The President of La Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, has promised his Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, that he will reopen his country’s borders with Liberia by March of this year.
The Ivorian leader had ordered the closure of all land border posts with Liberia when the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) intensified.
But on Monday, January 19, the Ivorian leader assured President Sirleaf and other Liberians, who had attended the three-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) between the Republics of Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire, that he will surely reopen all his country’s land borders with Liberia.
President Ouattara, however, said his country’s borders are still shut based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“I have listened to the recommendations and requests for the opening of the borders. As you may be aware, WHO recommends that we wait for 90 days; I can assure you that we will do it in March,” he stated.
President Ouattara made the assurance when he finally closed the three-day JCCEM, which was held in the Cavally Regional capital of Guiglo, La Côte d’Ivoire.
Before President Ouattara promised to reopen the borders, the spokesperson of Liberia’s traditional council, Chief Moses Teah of Maryland County had earlier pleaded with the Ivorian leader to reopen said borders.
According to the Liberian elder, opening the borders with Liberia will increase the economic capabilities of women and youth. He also stated that it will enable chiefs on both sides of the borders to easily visit and communicate with their colleagues on the other side of the border in the bid to solve would-be crises.
Chief Teah promised that chiefs on the Liberian side of the border won’t allow anyone who has committed a crime in La Côte d’Ivoire to come and hide among them.
Also before President Ouattara spoke, President Sirleaf had earlier thanked him and other Ivoirians for accepting Liberians who had fled the civil war in their country and sought refuge in parts of La Côte d’Ivoire.
She then used the occasion to also draw her Ivorian counterpart’s attention to the reopening of the borders. The Liberian and Ivorian leaders and others spoke at the end of the second JCCEM.
The first meeting between traditional leaders of both nations was held in Liberia in October 2013, with Presidents Sirleaf and Ouatarra attending in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. It brought together more than 100 chiefs and elders from bordering communities of both sisterly nations.
Both leaders said since the first meeting, they have observed an improved security situation along the borders.
The second meeting was to review the implementation of the resolution from the Zwedru Meeting in October of 2013 and to strengthen cooperation and collaboration among administrative authorities of bordering communities in the two countries.
The JCCEM is intended to further strengthen, promote and pursue the consolidation of cooperation, peace and security through regular cross-border meetings, confidence-building measures and sharing of information between citizens residing in border communities.
The Guiglo venue for the meeting was agreed upon at the end of the Third Quadripartite with Liberia and La Côté d’Ivoire and the United Nations Missions in both countries.