The acquittal of former President Laurent Gbagbo of neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, sparked spontaneous jubilation at the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Ellembelle District in the Western Region.
The former president is said to be the first African leader to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in The Netherlands.
Following the announcement, all activities at the camp came to a standstill as the over 3,500 adults and schoolchildren abandoned their daily activities and the classrooms to celebrate the freeing of the former president.
The overjoyed Ivorian nationals sang, praising the name of Mr Gbagbo, and danced around the camp, greeting and hugging each other as some burst into tears of joy while others dressed like the former president.
The Ellembelle District Police Command has despatched personnel to the camp to ensure that the situation does not degenerate into lawlessness.
The District Commander, Supt. Thomas Bayor, said even though the jubilation was peaceful, “we are not taking things for granted and we have prepared adequately to contain any ‘overly’ celebration.
We have also deployed men to the nearby Krisan Camp as well.”
The Cote d’Ivoire nationals, who are supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo, were displaced by the war more than half a decade ago and have refused to return home for fear of persecution.
They wish to remain in Ghana, which they consider a safe place and maintain that Mr Gbagbo had always been innocent of the crime he was accused of.
Some refugees who spoke to the Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity called on the African Union (AU) to as a matter of urgency, act immediately to halt future occurrences.
Though happy, some say they are also sad, as their present situation had robbed them of all that they owned before becoming refugees.
“The children we entered the camp with have become adults with no hope since many were not able to get better education and grow in their home country,” one woman said.
Others expressed the hope that the release of Mr Gbagbo would culminate into a reconciliation process to fix the “broken nation” and the life of the former president and those who were displaced.
Turn of events
But in a turn of events yesterday, a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors led to the former Ivorian leader being kept behind bars.
The prosecutors appealed against Mr Gbagbo’s acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity, and challenged the decision, arguing that Mr Gbagbo might abscond.