Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Liberia: Fears Mount That Côte d'Ivoire Conflict Could Spill Into the Country

Press release

Source: allAfrica.com

Monrovia — High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and other senior UN officials warned this week in Monrovia that escalating fighting and massive population displacement in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire threatens Liberia's own fragile eight-year peace.

Citing the violence sweeping Côte d'Ivoire, they warned of the potential for the recruitment by rival Ivorian forces of fighters in Liberia and for the smuggling of weapons across Liberia's porous border.

"It is clear this conflict has to stop," Guterres said after meeting traumatized Ivorian refugees in eastern Liberia, where more than 90,000 people have sought shelter since last November's presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire. "The amount of human suffering is horrendous. All neighbouring countries can be dramatically impacted," warned the High Commissioner, who discussed his fears during a meeting on Wednesday with Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Fighting between forces loyal to the rival presidential candidates, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, has picked up dramatically in recent weeks and many fear the country is descending into civil war. There are some 500,000 internally displaced.

Ellen Margrethe Loj, the UN special representative for Liberia who accompanied Guterres and senior Liberian officials to the border area on Tuesday, was also concerned about fighting spilling over into Liberia, which is still struggling to rebuild after two devastating civil wars between 1989 and 2003.

"If we want to keep peace in Liberia, we have to do all that we can to avoid allowing these arms coming across," she stressed, referring to the fears of cross-border arms smuggling. The UN Mission in Liberia, which has helped to keep the peace, has stepped up its military and police presence along the 700-kilometre-long border.

Guterres and Loj flew to Nimba County, where most of the Ivorian refugees have found shelter, either in a camp built by UNHCR at Bahn or in villages along the border. The delegation flew over a vast stretch of lush green jungle; the potential for agricultural development is tremendous, but poor roads, collapsed bridges and a dilapidated infrastructure have held the region back.

In the border village of Buutuo, the visitors gathered in the shade of a communal gazebo to meet community leaders and refugee representatives, who share similar ethnic and tribal backgrounds and connections.

Guterres hailed the inhabitants of Buutuo and other villages in eastern Liberia for their generosity towards the refugees streaming across the border. "In a world full of egotism, where rich countries are closing their doors, you have opened yours and shared what you have, and what you do not have," he said.

"We came empty, with nothing," said one refugee woman, who told the delegation that this was the third time she had been forced to flee from violence in Côte d'Ivoire in the past 10 years. The first time she sought shelter in Ghana, then in Guinea and now she had escaped to Liberia.

Liberia's Interior Affairs Minister Harrison Kahnweah, addressing the group, said: "It is an African tradition that we receive people when they are in need . . . Thank you for receiving your brothers and sisters. We have been there before ourselves."

Thousands of Liberians sought refugee in Côte d'Ivoire during the Liberian civil wars and say they are now committed to returning that generosity. But these host communities need help because their stretched resources are running out.

"There is a conflict potential if nothing is done to replenish what they gave away," said Nimba County Superintendent Edith Gongloe Weh. UNHCR and its partners are working to provide aid to these communities as well as the refugees.

Guterres' visit came amid reports that 6,000 people had fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County, to the south of Nimba, indicating that the fighting in western Côte d'Ivoire may have shifted or spread.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is encouraging refugees to move away from the border and relocate to the Bahn refugee camp or to any of 16 designated host villages. Three additional camps are planned, but their locations will depend on where people are crossing.

Most of the Ivorian refugees are presently living in more than 90 communities along the border, raising concern for their security and hampering UNHCR's ability to deliver aid, a situation which will worsen with the approach of the rainy season.

UNHCR built the camp at Bahn, a five-hour drive from Buutuo on dirt roads, to provide safer accommodation and improved aid humanitarian access. The camp, which has a capacity for 15,000 refugees, provides security, food, water and schooling.

But the majority of refugees still want to stay near the border and as close as possible to their homes. "All we want is to soon return back home," said Mezoud Gaspard, who spoke on behalf of refugees in Buutou.

Guterres, who thanked President Sirleaf for keeping the borders open and for her people's generosity to the Ivorians, flew back to Geneva on Wednesday evening at the end of a three-day visit.

- Melissa Fleming

News Headline

Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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