Recent security measures taken by the Liberian Government to close the borders between Liberia and the Ivory Coast in the wake of cross border raids has been welcomed by citizens of Liberia and has further brought to memory events which led to Liberia’s civil war. Though the decision of the Government has been endorsed by Liberians; yet there are troubling issues that demand care and less zealousness in an effort to ensure internal peace and security, says a conflict resolution expert.
The announcement of names two days after the border raid by Liberia’s information minister based on security findings is considered very swift and has left many Liberians to wonder whether thorough investigation was conducted or that Government security forces operated on the basis of suspicion or had in fact drawn its conclusion from roles played by certain individuals in Liberia’s civil wars.
Government’s decision to deploy military in Grand Gedeh and other counties to patrol and secure the borders linking Liberia and Ivory Coast from further raids is seen as Liberia’s commitment to mutual and peaceful relationship between the two countries.
Senator Alphonso Gaye of Grand Gedeh County in a recent press conference condemned in no uncertain terms the unprovoked aggression of certain people against the citizens of Taryee Town in the Ivory Coast. He said the alleged incident is disappointing and highly regrettable as memories of Liberia’s fourteen years of civil war are still fresh.
The County’s Junior Senator further says the destruction of life and property during Liberia’s civil war is imaginatively transferred to anyone in Liberia regarding what those citizens of Ivory Coast are feeling. The Senator on behalf of the Legislative Caucus and Grand Gedeans therefore condemns the attack and expects GOL to use its professional expertise to bring the perpetrators to justice. Honorable Gaye however expressed disappointment over the un-professional behaviors of members of the Joint Security sent to Grand Gedeh who spend their time drinking from place to place instead of going to the border to investigate.
Also, Grand Gedeh District No. 3 Representative Honorable Alex Chersia Grant says Grand Gedeans are committed to the peaceful co-existence of the two neighboring countries (Liberia and Ivory Coast) and frowns against acts that would undermine the existing cordial relationship enjoyed so far. Both legislators from Grand Gedeh have so far share the commitment of their citizens to brotherly and peaceful co-existence.
Though the Legislative Caucus of the county agrees with government’s decision, but there are fundamental differences on the handling of investigations. For example, it has been discovered that two of those citizens of Grand Gedeh named as perpetrators have been found not to be involved and have already been issued clearance by the Liberian National Police, they declared.
The non-involvement of the two persons named was first brought to public knowledge by Honorable Alex Grant who advised that notwithstanding their solidarity with Government to ensure that those involved be brought to justice, security forces must exercise caution as they deal with this explosive security matter and avoid over-zealousness that could lead to victimization of innocent citizens. The lawmaker says such monumental error could be the case of the rest of those named.
Indeed this appears to be a very critical period for both Liberia and Ivory Coast as the UN Secretary General says “he is outraged by the deaths of UN Peace Keepers and urged the Ivorian Government to identify the perpetrators”. With the announcement made by the Liberian Government naming the wanted culprits, it appears that GOL has satisfied the demand of Ban Ki Moon. On the other hand, the Government of Ivory Coast seems to be absolved of all responsibility with blame being placed at the door steps of Liberia.
Unfortunately, there seems to be many indications that the recent raid may not be the responsibility of Liberia alone. There are Ivorian refugees who share the same ethnic language as Grand Gedeans and possibly the same ethnic names, says a Liberian from southeastern Liberia. With the alleged error made in the identification of two of the “wanted men”, Abenego Zweh and Ofori Diah and the representation made by Grand Gedeh Legislative Caucus through Senator Gaye that the other “wanted men” Tailay Gladior and Augustine Vlaye are coal makers residing in Grand Gedeh County, there seems to be unanswered questions as to how Government arrived at the conclusion that the names published constitute the “criminals” wanted as announced by Information Minister Lewis Brown. Moreover, legal experts say that the Information Minister indicted and convicted the ten persons publicly without due process. To declare them wanted means sufficient evidence had been made available and that they are on the run.
A group calling themselves Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJUL) also joined in the chorus of Grand Gedeh Leaders calling on the Government of Liberia to be mindful how they receive, analyze, and process security intelligence to avoid the impression that a specific county is being targeted, according to Chronicle Newspaper Report. The group recalled that similar situation prevailed during the Taylor’s administration when 30 members of the Krahn tribe were arrested, charged, and convicted for treason. According to them, this resulted into the 1999/2000 LURD and MODEL war.
Amidst views and counter views on the border raid, Government is reported as saying this serious national security matter should not be tribalized and will not tolerate the abuse of freedom of expression. Whilst I do support the Government’s position, it is important to reflect on positions taken by past administrations which bordered on national security but resulted into uncontrolled crisis and the conflagration of the state.
Views being expressed by citizens reflect the soul of the nation. The naming of ten persons most of whom are perceived to be of the Krahn ethnic group and subsequent alleged clearances by Government should present a strong public debate as has been in all cases, says a youth leader who prefers anonymity. There are others who believe that Representative Alex Grant is in the right direction to warn against public accusation and listing of individuals believed to be Grand Gedeans without proper investigation. This, they agreed with him could destroy the faith of citizens from that county in the security and justice system.
The Representative who also represents Liberia in the A.U. said in a press release that Grand Gedeh role in the civil war was due to self-preservation. At the moment, Grant says, there is no reason why they would wish to get involved in acts that would jeopardize the peace of the nation and the stability of the region. Analysts say this is a caution against creating a situation that could motivate self-preservation but the Grant says he does not see the possibility of Grand Gedeh Citizens being pushed to extreme degrees. He re-emphasized the faith of the citizens in President Sirleaf.
The borders of Liberia are very porous and lack preventive security measures. What Government needs to do is to put in place preventive structures and increase budgetary allotments for border facilities and patrols. There have been reports from Human Rights Watch over a period of time on border raids and the recruitment of children along the borders by mercenaries. Moreover, the involvement of Liberians in the Ivorian civil war is no new story. But it is said that the lack of action and sharing of basic border intelligence between the two countries are factors which led to the current situation.