The Acting Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Varney Sirleaf has described the presence of Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Alhassan Watara of Liberia and La Cote d’Ivoire at the just-ended Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting or JCCEM in La Cote d’Ivoire as a significant renewal of their commitment to ensuring peace and harmony in both countries, particularly the border region.
According to Minister Sirleaf, their presence also reaffirmed their collective commitment to finding durable solution to security and development challenges. The second JCCEM was held in Guiglo, Western Cote d’lvoire from January 16-18, 2016.
The Acting Internal Affairs Minister spoke on Thursday at the Information Ministry regular press briefing on Capitol Hill in Monrovia. He noted that at the recent JCCE Meeting, 150 delegates exchanged views on refugees, security, reconciliation, trade, as well as how to achieve social cohesion between the two countries. He said delegates also focused discussed such issues as illegal occupation of land on both sides by people believed to be Burkinabes; opening of the borders, restoration of cross-border cooperation, as well as enhanced communication, among others.
Further presenting a conference up-date, he indicated that a Joint Final Communiqué signed by representatives of the two countries called for the reactivation of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation established in 1978, while the Commission’s aim concentrated on restoring peace, stability and security along the border area.
Sirleaf quoted the communique’ as mandating the Governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia to take immediate steps to resolve all land occupation-related issues along their common borders, As well as Increase the participation of chiefs and elders, youth and women in current cross-border peace-building and development initiatives, including dialogue.
Authorities of the two countries, according to him, were also mandated to find durable solutions to the reception and resettlement of refugees. On repatriation of Ivorian refugees from Liberia, he said there has been progress since the 2013, JCCEM in Zwedru. He expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Cote d’lvoire, through their Embassy near Monrovia, for the preparations to host the
JCCEM, making specific emphasis on the people of Guiglo and the entire Cavalla Region of La Cote D’Ivoire for the warm reception accorded the iberian delegation, as well as the rousing welcome given Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who, along with her Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara, graced the closing ceremony.
He quotes statistics as revealing that Liberia now hosts less than 30,000 refugees from Cote D’Ivoire. On the opening of the border closed by Cote d’Ivoire due to the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia, President Ouattara announced at the ceremony that the border would be reopened in March, 2016.
On the issue of the illegal occupation of land in both countries, the two presidents agreed that the two governments will handle the situation in the soonest possible time.
By Ethel A. Tweh-Edited by George Barpeen