‘Harassment, Abuses, Losses at Borders’

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Members of ECOWAS Parliament and citizens of Liberia and Sierra Leone crossing the border

-Liberians, Sierra Leoneans, Guineans want ECOWAS Parliament’s Intervention

Scores of Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans have explained torment and worries they experience daily at borders during their crossover market trade and movement to each other’s country, describing the treatment meted out to them as “harassment, abuses that result into losses.”

In a two-day visit to the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, located between Bo-Waterside and Jendima and the Guinea-Liberia border in Sibita and Ganta, respectively, the citizens also narrated challenges in the exchange rates of the conversion of one currency to another, procedures for clearing both import and export, taxes and tariffs applicable on import/export, relevant documentation (such as Laisez Passé).

Other impediments are the lack of electricity in border towns, the disrespect of their countries’ traveling documents, the increment of unreasonable checkpoints and the refusal of country’s voter ID card as part of traveling document.

The citizens of the three West African countries expressed their ordeals to the 35-member delegation of ECOWAS Parliament, led by Speaker Mustapha Cisse Lo, during their Delocalized Sensitization and Fact Finding Mission that took place on Friday and Saturday, September 28 and 29, 2018, respectively.

At the Liberia-Sierra Leone border on Friday, the Youth Chairman of Sorogbei Me Chiefdom in Sierra Leone, Mr. Hajid Sheriff, said because of the high price of the  Laisez Passe, which is about 100,000 Leones and equivalent to about LD$2,000, some Sierra Leoneans who cannot afford this amount prefer illegal entries that have resulted into drowning of five of their kinsmen – four ladies and a man.

Sheriff told members of the ECOWAS Parliament that losing the lives of their kinsmen are annoying and it can only stop if prices of Passe Passe and other traveling documents are accepted and reduced. He also said the Laisez Passé should be valid for a “journey within 90 days.”

“Even if you go to Monrovia and make a week and come back to Jendima or Sorogbei Me, the Laisez Passé automatically expires; it’s valid for a trip or journey despite the days you make in less than 90 days,” Sheriff said. “That should not be so; we beg for your intervention.”

Members of ECOWAS Parliament and citizens of Guinea and Liberia crossing the border

A Sierra Leonean marketer, Elizabeth Sheriff, said the high conversion rate of Sierra Leone’s Leones to Liberian dollars is creating setbacks to marketers and has caused loss of profit and sometimes their principal (market money). Both Sierra Leoneans reported of loss of goods and lives as the results of the bottlenecks in cross-border trade and movement.

Madam Sheriff said she wished there would be one currency in the region; while Commissioner Zwannah Massaley Cole of Liberia said the lack of electricity at the two border towns, Bo Waterside and Jendima, is not helping in the curtailing of illegal entrants, stressing that “electricity is security.”

Madam Lucia Sonii of Liberia called on ECOWAS Parliament to give West African market women loans to boost their markets to help their respective countries’ economies.

On Saturday at Liberia-Guinea border, both citizens across the borders allegedly accused each country’s security personnel of harassment and abuses.

A Liberian marketer, Nya Dolo, said in 2016, a baby mother (a Nimbaian marketer) was flogged by a  Guinean officer and also last year a pregnant Nimbaian marketer was also ill-treated; both incidents occurred at Lion’s Gate in Jeaquah in Guinea.

The market women, mostly Nimbaians, also recounted their experiences of extortion at the gates involving custom duties and other charges.

Citizens voicing out their concerns at Liberia-Sierra Leone border

A Guinean trader, Abu Bakar Barry, narrated that most of them are also harassed at the Liberian border. He said Liberian officers forcibly take money from them as well as some of their goods.

“Sometimes we receive slaps,” Barry claimed.

Residents across both sides of the border confirmed the treatment meted out against citizens from both countries, describing it as “pay back.”

“If Liberian officers know their marketers are badly handled and received the intelligence, they too do the same to Guinean traders,” a female marketer, who begged for anonymity, said.

“Both citizens are not experiencing free movement. The last time, each country’s security officers decided to start checking women for whatever reason. I saw men putting their hands in women’s clothes at the two sides in the name of checking,” a male trader said.

He added: “Both countries’ security act badly and we are the ones suffering.”

Sen. Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County called for “peaceful and free movement” of citizens from both Liberia and Guinea and the message was buttressed by Guinean Ambassador to Liberia.

ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia said to tackle the ID Card scenario, the ECOWAS biometric ID should be introduced and taken seriously, and ECOWAS will hold a workshop on the Protocol of Free Movement between the security personnel.

ECOWAS Parliament Speaker Cisse Lo called for an end to harassment, abuses, and losses in the borders and urged ECOWAS citizens to coexist.

He assured them of an amicable discussion in their pending sitting of Parliament members and onward discussion with the President of ECOWAS Authority.

Speaker Cisse Lo stressed that West Africa and Africa can only be united if they treat one another as brothers and sisters, despite their different countries, religion, and ethnicity.

Author

  • I am a Liberian journalist, born November 7 and hailed from the Southeast and of the kru tribe. I began contributing to the Daily Observer 2008 and was fully employed in 2012. I am the 3rd of eight children and named after my great grandfather. Am happily married with three children (girls). I am a full member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and also the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) and the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOL). I can be contacted through email: [email protected] or cell number/WhatsApp: (+231) 0886585875 or Facebook.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to the struggling West Africans that were honest with their members of parliament by telling them about west African boarder harassment, abuses and financial losses. Who told you these parliament members don’t already knows what are happening at the boarders? They were been told what they already know and they had the guts to visit without a solution. At the boarder they promised to meet and come up with a solution but that is a promised and only a promise. I will be visiting these boarders in West Africa in January 2019 to experience what happening and why they still continue despite ECOWAS parliamentary meetings to improve the free movement of its citizen. Solutions to these harmful situation do not need meetings, they are just orders. More hustlers are at these boarders than actual workers but these hustlers are connected to the immigration officers and custom workers at these boarders.

  2. It’s about time that the member states of the West African economic community had done something to deal with illegal crossings and harassment. It is a problem that has been going on for years.

  3. Well,well,well……my comments on this subjects is like this: the boarder guys and most members of many Africans countries security apparatus, are fostering the work and idea of the colonizers.
    If a black African can be harassed in another African country and made to be beaten and denigrated to the lowest, because he/she is a ‘foreigner’. On the other hand, a homeless European, India, American plug out of the street from Europe, sent to any African country walking the street of Africa, we call him/her an investor.
    This is what the colonizers wanted, and fortunately; we are now doing what they really had planned. Some of our government officials are mute. We are the only kind of human being that will do other people ‘dirty job’ for them.

    Until we can back ourselves with science and technology, which will enable us to take control of our own security, we will continue to do the colonizers’ dirty work for them. All those boarders are all PHONY.

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