November 27, 2022

LIBERIA AND BRUKINA FASO REACH AN AGREEMENT ON ILLEGAL BURKINABE

In an effort to find a solution to the alleged illegal occupation of Burkinabe nationals in Liberia’s forest area, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Embassy of Burkina Faso have agreed on what is believed to be an amicable solution to the alleged illegal occupation of Burkinabe nationals mostly in the forest region of Grand Gedeh County.

The solution, according to the ministry of Internal, is the profiling of all Burkinabe nationals in the region for a period of one month “allowing the government to take stock of where they reside and activities they are involved with. “

The Burkinabe, whose presence in the county has been an issue for the last five years — are accused of illegally farming activities and already encroaching on lands illegally. They have been trooping to Liberia in large numbers and when crossed into Liberia, they settled in forest areas along the Ivorian-Liberian border, and then carried out coca farming, hunting, and pit sawing despite “not having proper documentation.”

Locals’ accounts in Grand Gedeh suggest that the Burkinabe would be seen with single barrel shotguns and other light weapons and power saws. They claim the migrants are exploiting forest resources and encroaching on farmlands and shrines to make cocoa farms.

The presence of the Burkinabe and other illegal migrants’ in the Grand Gedeh, according to the Minister of Mines and Energy Gesler Murray in 2020 could one day lead to social marginalization –resulting in xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.

The profiling decision came after the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf reached an agreement with Mahamadou Zongo, the Ambassador of Burkina Faso accredited to Liberia with residence in Cote D’Ivoire. During the meeting, Minister Sirleaf highlighted the issue of the illegal settlement of Burkinabe in forest areas which according to him has created deep security concerns.

Minister Sirleaf told the visiting Burkinabe Envoy that there have been repeated reports from Liberian communities bordering Cote D’ivoire and increasing concerns raised by security agents and citizens regarding the swelling number of aliens mostly believed to have traveled from Burkina Faso.

A press release issued by the Ministry said the Minister made particular emphasis on the Gbao and B’hai Administrative Districts of Grand Gedeh County which are reported to have the highest number of Burkinabe. Minister Sirleaf said while Liberia respects and upholds the ECOWAS’ Protocol on the free movement of ECOWAS citizens within the region, “it was important to note that such free movements must be documented especially beyond the statutory period so as to avoid uncertainty.”
The Minister and the Ambassador then agreed to embark on the process of profiling all Burkinabe nationals in the region for a period of one month to take stock of where they reside and the activities they are involved with. Ambassador Zongo also committed that the Embassy of Burkina Faso “will provide the needed support towards the profiling exercise.”

Meanwhile, Minister Sirleaf has mandated Grand Gedeh County Superintendent Kai Farley, who was present at the meeting, to immediately commence the exercise in collaboration with the District Commissioners of Gbao and B’hai Administrative Districts where the profiling process is expected to begin.

The release noted that following the profiling exercise, both Minister Sirleaf and Ambassador Zongo agreed to meet in Grand Gedeh County to engage with the Burkinabe community.

Minister Sirleaf believes that a possible option is for the Government through the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) to issue legal documents including Resident Permit in accordance with Liberian and ECOWAS Regulations. At the same time, Ambassador Zongo lauded the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the hospitality accorded him since his arrival in Liberia and promised to increase his visit to Liberia.

The release said the Burkinabe Ambassador praised President George Manneh Weah for the reception accorded Burkinabe nationals in Liberia regardless of their illegal and unknown status. He promised to continuously work with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in order to ensure the security of his compatriots in areas where they find themselves.

The initiative is part of ongoing cross-border program between Liberia and Cote D’ivoire officially starting in 2013 when Liberia hosted the Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) in Zwedru and later enhanced in January-2018 by President George Manneh Weah and President Alassane Ouattara who mandated their Ministers of Internal Affairs to lead cross-border cooperation, peace, trade and commerce, among others

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