19 January 2016

Cote d'Ivoire: Ivorian President Wants Unmil Mandate Extended

Photo: Liberia Government
Presidents Sirleaf and Quattara at epoch-making occasion in Cote d'Ivoire.

The President of La Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, has vowed to speak with the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon on extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia beyond 2016.

President Ouattara stated that when he speaks with the UNSG, he will ask him to extend the presence of UNMIL forces in Liberia until the 2017 elections are over.

In a statement issued earlier this month, UNMIL said that it would proceed with the extraction of troops, but would maintain a contingent, 1500 strong, stationed in La Cote d'Ivoire, to be dispatched to Liberia only in the case of extreme need.

However, the Ivorian leader emphasized: "I am sure the UNSG will listen to us."

Mr. Ouattara made the disclosure when he finally closed the three-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) between the Republics of Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire.

The Meeting was held in Guiglo, Western, La Côte d'Ivoire.

Before he started speaking, he recited the traditional battle-cry to welcome his Liberian counterpart, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

"Aho Dao Dao Dao... ," this means "You are welcome," in the local language spoken by most of the people in the Western region of La Côte d'Ivoire.

On the three-day meeting, the Ivorian leader assured that monitoring of recommendations from the Joint Communiqué, will fully be carried out by him and President Sirleaf.

He also disclosed that since the first Meeting in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh in October 2013, security conditions on both sides of the borders have improved considerably.

He further disclosed that between now and March more than 15,000 Ivorian refugees residing in Liberia will return home. He urged fellow Ivorians, who are still in Liberia to make the decision to come back home.

Speaking earlier, President Sirleaf trusted that delegates at the 3-day Meeting had worked hard to find ways to bring peace and reconciliation in bordering communities between both nations.

President Sirleaf emphasized that it is not an option for both people to work together; adding: "It is a must, necessity and an imperative."

She stated that both nations should always find new ways to solve their problems; adding: "Since our last meeting, we have seen improved security in our region."

She disclosed that since the last Zwedru Meeting, more than 23,000 Ivorian refugees have voluntarily returned home.

She used the occasion to thank Pres. Ouattara and other Ivorians for accepting Liberians who had fled the civil war in their country and sought refuge in parts of La Côte d'Ivoire.

In earlier remarks, the Mayor of Guiglo welcomed President Sirleaf and the Liberian delegates to his city, "the city of forgiveness and peace." Guiglo is the capitol of the Cavally Region.

The Mayor told President Sirleaf that that during the civil war in his region, Liberia became a place of refuge for his fellow Ivorians, who fled.

"Today our refugee brothers and sisters are coming back with good news of how you people took care of them. Thank you so much, Madam President," he stated.

He hoped that from the Meeting in Guiglo, there would be more improvement in the relationship between and among the people living along the borders in Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire.

Earlier, traditional representatives of both nations thanked the leaders of Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire for bringing them together in Guiglo.

Specially, Chief Moses Teah, who spoke on behalf of his Liberian colleagues, said they had come to La Côte d'Ivoire with clear minds. Chief Teah pleaded with the Ivorian authority to reopen their borders with Liberia.

According to him, opening the borders with Liberia will increase economic capability of women and youth. He also stated that it will enable chiefs on both sides of the borders to easily visit and communicate with their colleagues on the other side of the border.

He promised that chiefs on the Liberian side of the border won't allow anyone who has committed crime in La Côte d'Ivoire to come to and hide among them.

Also speaking, representatives of both UN peacekeeping Missions in Liberia and La Cote d'Ivoire thanked the leaders of the two nations for doing all to maintain peace along their borders and among their people.

They commended Presidents Sirleaf and Ouattara for their leadership roles in maintaining peace in the region.

Specifically, the UNSG's representative for La Cote d'Ivoire urged traditional leaders to further concretize the process that they have started.

Mr. Waldemar Vrey, the Deputy SRSG for UNMIL, further congratulated both governments for the two-day deliberations, which seek to address insecurity and others issues between both nations.

"Since the first Meeting," he said, "we have observed increased improved security situation along the borders. We hope that more cross-border activities will resume shortly."

The first meeting between traditional leaders of both nations was held in Liberia in October 2013, with Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Alassane Ouatarra of La Côté d'Ivoire attending in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. That meeting brought together more than 100 chiefs and elders from bordering communities of both sisterly nations.

The JCCEM is intended to further strengthen, promote and pursue the consolidation of cooperation, peace and security through regular cross-border meetings, confidence-building measures and sharing of information between citizens residing in border communities.

The Guiglo venue for the Meeting was agreed upon at the end of the Third Quadripartite with Liberia and La Côté d'Ivoire and the United Nations Missions in both nations.

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