The government has deployed at least one platoon from the Armed Forces of Liberia to the Liberian/Ivoirian border in Grand Gedeh County to beef-up security between the two countries, the Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai Jr., has confirmed.
Minister Samukai said the deployment was necessary in the wake of repeated reports of the presence of armed Ivoirians and an unspecified number of Burkinabes in the Forest of Grand Gedeh County, close to the Liberian-Ivoirian border, and to ensure that peace in the two countries prevails.
On the Liberia Broadcasting System’s (ELBC) late Monday newscast, he assured the public that the move is intended to prevent Burkinabes from encroaching on Liberian territory.
Minister Samukai recently toured the Liberian side of the border in the Grand Gedeh County to ascertain the extent of the reported volatile security situation in the area.
Daily Observer Grand Gedeh Correspondent, George Sharpe, said Minister Samukai’s visit to the county has allayed fears among residents, particularly among those in the flashpoint communities along the border.
Since 2010, following the disputed elections in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, citizens of Grand Gedeh County have constantly complained of Burkinabes encroaching on their land.
But Correspondent Sharpe said since the recent deployment of the AFL soldiers in the area, residents there have begun returning to their respective towns and villages where they have resumed their livelihoods.
It may be recalled that in June 2015, the Senate mandated its Defense and National Security Committee to investigate a concern raised by Senator Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh County about the intrusion of armed Ivoirians in the B’hai forest.
The alarm came as the Liberian government struggles to deal with the dilemma of the gradual drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) with concerns about whether the country will be able to handle its own security.
In a communication to the plenary of the Senate, Senator Dennis talked about what he described as a “very disturbing, unfortunate and unprecedented development along the Liberian/Ivorian border, particularly in Grand Gedeh County.”
He also disclosed that in early May of 2015, the people of Tiahn Town in B’hai Administrative Chiefdom, Gbarzon Statutory District, discovered some Ivorian “intruders”, who entered their forest and established an agricultural estate by planting tree crops including cocoa and palm.
The situation was promptly reported to the Grand Gedeh County authority leading to the immediate arrest and detention of six of the “intruders” in Zwedru, but shortly thereafter and for some unexplained reason, those arrested were released and turned over to Ivorian border authorities.
Senator Dennis’ communication further stated that barely a week later, and as an act of provocation, apparently spurred by the failure of government to institute corrective action, more than 200 Ivorians reentered the forest, “well-armed and prepared to defend their settlement on Liberian soil.”
“Again, heeding my advice from the United States of America through phone calls, another complaint, this time documented, was made by the B’hai District people to the Ministry of Internal Affairs through the County Superintendent and as a result of the second complaint; and only then, a team of investigators from Monrovia joined by the locals went to the scene for verification,” the Senator said.
He then called for the urgent intervention of plenary, which he said “is imperative.”