An official of La Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of State, Interior and Security, Mr. Amani Ipou Félicien, has told both Liberian and Ivorian delegations that everyone needs to work together for the maintenance of peace and security in both nations.
Mr. Félicien, who deputized for the Interior Minister, Mr. Desiré Tagro, stated that peace and reconciliation between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire are urgent and should constantly be maintained in the two sisterly nations and their people.
Speaking Saturday, January 16, when he formally opened the Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) in Guiglo, La Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Félicien told the audience that his country and Liberia are border-sharing countries, which have gone through years of civil strife and cross-border insurgent activities and so the maintenance of peace between both nations is very important.
The meeting which began January 16 ends today.
Speaking earlier, Acting Internal Affairs Minister, Mr. Varney Sirleaf, who headed the Liberian delegation to the three-day JCCEM, traced the historic sisterly relationship between both nations to the late 1970s, when a Joint Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire Commission was established to foster bilateral relations, cultivate shared cultural values and guaranteed common border trade between the two nations.
Minister Sirleaf said the Commission became inactive due to the civil wars that affected both nations.
“Following the end of the war in 2003 in Liberia, and in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, the Governments of the Mano River Union basin instituted several measures to strengthen peace, security and reconciliation along their common borders. Consequently , a joint Technical Assessment Mission sanctioned by Presidents of MRU countries was conducted in November 2011 in collaboration with the UN Missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire,” he said.
He stated that during the meetings, they noticed that both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire were faced with challenges in armed attacks on the Ivorian territory and and unauthorized land occupation by “foreign elements on the Liberian side of the border.”
Acting Minister Sirleaf said that following those series of meetings, and recognizing the major role traditional leaders play in maintaining peace in their communities, the concept of the JCCEM was birthed to foster peace and security along the common borders of both nations.
The first JCCEM between traditional leaders of both countries was held in Liberia in October 2013, with Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Alassane Ouatarra of La Côte d’Ivoire attending it in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
At the Zwedru meeting, over 108 community leaders, including traditional chiefs, women, youth groups, refugee leaders, and county superintendents/préfects of both Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire from border regions, gathered to discuss the shared vision for peace and reconciliation.
The Acting Minister urged both nations to work together to cement the gains thus far through the JCCEM platform for continued border dialogue among the chiefs and elders of both nations for the sustenance of peace.
The Liberian delegation was received in Guiglo County, Cavalla Region, La Côte d’Ivoire, by Mr. Messemba Koné, Governor, Cavally Region.
The delegation includes heads and members of Traditional Council of Liberia, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), LRRRC, Liberia’s Peace Ambassador, the Carter Center and Youth and Sports Minister-designate.
The JCCEM is intended to 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 of Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire.
The date and venue of this second meeting were agreed upon at the end of the Third Quadripartite with Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire and two United Nations Missions in both nations.
The delegates at the Abidjan quadripartite forum reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation between Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire, acknowledging that the security situation remains fragile in the border regions in spite of the progress made so far.
Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Alassane Ouattara are expected to attend the meeting today Monday, January 18.