-Defense chief skip MRU confab after meeting Weah
Speculations are high, amidst fears that bilateral relations between the Government of Liberia and that of neighboring Cote d’Ivoire could be in danger. Signs of a developing strain in relations between the two countries appeared to have shown face on Monday, May 24, 2021, when the Ivorian Defense Minister, Tiéné Birahima Ouattara, the younger brother of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, refused to sit at the just ended joint Mano River Union Joint Security Chiefs’ meeting and left without attending any of the sessions.
Reasons surrounding his abrupt entry and exit from the high-profiled regional security meeting were not made known to journalists covering the meeting. But Mr. Ouattara who came on a special flight on the night of Sunday, May 23, 2021, had an earlier meeting with President George Weah at the president’s private residence in the Rehab community earlier on Monday morning before briefly appearing at the conference venue and leaving subsequently. The hosts of the MRU Security conference have remained tight-lip on the action of the Ivorian Defense Chief.
However, there are concerns that his action could have been the outcome of the meeting with President Weah following reports of recent discoveries of passports and other documents purportedly belonging to alleged Liberian mercenaries at a scene of an attack on one of the Ivorian military bases. The documents were put on display in the Ivorian capital during a press conference.
But the Liberian Government had since issued a statement expressing deep concerns over the incident. “Passports and other documents purportedly belonging to the assailants which depict Liberian nationality were put on display by Ivorian authorities,” the statement released by the Liberian Information Ministry said.
The statement added, “The Liberian government strongly condemns any act which disrupts the peace of its neighbors and the region as a whole.” In that statement, the Liberian Government made it clear that no inch of its soil will be used as Launchpad for insurrection.
The Government stated at the time that it had initiated contacts with its Ivorian counterpart in order to determine the full extent of the reported incident, adding that both governments have committed to strengthening the joint border surveillance mechanism.
The statement also noted that the administration of President Weah has worked tirelessly to build on the sisterly relationship the country has with the Cote d’ Ivoire, including the President’s personal connections with Ivorian leaders. The meeting itself outlined strategies to find workable solutions against prevailing security threats in the sub-region considering the impact of coronavirus, growing terrorism threats, and another cross–border criminal activities.
The Mano River Union (MRU) is an international association initially established between Liberia and Sierra Leone in October 1973. It is named for the Mano River which begins in the Guinea highlands and forms a border between Liberia and Sierra Leone. On 25 October 1980, Guinea joined the union.
Cote d’Ivoire agreed to join the union in May of 2008, 4 years after it was reactivated following the end of the civil conflicts in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. The goal of the Union was to “accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural advancement of the countries … by active collaboration and mutual assistance in matters of common interest in economic, social, technical, scientific and administrative fields”.