A meeting between Liberian and La Cote d'Ivoire Chiefs and Elders organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and partners including the UNDP opened yesterday in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
The five-day event which began Wednesday October 16, 2013 with the arrival of about 108 Chiefs and Elders from border region in Liberia and Ivory Coast will be climaxed on Saturday October 19, 2013 with Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her counterpart, President Alassane Quattara of Cote d'Ivoire receiving resolutions from the Chiefs and Elders on ways to enhance and solidity peace and security especially on the border lines of the two neighboring countries.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Internal Affairs, Morris Dukuly said he hope the forum will provide an opportunity and a platform for representatives of the two countries, particularly local officials along the common border to dialogue and consult on matters relating to the sustenance of peace between the two countries.
Minister Dukuly: "We in Liberia are hopeful that the outcome of our deliberations will strengthen our friendship, bolster trans-border security and elevate our cooperation to a new level, in the interest of our people."
High lighting the long standing ties between the two countries, Minister Dukuly noted that in the quest for the liberation of Africa, Liberia as the only independent African nation at the time, championed the cause of the liberation of African countries most importantly, Cote d'Ivoire which finally got her independent on August 7, 1960.
He narrated that in the years that followed, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny embraced the friendship of his counterpart President William V. S. Tubman, and as their bond strengthened and deepened, the two nations grew in mutual respect, cooperation, and unity.
"During the tenure of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. who served for nineteen years as Vice President to President Tubman, a romantic flavor was added to the already strong Liberian-Ivorian relations when A. Benedict Tolbert, son of President Tolbert, took the hand of Daisy, daughter of President Houphouët-Boigny, into marriage." "It is perhaps the deep admiration that President Tolbert had of President Houphouët-Boigny, while serving as vice president that fashioned these personal bonds at the highest levels of our two governments" Minister Dukuly intimated.
The former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs said: "you who are old enough to remember this period, you may recall that when we spoke of the atmosphere that prevailed in this region then, we did not only speak of peace as we do today, we spoke of peace and tranquility,' a characterization that seems to have receded into memory in recent years.
He told the gathering that as the 1959 meeting sowed the seed of what today is the African Union, formerly the Organization of African Unity, he is optimistic that this meeting will open a new page in the relationship between the two post-conflict countries.
Minister Dukuly used the occasion to praise the host county Grand Gedeh for the reception being accorded their guests adding that, this meeting presents the opportunity for the people of the county to rebrand and remarket themselves to shed any and all stereotypical imagery that people may have on their minds about the county or its people.
Speaking Earlier, a representative of Cote d'Ivoire Minister of State, Interior and Security, Francios Jean Nebout expressed delight over the meeting saying it will provide the opportunity to open lines of communication between the countries through information sharing thus alleviating fear of insecurity along their common border.
He said with the involving of international peace missions both in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, this meeting of the Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders is the best mechanism to consolidate the gains made in the restoration of peace in the two neighboring countries. The Cote d'Ivoire government representative further said he hope resolution coming out of the meeting will address the prevailing issues of the refugees return, disarmament and demobilization, reintegration and reconciliation of Cote d'Ivoire citizens affected by the 2010 civil crisis in that country.
Mr.Nebout said he anticipate that the on-going meeting of border Chiefs and Elders would evolve resolutions that would foster lasting peace and development and address women and children issues thus allowing his country to reinforce administrative diplomacy with its neighbors.
In a brief overview of the Meeting, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister for Urban Affairs Mr. Amos Tweh said the cross-border meeting is a brainchild of the two quadripartite meetings and that over one hundred community representatives comprising traditional chiefs, women, youth groups, refugee leaders among others are brainstorming in an effort to cement the peace initiative President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and many stakeholders have started.
According to him, the overriding objective of the meeting is to among others contribute to the strengthening of corporation, collaboration and coordination which will ensure coherence of information exchanges between civilian and security authorities in the border regions of the two countries.
Welcoming the delegates at the onset of the meeting, the Superintendent of grand Gedeh County Mr. Peter L. Solo said he is convinced that the meeting will address various problems and challenges which are being inflamed by uncontrolled cross-border movements of persons and goods.
He indicated that the absence of security forces and strategies for controlling small arms and light weapons as well as in adequate access to basic services in the two countries are reasons why the participants need to derive a mutual and genuine understanding that will improve cooperation, collaboration and coordination between the two countries.