Tragedy in La Cote d’Ivoire: Implications for the MRU Basin—and for Our Security Officers

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said it for us all when she extended deepest condolences to President Alassane Ouattara for the terrorist attack that occurred last week on the Ivorian resort Grande Bassam resort near Abidjan, killing 21 people and injuring several others.

What happened at Grande Bassam is a serious threat to all nations, governments and peoples in the Mano River Basin. We should all take this very seriously and develop appropriate initiatives to protect our individual countries and people from any such threats or attacks that may befall us.

The Islamic group AQIM said they launched the bloody attack on the innocent people and country—why? What did the Ivory Coast and its people do to them? Or was it just a penchant (liking, fondness) for premeditated, unprovoked violence against an innocent people and country? For what?

It is known that La Cote d’Ivoire has peace keeping troops in Mali. Was that the reason for the attack? So do Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Liberia and other countries. Does it mean that all the other nations, including Liberia, are similarly threatened and can expect an attack in the near future?

This horrific incident has claimed the attention of three former Liberian security personnel. They are Senator Steven Zargo, Chair of the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs and former CID Director; Abraham Kromah, former Deputy Director of Police for Operations; and Saah Gbollie, a professor of Criminal Justice, AME University and former Chair of the House Committee on National Security.

The three unanimously agreed that the national security sector should concentrate on intelligence and become proactive, especially at all border entry points, including air, land and sea. Mr. Kromah referred specifically to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), which he said had undergone training in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and protection of Very Important Persons (VIPS).

Our Senate Correspondent J. Burgess Carter said the three men, speaking on a radio talk show, called for a case study of what transpired in Mali, Burkina Faso and La Cote d’Ivoire, to be able to design mechanisms and a blue print “to guide us as to how to meet the occurrence of some of these issues on our soil.”

They called for the passage of the Police and Immigration Act, which they described as vital for Liberia’s national security, especially in the face of the imminent UNMIL draw down. In the phase of the drawdown, GOL has crafted a National Security Transition Plan of US$103 million, of which US$20 million had already been disbursed. Senator Zargo called on international partners “to work with us in the preparation of our resolve to avert another tragedy.”

The three former security officers suggested the installation of CCTV cameras at hotels, resorts, hospitals and other relevant institutions.

To this we add schools, colleges and universities. In this era of present and constant danger, it behooves all of us to exercise utmost security consciousness. The three former security officers called on the public in general to be security conscious. This means watching out for strange individuals, parcels, loads or incidents, however insignificant they may appear to be.

One other major concern that must be highlighted: ALL of our security forces must exercise utmost integrity! This means they—the Police, Immigration, Emergency Response Unit and Armed Forces, etc.—should not be tempted with money. That would be a sure way of willingly admitting miscreants (troublemakers, wrongdoers, rebels) into our country and our midst that could create havoc here. We surely do not want that, for it would seriously undermine our peace and security. So we all, especially those who have been trained and are being paid to protect us, have to be very, very careful.

No one can buy integrity; it is innate in a human being. Either one is honest, or he or she is not. However, it would behoove the government to pay our security officers and soldiers better wages and give them incentives. As the Rainy Season approaches, the Liberia National Police should ensure that every Officer receives rain gear—raincoat, hat and boots.

If GOL is truly in the process of receiving increased funding for security operations, we pray that this money will be shared equitably with the ordinary officers on the ground, whom we hope will be supplied with the logistical equipment they need, including transportation and communication gear to make them more effective.

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