Amid reports of illegal entry by some Burkinabé and Ivorian nationals into Grand Gedeh County, the president of the Grand Gedeh Bar Association (GGBA), Attorney Alphonsus Zeon, has disclosed that the organization with support from the Carter Center has secured funding to help address illegal mass crossing into the county.
Speaking in a telephone conversation with Atty. Zeon on October 23, 2020, in Monrovia, he said over the past times there have been lingering concerns of security along Liberia’s border with the Ivory Coast, specifically in Grand Gedeh County, something which according to him has drawn GGBA’s attention.
He also recalled that at the last Senate hearing, it was reported that at least nine thousand Ivorian and Burkinabé nationals had crossed over to Liberia and are undertaken farming activities, something he noted illegal.
According to him, there have also been serious problems arising over illegal land use for farming activities in the county by the Burkinabé and some Ivorian over the years. “They come with unspecified activities that are not clear and we as locals and civil society organizations have decided to help the government and our Ivorian counterparts at the community level to ease the situation,” Zeon said.
Though Atty. Zeon did not mention the total amount that the organization and its partners have secured, he indicated that GGBA, with support from its partners, wants to buttress the government’s efforts at the community level by bringing border communities with the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and the Grand Gedeh county Legislative caucus to see what can be done to stop this problem. “This is at the highest policy level that people are engaging one another to be able to solve the problems at a local level,” he said.
It may be recalled that some months ago, President George M. Weah mandated the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) including other high-profile government officials to have a discussion with the local authorities in the Ivory Coast to find a common ground to the existing problem.
According to Atty. Zeon, Grand Gedeh county has eleven border points with the Ivory Coast, six of which are under the full control of the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS). “What we intend to do is to ensure that LIS officers are posted at all of these border points.”
He indicated that when this is done, it will enable communities to send in timely reports to local authorities of LIS to register and track foreigners consistent with the ECOWAS free movement protocol.
“Once that is done, people who will want to come to Liberia to make farms will do that in consonance with the laws of Liberia. Our laws are very clear as to how personal ownership of land can be obtained.”
According to Zeon, the organization is also focusing on those who want to lease farmland. This, he said, will be based on a contractual agreement that has to be crafted in a clear term so that at the end of the day, they can know the identity of those that are coming in through various border points and will also know the arrangement under which farming will take place.
“The legalization process reduces the rate of confusion, crimes, as well as illegal entry in the county,” he added. Atty. Zeon also clarified that the ECOWAS free movement protocol is absolutely consistent with the spirit and intention of ECOWAS for citizens to cross borders legally and not illegally.