FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

24 February 2014

Liberia: Latest Attack At Border Poised to Strain Liberia-Ivory Coast Ties

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

Monrovia — Less than a year after Ivory Coast and Liberia agree to open their respective borders, signs of renewed cross-border attacks could resurrect strain relations between the two countries.

Reuters reporter Sunday that at least four Ivorian soldiers and several attackers were killed when suspected gunmen from Liberia raided a border town in Liberia.

Gunmen from Liberia have carried out several assaults on towns near the border in recent years, which the government and the United Nations have blamed on allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producing nation, is recovering from a decade-long political crisis that culminated in 2011 in a brief civil war after Gbagbo refused to accept his election defeat to Alassane Ouattara.

Ivory Coast's Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi told Reuters that the latest attack took place early on Sunday in the small town of Grabo, but the situation was now under control.

"They attacked a border post. We had to pull back. UN troops intervened to support us," Koffi Koffi said. "What is clear is that the situation is now under control."

He said several attackers were killed, but did not have an exact death toll. Local authorities and residents reached by telephone said that at least four Ivory Coast soldiers were killed and three gunmen were arrested.

Yaya Coulibaly, a parliamentarian from Grabo, said he was told by the local army commander that four soldiers died. "I'm in contact with the mayor who said that the situation was returning to normal, but there was still some tension due to sporadic gunfire that is still being heard," Coulibaly said.

Grabo resident Ouattara Do, a director of a local cocoa cooperative, said the attack occurred around 4 a.m. local time after the assailants crossed over from Liberia.

"They attacked the local gendarme post and the army camp. They were pushed back with the help of the United Nations forces in Ivory Coast," Do said.

The attack comes as President Ouattara is recovering after an operation in a French hospital this month while former President Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for suspected crimes against humanity during the war, in which around 3,000 people died.

The border was shut down in 2012 for several months due to an attack in June 2012 but was partially reopened, but only in Maryland County in the far southeast, making it possible to cross into the Ivory Coast between Saniquellie (past Ganta) and Man.

Western Ivory Coast has been plagued with violence for more than a decade, and incidents have increased since the post-electoral crisis of December 2010-April 2011, which claimed some 3,000 lives.

Supporters of Ivorian former President Laurent Gbagbo, who had to be ousted from power by force in April 2011 after losing an election, have been blamed for a June 8 attack in which the Nigerian troops were killed. The assailants were based in Liberia.

At the end of July, Liberian authorities said that they had arrested four people suspected of involvement in the attack. Just last week, the head of the UN refugee agency in Liberia expressed concern over the alleged "forced extradition" of 14 Ivorian refugees.

Khassim Diagne told the BBC there were among a group of 23 accused by the Ivory Coast of being mercenaries. The Liberian security forces are alleged to have handed them over to their Ivorian counterparts. Liberia's government said it was not aware of the extraditions and would investigate.

Liberia has not responded to the latest claims from the Ivorian government. Some 19 Liberians are currently in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison charged in connection with the cross border attacks at the Liberia-Ivorian border.

In 2007, late General Charles Julu and Andrew Dorbor-both former associates of the defunct Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were accused of an alleged plan in the Ivory Coast to topple the government of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; but their trial ended with the acquittal of both men due to a lack of evidence.

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InFocus

Attacks May Strain Liberian-Ivorian Ties

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

Renewed cross-border attacks could strain relations between Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia less than a year after the two countries agreed to open their respective borders, analysts ... Read more »