By Stephen G. Fellajuah
The Mano River Union (MRU) and UNOWAS have opened a sub-regional meeting of Ministers Defense and Chiefs of Defense Staff of the MRU Member States on current border security management and cooperation among the MRU Member States. The meeting focused on collaborating efforts towards a common approach in addressing cross- border criminal activities threatening the peace and promoting terrorism and other crimes as well as illegal activities.
The two days meeting, which commenced yesterday May 24, 2021, and is expected to close today at the Boulevard Palace in Monrovia, brought together the Defense Ministers of Ivory Coast and Liberia, Deputy Defense Minister of Sierra Leone and Brigadier General of Guinea, and other delegates and Chiefs of Staff.
At the opening of the meeting, DSRSG of UNOWAS, Madam Giovani Bahi expressed gratitude on behalf of UNOWAS and the UN system to the Mano River Member States through the Government of Liberia for convening the Sub regional meeting of Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Staff in Monrovia.
She said the UNOWAS supports the Mano River Secretariat to promote peace and stability, good governance, human rights, mutual integration and development in the interest of the region. Madam Bahi averred that UNOWAS and the UN system closely work together to enhance response against emerging threats to peace and security in the sub region with the objective to sustain peace and development.
According to her, the meeting in Monrovia is in line with the recommendation from the Dakar meeting to secure collaboration among the security institutions in the MRU countries to better advance recommendations of security challenges in the region.
She reiterated the readiness of UNOWAS and the UN system to pursue collaboration with the MRU Secretariat, including security institutions from the Mano River countries in a well-coordinated solution-based fashion that will tackle the challenges to peace and security in the sub region.
Also speaking at the Opening of the Meeting, MRU Secretary General, Madam Madina A. Wesseh said the high level meeting, will draw experiences from wider United Nation system through the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, as well as from the Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Staff of Member States
By their deliberations and experience sharing, she said the MRU hopes to develop a strategic road map on the common approach in addressing terrorism and other growing threats of insecurity in the wake of the COVID 19, with hope that the outcome of the high level meeting will inject new dynamism of life in the Joint Security Committee, and the Technical Committee and will also enhance the cooperation and harmonization of ministers in the security sectors as well as the Chiefs of Defense Staff in the Sub region.
In his Keynote address, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dee – Maxwell Saah Kamayah said terrorism is fast becoming a global phenomenon that exist within and outside of the societies it affects, saying terrorism creates terror and insecurity, and the idea that leaders can no longer protect those they lead.
The Minister accentuated that in recent months, the MRU basin has seen growing cross-border threats from terrorist groups, which he believes has tested the resilience of the entire sub region on peace and security, noting, “It is a fact, that with the vast number of porous borders in the region, no one Member State can completely boast of its national security.”
He added, “We have to pursue a collective effort as a sub region, in order to succeed in addressing the growing security and terroristic threats the region faces. It is about time that we engage in a win- win cooperation, not a zero-sum game,” he said.
The Liberian Foreign Minister further said more complex the war on terrorism becomes, the greater the need for collective response, solidarity and unity.
Minister Kemoyah strongly commended dialogue and cooperation on the basis of quality mutual respect amongst all member states, adding that no member state should be left behind in the fight against terrorism, but instead, all should work together to further enhance the security of the borders, and ensure that the region achieve the much needed security and prosperity the region seeks.