“Continue Diplomatic Engagement with Cote d’Ivoire”

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The Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran affairs has recommended that the executive branch of government continues with its diplomatic engagement with her Ivorian counterpart, with a view to resolving expeditiously the reported illegal occupation of Liberian territory by Ivorian and Burkinabe nationals.

The Committee’s recommendation was contained in a report read before plenary on Thursday, and follows a concern raised by Grand Gedeh County Senator A. Marshall Dennis, in which he informed that body of armed men crossing over from La Cote d’Ivoire to the Grand Gedeh side of the border.

Senator Dennis also informed his colleagues that the illegal Ivorian and Burkinabe occupants were engaged in the planting of long term tree crops, such as cocoa, coffee and rubber, while also doing illicit logging.

The Committee, chaired by Stephen Zargo, urged that the Grand Gedeh Legislative caucus to remain engaged with the process and that during either their Legislative sitting or major gathering in the county the caucus should make it an agenda item and keep the legislature informed of unfolding events so as to determine its next course of action.

Since Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh, Chairman of the Joint Security confirmed that the executive had seized the situation, the committee recommended that Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs liaises with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other authorities to determine the extent of the diplomatic engagement.

Also, the 15-member committee requests that the Foreign Affairs Committee concur with the prior recommendation emanating from the Justice Minister to the effect that the government of Liberia maintains a security presence in said areas; and that national action be taken very soon to occupy the said parcel of land to include agriculture, concessions, military barracks, etc.

The Committee called for subsidizing of local dwellers to engage in economic activities on that parcel of land and for government to make a budgetary allocation for security occupational activities in all once occupied areas, including River Gee, where a Liberian was recently shot and killed by unknown persons from Ivory Coast.

The area in question is densely forested and largely uninhabited by Grand Gedeans. The few farmers and villages cannot utilize all of the rich and vast forest land.

The committee further observed that because a good number of Krahn-speaking Ivorians, mixed with Burkinabes have seized the opportunity to move in the terrain due to the tribal, language and cultural similarities to venture in the forest to hunt, log and plant tree crops such as cocoa, coffee and rubber.

It was also observed, according to the Zargo Committee, that prominent citizens of Grand Gedeh and others alike understand the long historical, cultural and tribal ties between them and those of their kinsmen from La Cote d’Ivoire; but the involvement of the Burkinabes, the planting of long term crops and illicit logging without the consent and/or the approval of local authorities and national government is the primary concern of the people of the county.

The report was welcomed by plenary and unanimously voted to further mandate its committee to continue to work with authorities in the Executive Branch of government responsible for implementation of its recommendations.

The 15-member committee includes Senators Stephen Zargo, Albert T. Chie, Morris Saytumah, Varney G. Sherman, George Manneh Weah, Jewel Howard-Taylor and Conmany B. Wesseh, among others.

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