In an effort to increase cooperation and trust between Ivorian, Liberian security personnel and border communities in the two countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and partners have conducted a one-day meeting, sporting and cultural activities with border community members and security actors from Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire in Maryland County.
With funding from the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (UNPBSO), the one-day joint activities was aimed at promoting peace and social cohesion within counties in Liberia, and between Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, reducing tension and violent conflicts along and among border communities and help communities understand the use of peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms among others.
Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) Director General Marcus Soko said the maintenance of peace in both countries and the entire region requires the collective efforts of the people and the security forces.
“We need to take these meetings seriously bearing in mind that we can’t do it by ourselves, we need to work as a team. We need to jointly patrol our borders to help control illegal movement of people, drugs, human trafficking and other unlawful activities along our borders,” said Director Soko.
The project, ‘Cross-Border Cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia for Sustainable Peace and Social Cohesion’ is aimed at increasing cooperation and trust between Ivorian and Liberian border communities through strengthening social cohesion and border security.
“We are so happy to see our brothers and sisters, including security forces from Côte d’Ivoire here in this meeting today. Since UNDP started these cross-border meetings and social cohesion activities along the border, things have been going on smoothly, especially for us in cross-border trade. There is a lot of improvement in the relationship with our Ivorian brothers/sisters now. So, we want to say thank you to UNDP and all those who are supporting this project,” said Madam Musu Johnson, Head of the Women in Cross-border Trade in Maryland County.
Madam Johnson said except San Pedro where market women still face challenges, the overall relationship between the market women and the Ivorian security apparatus since the commencement of the project has greatly improved.
For his part, Tabou Police Commissioner, Abdouloye Bakayoko said the Ivorian security attaches great importance to the joint cross-border meetings which aim at promoting peace and social cohesion along the borders.
Commissioner Bakayoko said securing the Ivorian borders from all illegal activities including drug trade remains their primary concern and focus.
“We are also aware that securing our borders requires the support of everyone- including the community members, the security and all partners working together for the safety of our countries and region,” Bakayoko said through an interpreter.
Speaking earlier, Maryland County Superintendent George A. Prowd, Sr. said the ‘Cross-Border Cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia for Sustainable Peace and Social Cohesion’ project is an initiative that needs the collective support of every well-meaning Liberian and Ivorian citizen for its successful implementation in the two countries.
“You are welcome to Maryland County and Liberia. While it is true that you speak French and we speak English, it’s not going to be a barrier to us discussing on how to promote and maintain peace in our two countries...Peace in Liberia means peace in Ivory Coast and peace in Ivory Coast also means peace in Liberia,” Supt. Prowd said.
He said the leadership of Maryland County was concerned about further cementing the already existing cordial relationships between the two countries and people through continuous dialogue and engagements.
“It is good for us to always meet and discuss among ourselves, so that when there are some problems or perceived problems, we can discuss them and trash them out,” the Maryland Supt. Stated.
He thanked UNDP and partners for the project and pledged the County’s leadership fullest support to its success.
The project has helped in the stabilization and rehabilitation of border areas and has enabled targeted border communities to access basic social services regaining some normality.
The one-day activity brought together security apparatus, representatives of civil society organizations, youth and women groupings, local and national leaders from both countries, among others. The activities were organized simultaneously in Gnato, Cote d’ Ivoire and Duokudi, Liberia.