Burkinabe Presence in Grand Gedeh County Worries Natives

The flag of Liberia. 

 The administration of President George Weah has been petitioned to take action against the influx of Burkinabe in Grand Gedeh County before the situation poses a security risk to the country.

The appeal, which was contained in a petition statement by a group of Grand Gedean, claimed that Burkinabe and other non-Liberians are crossing the Cavalla River into the County in record numbers every day illegally and encroaching on Krahn people forest and farmland.

“Mr. President, there are terrorists among those without legal documents entering Liberia illegally, buying farmland, and may have the intention to attack some of our best friends in the world, the United States of America, France, and Great Britain,” the group added in a statement.

They added that information by the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS) that they are deporting Burkinabe and other non-Liberians in Grand Gedeh County as “false and misleading.”

“We know for a fact that there is no deportation of Burkinabe and non-Liberians going on in Grand Gedeh County.  What we know is these illegal aliens are crossing into Grand Gedeh County every day and outnumbering Grand Gedeh Citizens,” the group added.

The group petition was led by Sampson Diahn, Former Assistant Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Wachien Beh, and Harold G. Tarr, Sr., Former Liberian Ambassador, USA. The other two are Edward N. Slanger and Festus Diahn Zeon.

 The Burkinabe, whose presence in the county has been an issue for the last five years – are accused of illegally farming activities and already encroaching on lands illegally.

The Burkinabe crossed into Liberia and settled in forest areas along the Ivorian-Liberian border, and are said to be carrying out mainly coca farming, hunting, and pit sawing despite "not having proper documentation."

Some are said to be contracted or hired by locals who want to cultivate large farms in return for portions of farmland or other means of reparation.  Locals’ accounts in Grand Gedeh suggest that the Burkinabe would be seen with single barrel shotguns and other light weapons and power saws.

They claim the migrants are exploiting forest resources and encroaching on farmlands and shrines to make cocoa farms.

Although the estimated numbers vary, Senator Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh County last year disclosed that the illegal migrants are approximately 9, 000 in numbers.

Sen. Dennis also last year warned that if nothing is done urgently, Liberia stands a risk of losing some of its land space to its neighbors.

Also, the Minister of Mines and Energy Gesler Murray has early warned in 2020 that Burkinabe and other illegal migrants’ presence could lead to social marginalization –resulting in xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.

And on September 11, of this year, the Liberia News Agency reported the LIS 'concern about the security implications of the Burkinabe, has begun deporting them to their country of origin.

LINA reported that the government move is geared towards protecting the country’s security instead of compromising it due to the presence of jihadists, and extremists’ cells in some parts of West Africa.

 “There have been a series of attacks in Mali, Burkina Fuso, and even Ivory Coast. The influx of Burkinabe in Liberia has raised [serious] security concerns,” Col. Robert Budy, of the LIS is quoted by the LINA.

There are an estimated 500 of them in Liberia, and their members are said to be apprehended “on a weekly basis” by Border Patrol Unit officers of the LIS, according to Col. Budy.

However, Cllr. Buddy disclosed that the agency is facing problems in apprehending these illegal immigrants due to the fact that they are harbored by some local residents in Grand Gedeh accommodating them as their workers. 

The group added that Grand Gedeh citizens in the Diasporas are yearning to come home to participate in the development of Liberia but selling their farmland is cruel and humane.  

“Please put a stop to this and drive the Burkinabe and other non-Liberians back to wherever they come from by any means necessary,” the statement added.