10 January 2013

Liberia: Food Shortage Hits B'hai Jozon in Grand Gedeh

A recent visit to the B'hai Jozon Town in Grand Gedeh has revealed that there is a serious shortage of food. Only cigarette, ground pea, and haitai (appetitizing herb) sellers could be seen. There was no cook shop available to eat because there is food shortage in the town. With a population of over 800 residents, B'hai Jozon is just a stone- throw from the Liberian-Ivorian border.

When citizens and residents of the town were contacted to comment on the issue, they referred this writer to the spokesman of the town, Mr. Victor Dennis. Mr. Dennis, who is the town's youth leader, said food and other assorted items have become scarce in the town, since the border was closed by the Liberian government.

The youth leader said residents of the town get most of their food, including rice and oil from neighboring Ivory Coast, adding, "As such, the prolonged closure of the border is creating 'serious problem' for us and our families." He stated that residents are now compelled to get food from faraway places or send their money by friends or relatives to Monrovia to get food and other items due to the closure of the border.

Mr. Dennis said residents are no longer making larger farms away from their homes because of fear concerning the crisis in La Cote D'Ivoire. "Since the incident took place in neighboring Ivory Coast, I can say to you that calm has been restored to the border and our citizens are going about doing their normal businesses," noted the youth leader. Nevertheless, despite the restoration of calm at the Liberian-Ivoirian border, Mr. Dennis said they are still experiencing the scarcity of food and other commodities.

"Our border with our neighbors is yet to be opened since it was closed by government in June of this year. We are facing difficulty in getting food because we live at the border. Monrovia is very far away from us and so, the easiest route we use to get our food is from Ivory Coast," he stated. The youth leader added that as a result of the border's closure, citizens and residents of B'hai Jozon have to walk to Toe's Town to buy food and other essential items.

"Like on Saturday, we walked several miles from our town to Toe's Town to buy food, meat, fish and other things. From here to Toe's Town is about three-hours. We, the men can no longer go in the bush and hunt for long because of fear," he lamented. Mr. Dennis then called on the Liberian government to see reason to re-open its border points with neighboring La Cote D'Ivoire.

He said government must "seek the interest of citizens" by responding constructively to the plight of Liberians. Last June, the Liberian government closed its borders with the neighboring Mano River Union (MRU) state of La Cote D'Ivoire after Ivoirian rebels killed seven UN peacekeepers in that country.

At the time, reports from La Cote D'Ivoire alleged that Liberian mercenaries were aiding rebels loyal to dethroned Ivoirian leader Laurent Gbagbo in their fight against the government of Alassane Ouattara. Immediately thereafter, Liberia closed its border points with La Cote D'Ivoire in four of its counties - Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Maryland and River Gee.

The Liberian government also launched an investigation about the allegation that Ivoirian rebels and Liberian mercenaries were being trained on Liberian soil. Several Ivoirians were apprehended, interrogated and extradited to La Cote D'Ivoire; while several alleged Liberian mercenaries were incarcerated.

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