Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Amb. Ballmoos' National Dilemma? In Refugees' Saga, Is Liberian Ambassador Cut Between the Scissors?

Nat Bayjay,

Monrovia -

Rudolf P. von Ballmoos, Liberia’s Ambassador to Ghana, has become a wildly unpopular figure since the Bubuduburam saga began Sunday. The Ambassador is being criticized by many, in Liberia, for doing little about his refugee-seeking kinsmen’s plight.
Ambassador Ballmoos, in response to the situation, Monday, told local radio audiences that the Liberian refugees “had no right” to opt for a leadership change in the Buduburam Camp as it is an international camp and not just a Liberian center.
Ballmoos was also clear that he only dispatched an embassy staffer to the refugee camp and had never visited the place himself. Many have labeled him a liar for echoing the Ghanaian authority’s previous statement that no live bullets were used in the saga. He also said the lone death reported was a Ghanaian and not a Liberian.ballmoon
Soon after, both the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ghana and the BBC confirmed at least a Liberian death.
Refugees in the camp are decrying his actions and words. Samuel Goffa, a medical refugee student told FrontPageAfrica: “That Ambassador should be replaced with immediate effect. Gone are the days when a government official, especially an ambassador who should be representing the government here, will lie. He has endangered our lives more.”
A frustrated Mark P. Sieh whose son is among several refugees imprisoned at the Cape Coast Central Prison in Ghana told FrontPageAfrica: “We don’t know why they are still keeping that man here. He just doesn’t care about us, about our plight.”
“But we are not surprised at all. The Ambassador is such a man who doesn’t care about us. He is more of a Ghanaian than a Liberian because of his attitudes towards us”, added Sarah Whawhen, another refugee.
Student campus-based movements have also joined in the Ambassador’s condemnation and recall campaign. The University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) on Wednesday issued a statement calling for the immediate dismissal of the Ambassador.
The ULSU stated in its statement that the Ambassador, who it said earns luxurious salary, failed to provide substantive information to Liberians and should be dismissed. They say von Ballmoos has “miserably failed to substantively inform the Liberian people as well as families of those refugees on the cause of the fracas but chose to give half-hazard information [and] should be immediately dismissed.”
Not only is the Ambassador facing lashes from the refugees and campus-based organizations. Opposition figures including Liberty Party’s Darius Dillion decried the Ambassador’s intervention in the fragile situation.

Dual Loyalty?
Others like Dorbor Nyemah a resident of the refugee center, believe that Ballmoos is a mixed national which they think is an obvious reason his handling of the ongoing refugee fracas in Ghana.
His Liberian mother, the late Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos who hailed from the Kru Coast was Liberia’s first ethnomusicologist (expert in ethnic or tribal music) after earning a Master’s degree in the specialized musical industry.
Accredited with promoting Liberian music internationally,   Mrs. Ballmoos’ training of the University of Liberia (UL) Chorus and later combining the National Choir to a great extent exposed Liberian music at international concerts. The combined choir was to later go on and win awards in the mid 1970’s.
Mr. Ballmoos’ father, according to Nyemah, is said to be a Ghanaian with a European background.
“The Ambassador’s poor-showing in the refugees situation is his way of winning his way into a Ghanaian doyenship because that man has already spent six years here as Ambassador”, Nyemah added.
Ambassador’s Bad Omen?
With repeated calls from Liberians both at home and among refugees in Ghana for the Ambassador to be recalled observers have already begun reminding themselves of similar scenario that led to the dismissal of a former Ghanaian Interior Minister.
Kwamena Bartels lost his job in the aftermath of the 2008 Buduburam refugee crisis when former Ghanaian President John Kufour felt misled.
Bartels who was overseeing activities that led to the arrest of protesting Liberian female refugees on the camp provided misinformation to Ghanaian authorities. The former president who was on a European visit at the time had to cut short his trip and returned to Ghana to calm what seemed like a bilateral-threatened crisis between Ghana and Liberia.
Ahead of a planned government delegation slated for over the weekend, according to Information Minister Cletus Sieh, there are expectations as well as doubts as to what the assessment outcome would be. A previous delegation in the aftermath of the 2008 refugee saga was also set up.