Liberia: Burkinabe Presence a ‘Serious Threat’

Commissioner Robert Budy "We do not have the necessary funds to protect the country’s border."

-- Says Commissioner Budy of the Liberia Immigration Service 

The influx of Burkinabe illegally in Liberia has been described by the head of the Liberia Immigration Service as a significant security threat, which undermines the political and social stability of the country.

The threat, according to Commissioner Robert Budy, requires urgent attention before it gets too late for Liberia as those Burkinabes entered Liberia through illegal points. He says the LIS has little information on what they are bringing or their total number in the country. Commissioner Budy warned that the security threats posed by the Burkinabes are becoming real by the day, prompting the need for concrete measures to prevent the illegal entry of Burkinabes.

“Burkinabes are entering Liberia through illegal points that are hard to reach by officers of the Liberia Immigration Service. This is all due to a funds issue. We do not have the necessary funds to protect the country’s border,” Buddy added.  “Such a situation, if not addressed swiftly by the Government, has the propensity of posing a serious threat to the peace and security of the country.

“Let's be real.  Protecting Liberia's borders requires money. But we are not receiving such.  So we need support to be able to be protective of our borders,” Commissioner Budy noted. "We need to be tight to prevent the illegal migration of people into the country. We have dedicated men; we need more logistics, especially mobility. That is what we really need."

The Burkinabes, whose presence in the county has been an issue for the last five years — are accused of illegal encroachment on lands for farming. They have been trooping to Liberia in large numbers and settling in forest areas along the Ivorian-Liberian border. Coca farming, mining, hunting, and pit sawing are carried out despite "not having proper documentation". 

Accounts from locals in Grand Gedeh suggest that the Burkinabes could be seen with single barrel shotguns and other light weapons and power saws.  The presence of the Burkinabe’ in Grand Gedeh, according to the Minister of Mines and Energy Gesler Murray, in 2020, could one day lead to social marginalization — resulting in xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.

Also, Commissioner Budy's assessment comes about a week after some Burkinabes and Nimbaians clashed over land, leaving several persons wounded.  The clash between Burkinabes and residents of Old Yourpea Town, Nimba County, ensued over allegations of land encroachment. Old Yourpea is located in the Kparblee District, not far from the country’s border with Ivory Coast in Nimba.

It occurred after citizens of Yourpea had demanded of the Burkinabes to leave their land — something the Burkinabes refused to do. 

Since 2019, there has been a significant inflow of illegal Burkinabes into Kparblee District, with many locals opposing their presence. Burkinabe farmers are employed to cultivate cash crops such as cocoa on a fifty-fifty basis with the landowner and the hired Burkinabe sharing the harvest in two equal parts.

The Nimba violent clash took place after the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Embassy of Burkina Faso agreed on what is believed to be an amicable solution to the alleged illegal occupation of Burkinabe nationals, mostly in the forest region of Grand Gedeh County. The solution, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is the profiling of all Burkinabe nationals in the region for one month, “allowing the government to take stock of where they reside and which activities they are involved in.”

Meanwhile, Budy noted that if more logistical support is given, the institution will not only protect the borders but will also adequately contribute to the national budget.

He added that his institution has been keen on the aspect of illegal migration of Burkinabes to Liberia, which is being channeled through the influence of some Liberian citizens who reside in that part of Liberia.

Bud however added that they are working to bring closure to that illegal migration. He disclosed that his entity is tasked to fund the budget with US$4.5 million, stating that they have already gotten US$1.6 million within four months.

Commissioner Budy added that LIS is even looking beyond the box to top up the US$4.5 million target as a help to the budget. However, he disclosed that President George Weah has on some occasions provided some logistical support to the institution.

“He has been supporting us after our meeting with him. He gave us 46 motorcycles, and 46 helmets for the border commanders,” Budy added.

Commissioner Budy further noted that his institution has also received 10 cars and a truck from the President in less than one year and they are assigned in the Southeast.

“The government needs to do more so that the LIS will efficiently work to curtail the influx of illegal immigrants that pose a security threat to the country.”