News / Africa

    Ivory Coast, Liberia Seek Cross-Border Dialogue

    FILE - An Ivorian refugee gets a lift on motor bike taxi toward Zwedru, Liberia, March 24, 2011.
    FILE - An Ivorian refugee gets a lift on motor bike taxi toward Zwedru, Liberia, March 24, 2011.
    Anne Look
    Ivory Coast and Liberia are starting a dialogue aimed at promoting reconciliation and increasing security. Cross-border violence has calmed in the past six months, though tensions remain between locals in southeastern Liberia and thousands of Ivorian refugees who remain there after fleeing Ivory Coast's post-election conflict in 2011.

    More than 200,000 Ivorians fled into Liberia during the 2010-2011 post-election conflict. Close to 60,000 are still there.

    Liberians living around the southeastern town of Zwedru say it is time for the refugees to go home.

    "The refugees are problems for us. They go on our farms at night to steal our crops. They are taking all our forest land or they go and steal our cattle, said George Mend. "This is a serious situation right now. I hope that they can go back to Ivory Coast because since they came here, the criminal rate has increased and this is embarrassing for us local farmers."

    Communal tensions

    Refugees told VOA, though, that fear keeps them from going home. The political crisis exacerbated ethnic and communal tensions, and disputes over land rights in western Ivory Coast.

    Alpha Sandu, a refugee living at a camp in Zwedru, said everything about life in Liberia is hard. He said he wants to go home, but he is scared. He said "we don't want people to kill us."

    Some refugees also say they don't have much to go back to.

    Human Rights Watch says hundreds of refugees have returned home to find that their land had been taken over or sold illegally.

    Attacks staged from Liberia by Ivorian fighters and Liberian mercenaries have killed dozens in western Ivory Coast since the end of the conflict and strained relations between the two countries.  

    Ivory Coast violence

    These combatants are believed to have fled to Liberia after fighting for former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the 2010 election. The violence has calmed somewhat, however, and the most recent attacks were in March, which killed 10 people.

    Liberian authorities have been arresting suspected mercenaries and began trying 18 of them last month in connection with the cross-border attacks.

    Analysts say greater cooperation between Liberian and Ivorian security forces, and with the U.N. missions in each country, has tightened border security.

    But the work of rebuilding communal ties continues.

    Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara met in Zwedru this month for the final day of a peace and reconciliation conference with traditional chiefs from both sides of the border.

    Sirleaf said it is time go back to the days of "peaceful coexistence."

    "It is not an option for Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia to work together. Dear friends, it is a necessity," she said.

    Family ties

    During Liberia's civil wars, which ended in 2003, communities in western Ivory Coast hosted tens of thousands of Liberian refugees.

    For many, that border is just an arbitrary line separating communities that share family ties and speak the same language.

    A traditional chief from Toe Town in Liberia, Sammy Weah, said opening dialogue is a step in the right direction.

    He said, "We have to put the past behind us and work together to make this a better place. There is no need to fight. There is no need for criminal activities at the border. We are all one people."

    Prince Collins contributed reporting from Zwedru, Liberia.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora