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Liberian chiefs plead with Côte d’Ivoire to reopen borders

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The head of the Liberian traditional leaders delegation to the just ended three-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) between the Republics of Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire Chief Moses Teah, has pleaded with the Ivoirian authority to reopen the borders with Liberia.

The Meeting was held in Guiglo, Western La Côte d’Ivoire. Chief Teah, who spoke on behalf of his Liberian colleagues, said they had gone to La Côte d’Ivoire with clear minds. He said opening the borders with Liberia would increase economic capability of women and youth, adding that it would also enable chiefs on both sides of the borders to easily visit and communicate with one another.

He promised that chiefs on the Liberian side of the border won’t allow anyone who has committed crime in La Côte d’Ivoire to cross into Liberia and hide. Earlier, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara expressed concern about ongoing drawdown by the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL, and eventual departure from here by June 2016, saying that he will meet with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to extend the Mission beyond this year.

Mr. Ouattara made the vow when he finally closed the three-day meeting held from January 16-19, and assured that monitoring of recommendations from the Joint Communiqué will fully be carried out by him and his Liberian counterpart, President Sirleaf.

He also disclosed that since the first Meeting in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh in October 2013, security conditions on both sides of the borders have improved considerably, noting that between now and March more than 15,000 Ivorian refugees residing in Liberia will return back home. He urged fellow Ivoirians, who are still in Liberia to make the decision to come back home.

For her part, President Sirleaf said there has been much security improvement since the last JCCEM in Zwedru, Liberia. She expressed confidence that delegates at the 3-day Meeting had worked hard to find ways to bring peace and reconciliation in bordering communities between both nations.

The Liberian leader emphasized that it is not an option for both people to work together; adding: “It is a must, necessity and an imperative.” President Sirleaf said both nations should always find new ways to solve their problems, adding: “Since our last meeting, we have seen improved security in our region.” She also disclosed that since the last Zwedru Meeting, more than 23,000 Ivorian refugees have voluntarily returned home.

She thanked Pres. Ouattara and other Ivoirians for accepting Liberians who had fled the civil war in their country and sought refuge in parts of La Côte d’Ivoire. Earlier, traditional representatives of both nations thanked the leaders of Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire for bringing them together in Guiglo.

Representatives of both UN peacekeeping Missions in Liberia and La Cote d’Ivoire thanked the leaders of the two nations for doing all to maintain peace along their borders and among their people. They commended Presidents Sirleaf and Ouattara for playing leadership role in maintaining peace in the region.

Specifically, the UNSG’s representative for La Cote d’Ivoire urged traditional leaders to further concretize the process that they have started while the Deputy SRSG for UNMIL, Waldemar Vrey, congratulated both governments for the two-day deliberations, which seek to address, insecurity and other problems between both nations.

“Since the first Meeting, we have observed increased improved security situation along the borders. We hope that more cross-border activities will resume shortly,” he stated. The JCCEM is intended to further strengthen, promote and pursue the consolidation of cooperation, peace and security through regular cross-border meetings, confidence-building measures and sharing of information between citizens residing in border communities.

By Ethel A. Tweh-Edited by Jonathan Browne

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