16 October 2013

Liberia: Groundbreaking Peaceful Coexistence in the Mano River Union

Photo: Liberia Government
Ivorian President Alhassan Ouattara arrives in Liberia for a summit of the Mano River Union leaders (file photo).


Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Alassane Ouattara of neighboring Cote d'Ivoire have a different formula for ensuring lasting bilateral and sub regional peace.

They have a human-centered approach other than that of late president Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d'Ivoire.

Houphouet-Boigny, chairing Ecowas summit leaders mediating the Liberian conflict in 1991, disapprovingly told Liberians during Yamoussoukro II to "wait for turtle to tote their peace."

In contrast, President Sirleaf and President Ouattara, who was not anointed but became the miraculous successor of Houphouet-Boigny, do not risk tasking a slow reptile like turtle to deliver peace for their countries that had experienced political instability and bloody wars.

This is why both leaders are on the move today, in collaboration with chiefs and elders as well as security personnel and local government officials from their countries, to cement harmony, peace and security between communities along their porous common border. The meeting also intends to alleviate cause for border conflict.

Both presidents are holding the peace and security conference with their local leaders in Zwedru, the provincial capital of Grand Gedeh County, bordering Cote d'Ivoire.

Thousands of Ivorian refugees inundated Zwedru and several Liberian border towns and villages during the heat of their conflict in 2010 just as Danane hosted thousands of Liberian refugees fleeing war at home in the 1990s.

However, authorities in Abidjan have warned that dissidents opposed to Ouattara used Liberian soil to engage in cross border attacks into Cote d'Ivoire, a charge the Liberian government repeatedly denied.

Meantime, the foreign and defense ministers from both sides as well as top military brass have been relentless in ensuring that bilateral peace and security prevail especially at the common border.

It is this welcoming initiative that Presidents Sirleaf and Ouattara arrived yesterday in Zwedru to cement with the blessing of local chiefs and elders from both sides.

Good neighbors often warn: "what goes around comes around." But Houphouet-Boigny saw it differently when peace was discussed for neighboring Liberia as it burnt in a civil war unleashed mainly to grab power and massively plunder the country's natural resources with impunity.

Charles Taylor's rebel forces terrorized and ruled approximately 90% of Liberian territory when Houphouet-Boigny dismissed Liberians, mainly in the delegation of Interim president Amos Sawyer to disperse and let Taylor keep unilaterally ruling over the Liberian territory he occupied while the Interim government administered Monrovia and its environs until turtle crawled with peace for the entire nation.

This statement by an elder African leader sounded nervous for suffering Liberians yearning for survival. Houphouet had succeeded President Nicephore Soglo of Benin after his mediation was insufficient to convince witty Taylor, whose mindset ruled out peaceful negotiations in favor of applying Machiavelli's tactics in conquering power through military might.

"War comes on the back of a horse," [and] "peace comes on the back of a turtle," Houphouet told a joint press conference with Ecowas leaders and Mr. Taylor in attendance to conclude Yamoussoukro II in 1991.

The octogenarian Ivorian president spoke bluntly with an apparent mindset telling war-weary Liberians to stop exerting hurry to end the bloody civil war that had by then killed tens of thousands and pushed hundreds of thousands more into neighboring countries as refugees because: "War comes on the back of a horse," [and] "peace comes on the back of a turtle".

Moreover, Cote d'Ivoire under Houphouet, overtly allowed Taylor's rebel forces to flow unhindered through Ivorian territory from neighboring Burkina Faso with arms and ammunition to wage his war in Liberia. But now the time is different and the leaders of both countries are different with an approach characterized by peace, security and a commitment forbidding cross border attacks.

We hail the courage of both leaders for this good neighborliness approach and urge other Mano River Union member states to emulate their initiative.

We hope Ivorian refugees will return peacefully at will to contribute the development of their country while others who find greener pastures on this side settle in peace. Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

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