A high-level meeting of Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Defense Staff of the Mano River Union (MRU) Secretariat in collaboration with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) has resolved that MRU Member States develop a sub-regional counterterrorism strategy drawing inspiration from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Out of the high – level brainstorming of Defense Ministers and Chiefs of Defense Staff of MRU member states, a communique was read in Monrovia Tuesday, 25 May outlining strategies to find workable solutions against prevailing security threats in the sub-region considering the impact of coronavirus, growing terrorism threats and other cross – border criminal activities.
Defense chiefs of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and the host country Liberia began the meeting in Monrovia on Monday, 24 May as part of the outcome of a previous meeting held in Dakar, Senegal in January this year between MRU and UNOWAS.
The final draft communique mandates that the meetings of the Joint Security Committee (JSC), Technical Committee (TC) and the Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units (JBSCBUs) is
Reactivated. It also mandates that Member States ensure coordination at national levels, and encourage regular meetings between Security Intelligence agencies.
The objective of the meeting is to enhance cross border cooperation of Member States in the MRU region, ensure a common approach to addressing growing security threats, particularly terrorism in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic.
It aims to review the gaps in the revised 15th Protocol on Peace, Security, and Defense of the MRU so as to properly situate the regional security architecture within the framework of current realities in the sub region.
The meeting noted with satisfaction that, despite the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States have made some significant strides in addressing the shocks on their economies and efforts to safeguard the livelihood of the peoples in the region.
On the other hand, the meeting deplored the violent terrorist attacks recorded in some Member States of the MRU region, and it was also emphasized that the meeting reviews the current security structures of the MRU Secretariat.
Additionally, it advised on the need for Member States to ensure a common strategy in preventing and addressing the growing security threats especially terrorism by activating and strengthening the joint rotational meeting of the Joint Security Committee (JSC), and the Technical Committee (TC), and operationalizing the Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units (JBSCBUs) to a more optimal and realistic level.
The meeting welcomed the joint approach involving UN-System, ECOWAS and other development partners which helped in many ways to ease tensions in Member States of the MRU region. Participants at the meeting emphasized the need for Member States to support the MRU in the implementation of the plan of action developed in addressing and preventing security related threats, particularly growing terrorism spill over risks to the sub-region.
At the climax of the meeting Tuesday, Mano River Union Secretary General Madam Medina A. Wesseh said she is very pleased with the partnership that MRU has with UNOWAS to have the meeting and the kind of work that has gone into the revision of the documents to spur on the new code of action.
She said MRU looks forward to working very closely with all its member states at the level of the Ministries of Defense and the Chiefs of Staff to ensure that the document will come into effect. She also said MRU will work very closely with UNOWAS and the UN Office on Counter Terrorism for the reactivation of the border units and the various technical committees.
Madam Wesseh thanked Liberia’s Defense Minister Maj./Gen. Daniel Dee Ziankahn (Rtd), and through him, President George Manneh Weah for the level of hospitality, comradery and the bond of friendship enjoyed over the last days the MRU delegates have been here.
At the start of the meeting earlier on Monday, Madam Wesseh said she was very pleased to share a moment of deep reflection at the very important sub regional meeting of Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Defense Staff of the MRU members states with the view to discuss the current security context of border management and cooperation among the MRU states.
She said the “The aim is to jointly work toward a common approach in addressing cross – border criminal activities,” and other dangerous crimes and illegal activities, especially in the wake of the Covid – 19 pandemic.
She said she anticipates that with new engagements with the United Nations Office on Counter – Terrorism, that the need will be seen to revive the regular meetings at least half yearly of the joint security committee which comprise of the MRU Ministers of Defense and other ministers in the security sector.
Madam Wesseh made the suggestion with the view of ensuring that discussions at the most strategic levels can be held to build trust and confidence among member states and in the process, to ensure that the region remains peaceful and stable for economic growth and development to transform the lives of the citizens.
In his closing statement at the meeting Tuesday, Liberia’s Defense Minister Maj./Gen. Daniel Dee Ziankahn (Rtd), thanked the delegates for accepting their invitations by MRU to come to Monrovia for the meeting, saying he is grateful that the meeting was able to touch on thematic areas that they had long been awaiting to address. He named the Joint Security Committee, the Technical Committee, the Joint Border Security and Counter – Terrorism as thematic areas that have been addressed at the meeting, saying key to that is that in their positions, they are operating both at the strategic and operational levels.
Minister Ziankahn hoped that these discussions will not just be held in Monrovia, but that they can be incorporated at the national security strategies back home in the four countries.
Speaking via Zoom, Madam GiovanieBiha, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (D-SRSG) for West Africa and the Sahel, said UNOWAS and the UN Systems were well represented in the meeting both physically and remotely.
According to Madam Biha, her colleagues who attended the meeting have updated her that it was very fruitful, important and very productive the deliberations had been over the past days. She assured that UNOWAS and the UN System will continue to work very closely with the MRU Secretariat and also the four MRU countries.
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Defense Col. Muana B. Massaquoi, (Rtd), said for the past two days, there had been a lot of work put into MRU’s action plan and also [deriving] a communique, commending the Secretariat and the participants for their inputs into making the meeting a success.
He noted that the key areas that were addressed were reactivating the Joint Security Committee, the Technical Committee and the Joint Border Committee, saying these issues were stressed at the meeting because along the way they were relaxed.
“So I’m happy that they came up and all the member countries agreed that they should be activated,” he said, adding that strategy on counter – terrorism was another issue that was stressed. Deputy Minister Massaquoi stated that the meeting came at the right time, adding that the delegates’ deliberations and efforts have been very rewarding, and he is very pleased to say that the participants have done extremely well. By Winston W. Parley