The Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney A. Sirleaf is visiting the Ivorian Capital Abidjan as guest of the Government of Cote d'lvoire. The Internal Affairs Minister is being accompanied by Robert W. Budy Commissioner-General of Liberia Immigration Service and Attorney Samuel F. Dakana, Deputy National Security Advisor to the President of Liberia.
According to an Internal Affairs Ministry press release, the delegation is holding talks with heads of top local government and Security agencies regarding the protection of the border between Liberia and neighboring Cote d'lvoire, sustaining peace in border communities and enhancing trade.
Key among the concerns raised by the Liberian team is the alleged use of the Ivorian border by foreign nationals, most of them Burkinabe nationals who continue to cross illegally into large parts of Liberian bordering Counties, mainly Grand Gedeh for illegal activities including farming, mining and other illicit acts. According to reports parts of Maryland, Rivergee and Nimba Counties are currently being used for some of these activities.
The Liberian delegation believes these activities have the propensity to pose security threats, therefore joint cooperation and collaboration would be required to address the situations. The team also made request for technical and logistical assistance.
The release said the team arrived in Abidjan on Sunday, October 4th and has since held discussions with Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, Minister of Security and Civil Protection Diomande Vagondo and Minister of Interior Sidiki Diakite. Others are the Army Chief of Staff, the Heads of the Immigration, Police, and Intelligence among others.
As chairman of the Board of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Minister Sirleaf provided updates on the status of Ivorian refuges in Liberia including local integration and voluntary repatriation programs.
Minister Sirleaf and team briefed their colleagues on efforts made by the Government of Liberia regarding peace and security, and assured of Liberia's preparedness to further collaborate along the border.
Addressing a high-level meeting on Tuesday, the Liberian Internal Affairs Minister said President George Manneh Weah was deeply concerned about reports of alleged intrusion and therefore directed him (Min Sirleaf) to lead an inter-governmental effort to find out the facts.
He said it was against this background and other issues related to other cross-border cooperation that President Weah sent him to Abidjan along with the other two officials to meet and discuss with counterparts.
At the same time, Ivorian Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko is commending Liberia for the level of bilateral cooperation even at the highest levels of the two governments involving Presidents George Manneh Weah and Alassane Ouattara.
"These discussions are very time and important especially at the time when Cote d'lvoire is heading to a major Presidential election later this month of October". Prime Bakayoko asserted. Meanwhile, technical discussions are being held to draw up action points by the teams of both countries on how the bilateral cooperation relating to border security would be handled.
The visit is also continuation of a joint Communique' of the Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) between the two countries which started in 2013 in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, graced by then Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ivorian President Alasane Ouattara. A second edition of the JCCEM was held in the Ivorian town of Guiglo in 2016. Preparations for the third leg of the JCCEM scheduled to take place in Ganta, Nimba County in April 2020 was disrupted as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19.
In early 2018, during a state visit in Abidjan, President Weah and his counterpart Ouattara discussed the JCCEM and instructed their Ministers of Interior to continually ensure the implementation the outcomes.
The joint communique' of the JCCEM among other things calls on both countries to remain engaged to consolidate sustained peace and security. Additionally to improve cross-border trade, work on projects and programs for women and youth empowerment and involvement of local leaders and chiefs both countries in dialogues. The release concluded.