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ECOWAS parliament digs deep in free movement


ECOWAS Parliament has conducted a two-day fact-finding mission aimed at strengthening free movement of citizens between member states.
 
As part of the tour, the delegation has met with a cross section of citizens, including traders and border security officials of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the two ports of entry.
 
The high-powered delegation of ECOWAS parliament headed by the Speaker, Mr. Mustapha Cisse, held a town-hall meeting at the Liberia-Guinea border.
 
The fact-finding mission is aimed at strengthening free movement of citizens between member states as enshrined in the 1979 ECOWAS Protocol.
 
At the meeting  on September 29, citizens of both countries complained of constant harassment from security officers and called on the Parliament to intervene.
 
In response, Speaker frowned on the alleged harassment against citizens of both countries and called on authorities to intervene.
 
He noted that the intent of ECOWAS is to promote free movement of citizens among Member States and affirmed the parliament’s commitments in working with the ECOWAS Commission and regional leaders in addressing the situation.
 
“No matter what, we must come together and don’t allow people from outside to divide us. Terrorists want to use our territories to destroy us.
 
We need to wake up and work together. ECOWAS will look at all of these concerns raised here and work towards a lasting solution,” he assured.
 
Madam Yah Dolo, one of several Liberian traders, who explained their ordeals to the delegation, said Liberians involved with cross border trade are often maltreated by Guinean security personnel on their business trips.
 
Madam Dolo said on several occasions, security personnel demand money from them despite having all of the required traveling documents, and if their demands are not met, they (security) would beat on them and sometimes detain them.
 
She alleged that a Guinean security officer identified as Alpha Conteh once beat up a pregnant Liberian lady and placed her in detention at a ‘notorious’ check point known as Lion Gate in Guinea for some unexplained reasons and she (Madam Dolo) had to come and alert the Liberian authorities before the lady was released upon their intervention.
 
According to her, due to the constant harassment meted against them by the Guinean authorities and the rapid decrease in the currency value, most of them have gone out of business.
 
She called on the regional bloc to intervene and bring back the harmonious relationship that once existed between the sisterly countries prior to the civil war in Liberia.
 
A local Guinean official Yakow Dacama admitted to the maltreatment of citizens from both countries by their respective security forces; adding: “Guinean traders also suffer constant intimidation from Liberian Immigration and Police officers at the border and various checkpoints within Liberia.”
 
Dacama disclosed that the situation involving the pregnant Liberian lady was expeditiously dealt with, adding that the perpetrator was made to pay for his crime.
 
He called for the intervention of both countries’ governments, ECOWAS and the Mano River Union to stop the unwholesome behaviours.
 
However, security officials from both countries boasted of cordial relationship between and among themselves.
 
The Commander of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) at the Ganta Details, Louise Dennis, asserted that most citizens crossing the borders do not have relevant traveling documents and dealing with such cases is one of the main challenges they face daily.
 
Her statement was also bolstered by her Guinean counterpart, Diallo Mammadou.
 
Senator Prince Y. Johnson, the Third Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, called on the security apparatus of both countries to solve the problems to promote peace and unity between the nations.
 
Senator Johnson recounted the historic tides existing between the two countries and hailed Guinea her pivotal role in ending the Liberian civil war by sending its troops to form part of the peace keeping mission.
 
The occasion was also graced by top regional diplomats, including the Guinean Ambassador to Liberia, Alhaji Abdoulaye Doré, and the Special Representative of the ECOWAS Commission’s President to Liberia, Babatunde Ajisomo who pledged to engage their respective leaders to bring the situation under control.
 
Earlier, the ECOWAS Parliament delegation visited the Liberia-Sierra Leone border and met with citizens and borders security officers at Bo Waterside.
 
Citizens boasted of a cordial relationship between the two countries and thanked the delegation for the visit.
 
They, however, lamented over the decrease in value of their local currencies against the United States Dollars and called for the introduction of a regional currency within ECOWAS to promote trade and economic growth.
 
Representing Liberia on the delegation included Sen. Johnson, Rep. Edwin M. Snowe, the Head of Liberia’s Parliamentary Delegation to ECOWAS, Rep. Haja Fata Siryon of Bomi and Rep. Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County.