The Mano River Union (MRU), a sub-regional organization originally founded by three countries including Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, with the Ivory Coast joining later, is conscious to not only see economic boost for which it was earlier formed, but to ensure now that peace and security become a paramount objective that keeps the sub-region stable. All four countries have experienced wars or some level of civil unrest, and none can imagine doing anything to revert to the ugly past, considering the consequences thereof.
With that in mind, the Secretary-General of the MRU, Ambassador Medina A. Wesseh, has assured that the union is focused on peace and security, not just with words or advocacy, but practically so that all parties will ensure border protection to prevent any of the member countries from slipping into chaos.
Apart from border security basically in the interest of the government for the blocking of subversive activities, Ambassador Wesseh says the MRU is also working with governments of all member countries to ensure internal security by respecting their respective constitutions so that the rights of the people will prevail.
The MRU as a sub-regional organization works with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS), two of the largest and superior multilateral organizations that remain vigilant in the West Africa region security-wise. Recognizing the efforts of the two, Ambassador Wesseh said ECOWAS and UNOWAS have remained in close and unflinching collaboration with the MRU at all strategic levels, especially at the time when political situations in the sub-region, including the pending elections in Guinea and Ivory Coast, require careful and unwavering attention.
Ivory Coast and Guinea are to shortly go to elections and, as preparations are underway, there appears to be an influence of incumbency whereby Presidents in power are demanding constitutional changes to enable them to contest for a third term, contrary to the existing constitutional mandate. In Guinea, President Alpha Conde is contemplating a change of the Constitution, something that is bitterly opposed by the opposition and has sparked up series of protests in which people have died, according to the BBC. Similarly, Ivory Coast President, Alassane Ouattara, a few years ago, suggested a change in the Constitution to grant him the chance to contest for a third term, but it is yet to gain public attention as that seems not to be holding water.
Ambassador Wesseh used the occasion to salute and recognize the gallantry of men and women under the banner of the MRU whose courage, inspiration, vision, persistence, and patriotism have and continue to accelerate the growth and development of the Union as it drives the peace and security agenda of the sub-region.
At a three-day confab of the MRU in Monrovia, from February 17th to the 19th, where the Secretary-General spoke, she noted that in the wake of various tasks, opportunities, and challenges, the MRU has carved out for itself a niche through the prism of new development dialogue to work with development partners, led by the UNDP in the areas of border security management for peace and development, promote and unbundle the elements of elections and democracy, good governance for local ownership and participation while encouraging economic empowerment most especially with women and youth at the core.
“We hope, by the end of these development exchanges and engagement, we would be better positioned to work closely with governments, CSOs and people at every strata in the sub-region to foster the culture of plowing more swords for peace, in more inclusive societies and governance and civic responsibilities will be part of the everyday business of one and all, male and female, young and old, to secure and move away from fragility to economic development and regional integration,” said Ambassador Wisseh.
Meanwhile, a strategic framework which aims to consolidate regional peace and security and guide the partnership between the MRU and UNOWAS has been signed in Monrovia by the two parties at the end of a three-day workshop. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) considers the overall United Nations support to elevate and capacitate sub-regional and regional organizations to jointly promote peace, security, and stability within the Union.
According to the MOU, those activities will be supervised, monitored and implemented consistent with MRU/ECOWAS’ objectives. Both parties (MRU and UNOWAS) agree under the MOU to hold technical-level meetings at least twice a year to support and access the implementation of the joint annual work plan. The UNOWAS shall support MRU’s advocacy and resource mobilization efforts such as participation donor conferences organized by the MRU. UNOWAS, under the MOU, shall undertake to support technical assistance to the MRU in the field of conflict prevention, security sector reform, mediation, prevention of election-related violence, human rights, and gender-related issues, among many others.
The confab was sponsored by MRU and its partners including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).