By Reuben Sei Waylaun
Citizens of Liberia and Guinea have been urged to peacefully co-exist following a one-day official fact finding and sensitization visit at the Ganta-Guinea border by members of ECOWAS Parliament.
The fact finding and sensitization mission at the border is aimed at ensuring that the free movement of people and goods within the region are adhered to as signed in the 1979 protocol by member countries of ECOWAS.
Similar visit was carried out at the Liberia Sierra Leone borders.
During a brief program at the Ganta, Liberia side of the border over the weekend, citizens from Liberia; especially marketers expressed disappointment over the manner in which they are treated by their Guinean counterparts.
According to them, the tough security measures, numerous checkpoints and frequent request for monies are some of the difficulties they go through since the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
“We go to Guinea to get goods, but the Guinea Franc exchange rate is getting too hard for us and as a result, we are not getting profit these days. To go, we are free but to come back, we are asked to pay monies at every gate. We want you to help us please, ” a business woman from Liberia said.
“Things are getting tense on us these days. We are now getting goods from Monrovia, ” another business woman said.
The citizens from both sides of the border were asked to speak their minds on issues confronting them to enable the ECOWAS Parliament in collaboration with others make a determination on the way forward.
Yah Dolo, another market woman from Liberia; “we usually go in Guinea and when they see goods, they ask for monies or they will beat us, beat pregnant women, or else we give LRD25.00 or LRD30.00 and thank God you people here to help us.”
They further lamented that during the days of UNMIL in Liberia, they used to have peaceful co-existence, but things had changed since them.
“The checkpoints getting too much on the Guinean side of the border. We want ECOWAS to help us resolve this serious issue for us. I want to know whether the Guinean soldiers can charge people according to dress code because they always asked for money when we are dressed well,” Aloe Glay, a businessman in Ganta.
A security officer at the Liberia side of the border recounted that during UNMIL mission in Liberia, they used to have regular cross-border security meeting aimed at strengthening relationship at the two sides of the border and for peaceful co-existence.
At the same time, citizens of Guinea using the Ganta port of entry have expressed frustration in their Liberian counterparts in handling issues.
The City Mayor of Deckie in Guinea said for them, they are cooperating with their Liberia counterparts to ensure harmonious relationship at the border.
“I usually address Liberian citizens’ concern in a more responsible way. We are working for one goal because we want to ensure security for both countries. It’s not time to pay back. We must live in harmony,” the Mayor.
For his part, the head of Transport Union at the Guinea border side confirmed that they have several checkpoints in Guinea where travelers have to pay little monies Every time.
Amara Jabateh also complained that Guineans coming to Liberia are faced with several difficulties. Jabateh expressed frustration that Guineans coming to Liberia are denied entry due to document issues.
He alleged that Guineans presenting their documents signed by the Ambassador are denied entry by their Liberian counterparts for reason best know to them.
“These are things that are also happening in Liberia besides the documents issue,” Jabateh said.
Meanwhile, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson has called for unity amongst citizens of Guinea and Liberia and urged them to reflect to their past sweet relationship.
“We Liberians sought refuge in Guinea and they took good care of us and we must respect them for this. Guineans sacrificed their lives for us during the war years in our country. We shouldn’t trouble them. Let’s live together as one people,” he said.
Also speaking, Guinea Ambassador to Liberia, Abdoulaye Doré promised that both countries in collaboration with ECOWAS will find solution to the problems at both sides of the border to ensure peaceful co-existence at all times.
Ambassador Doré reminded both countries of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol signed in 1979 saying “when there are documents signed by Ambassadors of any ECOWAS member state, no need for police to ask for any fees. We are all one people and let’s forget about the borderline drawn by those from the West.”
“We speak the same local languages in both countries and we shouldn’t give hard time to our market women who are going to buy their goods. Our mothers should stop giving monies to immigration and other security officers. This is not correct,” Ambassador Doré said.
ECOWAS Ambassador Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo commended members of ECOWAS Parliament for what he calls milestone venture by touring border points in the region to access what’s unfolding and find amicable and durable solutions.
“On no account should security officers reject a legitimate identity of any ECOWAS member state because other African regions want to learn from our good work and news of harassment will not talk good about us.
“We shouldn’t be humiliating our citizens in the region. we will organise a seminar in Nimba County for security of Liberia and Guinea to educate people our people of free movement. Our market women too should act in accordance with law,” he said.
Speaking through an interpreter, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker Mustapha Cisse Lo thanked President George Weah for ensuring that their dream succeeds as a regional body.
“Liberia and Guinea should come together because they are both members of ECOWAS. The vision of ECOWAS is great, but we must come together no matter what,” he said.
Speaker Cisse Lo alleged that people from outside of the region and other parts of the world don’t want to see ECOWAS member countries hold together.
“No matter what, we must hold together and don’t allow people from outside to divide us. Terrorists want to use our territories to destroy us. We need to wake up and work together. ECOWAS will look at all of the concerns raised here and work toward it for lasting solutions,” he said.
Speaker Cisse Lo assertions brought real jubilation from those in the hall, particularly marketers. Prior to the program, there were culture performances and rousing welcome ceremony for Speaker Cisse Lo and his entourage at the Liberia side of the border.
At the end of the program, Speaker Cisse Lo and his entourage Walked through the bridge over the Saint John River connecting Liberia and Guinea to the Guinean side of the border and met with security officers, locals and other top government officials.