22 October 2012

Liberia: Re-Clinging to 34-Yr-Old Pact - Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire Enliven 1978 Security Vows

Photo: Glenna Gordon/UNHCR
An Ivorian refugee gets a lift on a motorbike taxi to Zwedru in southeastern Liberia.

Liberia's relations with its neighbors, despite domestic political turmoil, were amiable for decades until the angel of agitation and death passed over and dropped its rod. In those days, the oldest African nation was known as the oasis of peace and liberty where distressed peoples from around the Continent trooped for refuge. But when agitators and "freedom fighters" got into action in mid and late 1980s, neighbors open their borders to facilitate insurrections, clearly reneging on mutual security pacts signed with Liberia. Incidentally, the insurrection virus spread its stings and many a neighboring countries began to fall prey, thus forcing remembrance of the things have bonded friendliness, peace and harmony amongst them. Last weekend, the scenario played out when Ivorian Coast and Liberia, owing to cancerous civil strife eating the fabric of the Ivorian nation, evoked a 34-year old peace and security agreement.  The Analyst reports. 

In wake of the undying fervor of civil conflict stubbornly haunting the fragile postwar peace in the neighboring republic of Côte d'Ivoire, coupled with wild allegation of Liberia' complicity, President Sirleaf and her Ivorian counterpart Allasssane Ouattara over the weekend evoke a peace and security pact of 1978.

The pact dusted for nearly twenty years when authority of Côte d'Ivoire apparently reneged on it and allowed Liberian dissidents not only used their border to launch a disruptive insurgency in 1989 but also hosted the "revolutionaries'" supplies as well as command and control.

Providentially, the chicks came home to roast in Ivorian Coast when it also became embroiled into its own version of civil inferno which a democratic election held 2008 and intended to stop the conflict further compounded when then incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office despite his defeat at the poll.

Though Gbagbo was ousted in the fray of the post-elections melee, the people of Ivory Coast are yet to get the full peace and harmony they have longed for. The man believed to have won the elections, Alassane Ouattara, continues to battle insurgents believed to be remnants of the Gbagbo regimes, though there other analysts who say the ongoing civil strife in the country is a result of haphazard disarmament process that left many militia loosed and unattended to.

Another postulation characterizing diagnosis of the Ivorian crisis points to Liberia as breeding ground of Ivorian insurgents. This diagnosis is based in part to the ethnic relations shared by both countries; particularly the Krahn tribe in Liberia and Ivory Coast which is reportedly sympathetic to their fellow tribesman, deposed former President Gbagbo.

The Liberian Government has consistently assured its Ivorian counterparts that it has got no hand in the civil unrest of that country and that it would do all within its powers to prevent and nail any attempt by any force that uses Liberian soil to fuel or perpetrate conflict in Ivory Coast.

As if to prove sincerity of its promise, the Liberian Government has rounded up and arrested scores of individuals suspected to be dissidents and turned over to the Government of Ivory Coast. Some of these arrests are being contested by Krahn tribesmen who contend that the arrestees are used as scapegoats by the Liberian Government to create a fine image in the eyes of its Ivorian counterparts.

But reassurances of the Government of Liberia came under scrutiny when United Nations Panel of Experts released a report that identified parts of Liberia where Ivorian dissidents have been training in their insurgency war against the Ivorian government. The reported was quickly followed by Liberian government's arrest of yet another batch of individuals believed to be dissidents and again turned over to the government of Ivory Coast.

Now to further bolster relations between the two countries amid the fray, President Sirleaf over the weekend rushed to Abidjan and along with her Ivorian counterpart, Alassanne Ouattarra, signed a joint communiqué aimed at promoting peace and security at their common borders.

Government press statement says the communiqué calls for the reactivation of the Joint Liberian-Ivorian Commission, a body that was established in 1978, but the Liberian civil war interrupted joint activities. The two neighbors agreed to share information on security, economic activities and culture, among others.

The communiqué was the product of a one-day working visit of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Abidjan on Thursday, October 18, at the invitation of her Ivorian counterpart, President Alassane Ouattara. The purpose of President Sirleaf's visit was for urgent consultations on border-related issues.

Speaking at a joint press conference following their working session, President Sirleaf renewed Liberia's support and solidarity to the Government of Côte d'Ivoire in maintaining border and regional peace and security. The President named the deployment of Liberian security forces at the borders and the extradition of suspected Ivorian mercenaries as some of the practical steps taken by Liberia as demonstration of its commitment to maintaining good neighborliness.

"I want to reassure you that we will continue our surveillance, our monitoring, and our intelligence gathering and will take whatever action necessary to ensure that peace and tranquility prevails between our two countries," the Liberian President assured her Ivorian counterpart.

Of the Commission, President Sirleaf said it promotes lasting peace and friendship in the sub- region and subsequently leads to the vibrancy of the two countries in meeting the needs of their respective citizens.

Speaking earlier, President Ouattara praised President Sirleaf and the peace-loving people of Liberia for taking practical steps in the maintenance of peace and security along their borders. Actions taken by Liberia in dealing with border insecurity have drastically contributed to efforts in stabilizing post-conflict Côte d'Ivoire, he stated, adding that his country would have never mitigated insurrection from dissidents without the actions taken by Liberia.

On the regional scene, the two Presidents welcomed the peace plan for troubled Mali, which includes the deployment of peacekeeping troops at the request of Malian authorities. Presidents Sirleaf and Ouattara also expressed concern at the situation in Guinea-Bissau and hoped that practical actions are taken to restore that country to democratic rule.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf departed Liberia on Thursday, October 18, a day after returning from a successful visit to Japan. Accompanying Her Excellency were the Minister of National Defense, Brownie Samukai; the Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah; the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr.; and the National Security Advisor, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.

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