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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More