Court War Crimes Indictee, Charles Taylor in 2001. Reports say his family was also subjected to intimidation and harassment that forces them to flee to Sierra Leone.

Mr. M’bonda told the Awareness Times that the UNHCR in Sierra Leone registered him and his family as refugees, adding that they were placed at Gondama Refugee Camp.

"Due to my terrible experience in Liberia, I suffered depression and traumatic stress disorder," he explained in tears, while adding that he received medical treatment from Medicine San Frontier (MSF).

He says the MSF wrote a letter to UNHCR which states thus: "…from a mental health perspective, it is not in the best interest of Mr. M’bonda and family to be repatriated to Liberia and we (MSF) would therefore support his claim to be granted asylum in another country."

M’bonda explained further that his case was processed by the UNHCR through the International Organization of Migration (IOM) that conducted the interview.

"After a successful interview, UNHCR officials (names withheld) decided to strike a deal with me requesting eight spaces out of my twenty three dependants’ spaces," he alleged, adding that he refused the deal and insisted on traveling with all his dependants.

M’bonda alleges that the officials gave him an ultimatum which is either to accept the deal or losses his opportunity to travel out of the country.

Police reports also have it that M’bonda and family were attacked by unknown assailants with stones pelted at his camp. With the intervention of the police, M’bonda was advised to relocate to any other camp and his family be placed under protective custody.

"Since then my program has crumbled and my hopes now rest on human rights organizations and the press to help me," he said, while alleging that several letters written to the UNHCR by various human rights organizations to ascertain his status proved fruitless.

However, M’bonda has promised to fight for his right until UNHCR intervenes.

Commanding Officer of the Gondama Police Station, Christiana Kargbo last evening confirmed to the Awareness Times that M’bonda’s wife and children have been under police protective custody since 9th August 2007 under very terrible conditions.

"They have been deprived of education and they are prone to malaria and cold since they sleep on the open floor," she disclosed, while adding that the UNHCR which is mandated to seek the interest and welfare of refugees has never visited the station.

When contacted in order to ascertain M’bonda’s claims, a senior official at the UNHCR denies knowledge of the occurrence but however promised to institute robust investigation as far as the issue is concerned.

Meanwhile, sources close to the UNHCR have intimated that an urgent meeting to discuss M’bonda’s case has been summoned.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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