The 15 day Joint cross border patrol undertaking between defense and security forces between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire to reinforce social cohesion, promote peace, improve security and confidence between border security actors and the border communities between the two countries ended on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 in Loguatuo, Nimba County with recommendations made to keep the two countries engaged in maintain and sustaining peace and security.
The Liberian delegation which was led by Atty. Mr. Samuel F. Dakana, Deputy Security Advisor to the President and also included Mr. Henry Friday Zargo, Deputy Comptroller in charge of Migration at the Liberia Immigration Service, local county officials from Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties, County commanders of the various security institutions such as the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Liberia Immigration Service, the Liberia Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Liberia National Police , as well as representation from the Forestry Development Authority(FDA).
Addressing the gathering at the debriefing program held at the Loguatuo Township hall, Atty. Mr. Dakana said he was excited that despite the many challenges encountered during the exercise, it ended successfully given the enthusiasm among the citizens and residents of the two countries whose communities were visited.
While describing the exercise as a lesson learnt, he called on the participants from both sides to take a serious look at the critical issues raised during the engagements with the various communities.
“Our citizens are concerned about the tariffs that have been imposed at the border and its economy bearing with respect to how the objective of ECOWAS will be achieved. We need to look at the issue of cross border trade so that those who also pass through our borders will also help to enhance our security. He informed the join patrol team about concerns raised by citizens along both side of the border of high fees and charges been imposed at cross border points along the Ivorian Liberian border.
There were issues of double and continuous payment of fees in land after border charges at check points at both ends of the border, by our community members and people that are benefitting from the border transaction”, he said.
He further said that citizens along bordering communities raised concerns that their family members are subjected to pay tariffs on small goods not meant for business but family use and other charges whenever they are visiting their family members across from both ends of the border. He said that the citizens have expressed that this is causing some of them to start using unauthorized crossing points that are now been used by criminal minded person along the border.
The top security said the situation is generating serious concern for which the local security authorities need to rethink and be able to distinguish between those who are using the border facilities for trade and inter country travel on the one hand and those who are also using the border facilities to visit family members across the border on the other hand. He added that this will help enhance friendliness along the border entry points, stressing as law enforcement officers, they are peacemakers.
Atty. Dakana used the occasion to adequately point out the long standing security issues with respect to some West African nationals especially Ivorian and Ivorian-Burkinabees who are residing in the Liberian forest illegally and involved in farming which is of serious security concern both for Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.
He noted that because of the porous nature of our border and some of the points are not fully manned, Liberia has taken action to make sure that the forest are cleared so that it is not being used for dissident purpose as any dissident activities that take place in the forest will definitely affect both countries directly or indirectly. He said the Government of Liberia has launched a vigorous border patrol which resulted in the arrest of people who have been entering the country and farming illegally.
“Honorable Superintendent and members of the Ivorian delegation, the last time the immigration arrested a number of men in our forest. Some were identified as Ivorian, and some as Ivorian Burkinabes. And for the purpose of security continuity and cooperation, we turned them over to the Ivorian security and we have been hearing that they have been resurfacing in our forest, especially the Ivorian Burkinabes. And we want the Superintendent of Danane who has expressed his interest in his involvement in this patrol and the head of the security team to take it seriously. Our observation has also shown that there are a lot of illegal infiltrations through illegal border communities and once the entry is illegal the suspicion will be they are trading illegally, either in commodity or drugs”, he said.
The head of delegation said as a result of the joint patrol and its outcome, it would be expedient if both Countries security forces could analyze all of the critical issues and develop strategy between the joint forces to mitigate those things that have been observed and so as to make our border point more friendly but strict adherence to the rule of law.
To get a better result from the joint patrol with respect to providing adequate security at the various crossing and border points, Atty. Dakana recommended that liaison officers be designated from both ends at all major border crossing point.
“The second recommendation we want to put forth is to strengthen what we have started so that it can have a long lasting impact, we want to encourage the monthly meetings of the security forces within the different crossing and border points. This will help us to remind us as immediate officers at the border points”, he said.
Addressing an issue raised in one of the conversations with a local community in which an allegation was made that some security agents were encouraging illegal crossing of borders, the top security chief said while he will not want to believe it is true, he called on security personnel at the border points to charge themselves to remain committed to their duty because they all are under oath.
“That finger pointing at us that some of us are encouraging illegal crossing, from wherever border point, we need to examine ourselves and prove what they said is not true.
For his part, the Commandant for the Gendarmerie in Danane, Major Gode Siaka said he was exceedingly happy for the joint patrol and extended thanks and appreciation to the joint team from drawn from both countries for their commitment, hard work and professionalism exhibited during the entire course of the undertaken.
He said from the positive side of the exercise, he was happy that the two security forces have created a new bond of friendship and cooperation that have won the admiration of the local citizens whose communities visited as well as positively impacting on reinforcing social cohesion between bordering communities and building of trust and confidence among the security forces between the two sister countries.
He also said despite the positive side, there were some challenges that bordered on bad road conditions, problems with communication and internet connectivity and logistical issues all of which were obstacles to the negatively impacted on the project.
He also mentioned the lack of coordination between the planners/organizers especially the civil society organizations which made some of the communities earmarked for visitations were not adequately informed about the planned events in their localities.
He recommended that concrete actions be taken from both governments and other stakeholders to find lasting solutions to some of the challenges he enumerated. He also called on both governments to make the project theirs so that aside donor funding, they too must have their own input so that it will have a meaningful impact on what the two countries want to achieve.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Superintendent of the Danane region, Mr. Assahi Kokora, spoke highly of the success story of the project and commended both the governments and donor agencies for undertaking such an exercise that will go a long way in reassuring the citizens of both countries especially at the border communities of proper security and protection as well promoting social cohesion.
He recommended the annual meeting of the various security forces as a way of continuously engaging the various border communities. He stressed that what has started should not be stopped and must claim the attention of the authorities of both countries if they are serious about promoting peace and stability in the two countries.
In closing remarks, the Township Commissioner of Loguatuo, Mr. Aaron Mensah thanked the participants in the joint exercise and assured them of the support and cooperation of his people towards it. He said the citizens are ready, willing and able with the government in realizing the objectives of the project.
The joint patrol took the security team to various towns and communities in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire and interacted with the citizens and residents in places like Glio Tenpor, B’hai, Garley Town, Bartejam and Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County while in Nimba they visited Behwahlay, Ganta, Yekepa, Butuo, Karnley, Loguatuo, etc. For Côte d’Ivoire, the team visited Toulepleu, Guiglo, Sakre, Daobly, Tioule Oula, Keibly, Danane, Gbeunta, etc