The authority of Grand Gedeh County recently confirmed reports of the presence of ‘armed foreigners’ in the forests of the county. County Superintendent Peter Solo told the United Nations Radio – UNMIL Radio, in Monrovia that the Bourkinabes and Ivoirians – numbering more than hundred, reportedly entered his county by way of the Cavalla River into in the Gbie-Gbakwo Administrative District.
“When we got the information, what we did was to make formal report to central government, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs for intervention, and the Minister assured that he would meet with the President and the chief of police in order for the security apparatus to be dispatched,” he said, further disclosing that these armed individuals, believed to have carried out similar attacks in the past, were still present in the forest areas of Grand Gedeh and occasionally harassing and physically attacking local farmers.
In addition to the light weapons, these Bourkinabes and Ivoirians also carry machine guns, while exploiting natural resources, including low-skill forestry and diamond and gold mining. As a result of the encroachment by these armed foreigners, residents of Gbakwo District were leaving into safety in other towns and villages along the Zwedru Highway.
These persistent reports of encroachment on the forests of Grand Gedeh County in Liberia’s Southeast again by alleged armed foreigners may not only be threatening and worrisome to inhabitants of the region, but Liberia’s national security.
What many may think is being handled with less care by the Liberian Government, especially it may have already been informed by the authority of Grand Gedeh County, may end up being a serious national security embarrassment, if not death with urgently.
The hope of some Liberians is that in the process of intervening, the government would also launch an investigation as to how or why the persistency of these occurrences, especially amid reports that these Bourkinabes and Ivoirians allegedly bought these areas of occupation from tribal chiefs and elders of Gbakwo Administrative District.
Even though it may have taken a while for the government’s intervention during the initial encroachments on the forests by Bourkinabes and Ivoirians from La Cote d’Ivoire, the deployment of Liberian Government troops in the area helped in putting the situation under control.
While no one expects the government to abruptly respond to the reports without understanding the entire situation through intelligence gathering, it shouldn’t also take weeks and months to act decisively this time, considering its experience with similar situation in the area.
In the interest of our national security, the government must move in now before it gets too late.