MONROVIA, LIBERIA-For the last five years, the reported huge presence of Burkinabe Nationals in Liberia, under the cover of darkness, has been a paramount concern of the citizenry, who perceive it as a major security threat.
Scores of them have been trooping into the country and settling mostly in the forest region of Grand Gedeh, where they are engaged into illegal farming and other activities on Liberian soil.
Along the Liberian-Ivorian border, Burkinabe are said to be carrying out coca farming, hunting, and pit sawing in the absence of proper documentation.
Because of the situation, Liberia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Embassy of Burkina Faso have agreed on finding an amicable solution to the alleged illegal occupation of Liberian soil by Burkinabe nationals.
As part of the solution, profiling of all Burkinabe nationals in the region will be carried on for a period of one month, to enable government take stock of areas they reside, and activities they are involved with.
It has been reported by Grand Gedeans that the Burkinabe would be seen with single barrel shotguns and other light weapons along with power saws.
They have since alarmed that the migrants are exploiting forest resources, and encroaching on farmlands and shrines to make cocoa farms.
That is why since two years ago, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler Murray, sounded a caveat that the presence of the Burkinabe and other illegal migrants in Grand Gedeh could one day lead to social marginalization, resulting in xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.
And so, the need for timely intervention by authorities of both countries to allay the situation cannot be overemphasized.
That is why we embrace the recent signing of a deal between Burkina Faso and Liberia, to put an end to the longstanding illegal occupation of land by the migrants.
The profiling decision was reached following a discussion between Internal Affairs Minister, Varney Sirleaf, and Mahamadou Zongo, the Ambassador of Burkina Faso accredited to Liberia, with residence in Cote D’Ivoire.
At that meeting, Minister Sirleaf highlighted the issue of the illegal settlement of Burkinabe in forest areas of Liberia, stressing that the situation has created deep security concerns.
“While Liberia respects and upholds the ECOWAS’ Protocol on the free movement of ECOWAS citizens within the region, it is equally important to note that such free movements are documented, especially beyond the statutory period in order to avoid uncertainty.” Minister Sirleaf averred.
We must, therefore, acknowledge the commitment by Ambassador Zongo that the Embassy of Burkina Faso will provide the needed support towards the profiling exercise expected to get underway.
We also anticipate that as part of the solution, Government through, the Liberia Immigration Service, will issue legal documents, including Resident Permit to the migrants in accordance with Liberian and ECOWAS Regulations.
Let us, at the same time, appreciate Ambassador Zongo for recognizing the Liberian Government’s reception accorded Burkinabe nationals in Liberia, regardless of their illegal status.
By: Vic tor Kezelee, Sr.