A former Liberian rebel leader has called on the government to reassess its decision to deploy troops to southeastern Grand Gedeh County bordering Ivory Coast.
Thomas Yahyah Nimely, who led the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) rebel group during the country’s civil war, said the government should also reconsider its decision to uproot Liberians living along the border.
Following reports of cross-border attacks into Ivory Coast, which have been blamed on Liberia-based loyalists of former President Laurent Gbagbo, Monrovia named eight Liberians and two Ivorians as persons of interest.
Nimley said Liberians should not be blamed for Ivory Coast’s instability. He also said the government should stop pursuing its witch-hunt in Grand Gedeh County.
“The point is that Liberians have no reason to fight for Cote d’Ivoire. In my own view, the government should have studied the situation [and] found out if its citizens were participating in the war before going out to make such a declaration,” he said.
Nimely said some of those whose names the government released as suspected fighters in Ivory Coast, said they were actually in Monrovia and Zwedru (the Grand Gedeh capital) at the time of the attacks.
“Cote d’Ivoire’s problem is Cote d’Ivoire’s problem. Liberians have no real justifiable reason to go and fight for Cote d’Ivoire. Two, Cote d’Ivoire has 18 million people, and just the Khran (ethnic group) alone within Grand Gedeh County cannot fight for Cote d’Ivoire, and for what should they fight for Cote d’Ivoire?” Nimely said.
A member of the Grand Gedeh Legislative Caucus complained this week that citizens in the region were experiencing security harassment and intimidation.
Nimely said he agrees with the Caucus that the government was singling out people from Grand Gedeh County.
“It sounds like it. If you just get up in the morning and say Thomas Yahyah Nimely is recruiting, and you don’t even find any evidence that Thomas Yahyah Nimely is recruiting, and you put his name on the air, then it means that because the person is a Khran man that’s why you did that. Why should they feel that it is just the Khran people that are supposed to fight in Cote d’Ivoire? So, yes, I would want to agree with the senators and the people of Liberia that say it is witch-hunting,” Nimely said.
He said the government’s plan to relocate Liberian citizens along the border with Ivory Coast is the wrong move.
“These are citizens who live in these areas permanently. Most of them are non-Grand Gedians. They are currently using this area as their investment area, feeding their families and raising their children. And so, if you abruptly relocate these people, number one, where do they go? Number two, what happens to their investments?” he said.
Nimely, who said he has a farm near the Liberian border with Ivory Coast, said he was on his way to Monrovia because he had been told that the government wanted to meet with him.
“I had a couple of calls from representatives of the government to find out where I was, and I told them that I was in Zwedru. And, I have been told that they would like to meet with me in Monrovia, and that’s why I’m going to Monrovia today,” Nimely said.
He said people from Grand Gedeh are not going to be intimidated by anyone in Liberia.
“This country belongs to all of us, and to begin to single out Grand Gedians and just go and put a military person in the streets that, I think, is unfair. We fought very hard for our stability in this country. If Ivory Coast wants peace, they should look for their own peace. We should not be [made to feel] inconvenient in order for Ivory Coast to enjoy their peace,” Nimely said.