14 January 2013

Liberia: Ministers Differ

Two government ministers have given contradictory accounts on the withdrawal of army officers last year deployed at the Liberian borders with Cote d'Ivoires to prevent the proliferation of small armed and spillover of the Ivorian fighting into Liberia.

After Defense Minister Brownie Samukai announced last week that elements of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were being withdrawn from the frontiers because of the relaxation of tension there, Information Minister Lewis Brown came out with another announcement that the army would remain at the porous borders until relations between the two sister countries were improved.

Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, addressing newsmen last week said, "The AFL has begun to withdraw from the front and many locations.

"In our view, the border is safe and secured, there will be other security forces there but the Armed Forces of Liberia will be wrapping up," the Defense Minister added.

Speaking further, Samukai said the withdrawal of the soldiers will run between January 10th and the 13th this year. But he did not say how many soldiers were deployed.

But hours following the statement, Information Minister Lewis Brown contradicted the Defense Minister saying the exercise "is a routine rotation of the troops and subject to a much broader consultation of the current security situation",

Minister Brown stressed that the army is on a process of "routine rotation" while monitoring peace and security progress in the neighboring Ivory Coast.

He however expressed the Liberian Government's satisfaction with the ongoing developments in La Cote d'Ivoire, but said a decision will be made regarding its security at the border.

"We look forward as a government to increasing our good relations with all of our neighbors and to do whatever we can... to continue to support regional stability and peace," Brown said.

The soldiers were deployed at the frontiers last year when a raid on the Ivorian side of the border led to the death of several UN Peacekeepers killed, creating tension Liberia.

It was speculated that Liberian mercenaries collaborating with loyalists of former President Laurent Gbagbo executed the raid.

The government in Monrovia subsequently increased security at the border and arrested several Liberian ex-rebel fighters, including Gen. Ofori Diah and others, who are currently in detention.

The governments of Liberia and Ivory Coast have established joint defense cooperation at their common borders.

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