UN to boost security on I Coast, Liberia border

2012-03-14 09:58

Monrovia - Regional UN envoys and troops are looking to boost security along the porous border between Ivory Coast and Liberia which has become a hotbed of mercenary activity, a statement said on Tuesday.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said its chief officer Moustapha Soumare had met the UN's special representatives for Ivory Coast and West Africa, Albert Koenders and Said Djinnit, in Abidjan last week.

The meeting, which also involved the force commanders and police commissioners of UNMIL and the UN Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), had "the aim of strengthening co-operation in the border region between the two missions and the two UN Country Teams".

"The challenges in the border region are well known, but now we need to put in place a plan that can be 'operationalised' and thereby have a direct impact on the situation on the ground," said Soumare.

A programme of action was drawn up, including added support for national security agencies.

Soumare said border patrols should be reinforced and the two missions and local authorities needed to better co-ordinate their patrols.

The 700km border is difficult to police, and cross-border mercenary activities have increased since the Ivory Coast political crisis which began when strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in November 2010 polls.

Large weapons caches

Liberian mercenaries were reported to be fighting in the neighbouring country in the ensuing conflict which ended when Gbagbo was captured in April 2011 and his rival Alassane Ouattara inaugurated as president.

The mercenaries, left over from Liberia's own brutal civil war which ended in 2003, were implicated in gruesome massacres in western Ivory Coast, rape and looting.

Since then Liberian police have discovered large weapons caches along the border and at least two cross-border attacks have taken place in Ivory Coast planned from Liberia, security sources say.

In January, Liberian authorities arrested some 70 people near the border for their alleged involvement in plans to destabilise the neighbouring country

They were said to be "a mixture of ex-militias loyal to the former president of Ivory Coast [Laurent Gbagbo] and Liberian mercenaries who fought alongside them".