The Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Mustapha Cisse Lo, has admonished citizens of Liberia and Guinea to work together knowing that both countries are founding members of ECOWAS.
Speaker Lo made the call at the weekend when he led a delegation of ECOWAS Parliamentarians to visit the Guinea-Liberia border along the Ganta corridor in Nimba County.
According to him, the dream of the founders of the regional body was to ensure the unhindered movement of community citizens and, as such, both countries should come together and work to fight those who desire to divide West Africa.
The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker said the only reason documents like passports and liaise passé are used to commute in the various West African countries is to avoid illegal activities and terrorism.
Besides that, he noted, no one should be deprived of free movement.
He urged marketers of both Liberia and Guinea to continue trading as part of efforts by ECOWAS to promote economic growth within the sub-region and spur development.
Also speaking, the ECOWAS Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Tunde Ajisomo, lauded the efforts of the ECOWAS Parliamentary delegation to pay visits to the border of member states, describing it as scoring another point in fostering the regional body’s work.
According to Ajisomo, when the Heads of State crafted the protocol on free movement and trade, it was intended to create a community of oneness.
He said there was, therefore, need for the rancour between citizens of Liberia and Guinea at their border to be harmonized to avoid harassment and extortion by security authorities on both sides.
“No security has the right to deny, harass or intimidate anyone from ECOWAS crossing on either side of the border. If there is scepticism, security authorities should contact the Embassies or Consulates of both countries, rather than impose harsh measures against marketers and ordinary citizens travelling to and from both countries,” envoy Ajisomo noted.
In remarks, Guinean Ambassador to Liberia, Abdullai Dore, frowned on the harassment and intimidation of citizens of both countries by security forces, and promised to work with ECOWAS to bring the situation under control.
He wondered why both countries will treat their fellow compatriots inhumanely when the very land they are protecting was once together until divided by colonial masters.
“The act of extortion and beating of our citizens is illegal and we will work together towards settling such problem,” Ambassador Dore promised.
For their part, legislators from Guinea and Liberia, Senator Prince Johnson of Liberia and Parliamentarian Alpha Dialo of Guinea, promised to put these concerns before their various legislative bodies in order to find an amicable solution.
They called on both Ambassadors of ECOWAS and Guinea to work together in restoring harmony among the two nations’ citizens as well as reinstituting access to free movement and trade.
It was observed that marketers and citizens of both countries along that border find it difficult to commute due to harsh treatment from security forces manning the border.
Both citizens and business people complained of harassment, intimidation, extortion and being banned at some point from commuting between the two countries.
They also complained about the fluctuation of the exchange rate between currencies of both countries, and called on authorities as well as the regional body to intervene to bring a lasting solution to the problem.