UN urged to boost Liberia-Ivory Coast border monitoring

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West African leaders urged the United Nations and regional grouping ECOWAS to step up monitoring of the Liberia-Ivory Coast border after signs mercenaries have been operating there since the end of the Ivory Coast conflict in April.

The call came after talks between Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries that make up the so-called Mano River Union.
“We have asked ECOWAS and UN to help us monitor the borders and to provide a helicopter, a combat helicopter for the various areas in the forest,” Ouattara told reporters after talks in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Reuters reports.

In a joint communique, the four leaders said insecurity on the porous Liberian-Ivory Coast represented a threat for the entire West African region.

The United Nations said in May it was concerned by the return to Liberia of mercenaries and had reinforced its local forces to patrol the long 700 km (400 mile) border between the two countries, which is mostly dense rainforest.

Liberian mercenaries were allegedly hired by supporters of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo during the four-month post-election conflict which ended with Gbagbo’s capture and arrest in April.

Liberia is recovering from 14 years of intermittent civil war itself and plans to hold a constitutional referendum and presidential elections by the end of the year.

Last month it said it had seized a cache of arms and ammunitions including assault rifles and rocket launchers in a town near its border with Ivory Coast. It said it was investigating 92 people after the haul.

Several thousand Ivorian refugees remain on the Liberian side of the border. Some say they are too scared to return homes in western Ivory Coast, which saw an outbreak of inter-ethnic violence as rebel troops loyal to Ouattara advanced from their northern stronghold on the main city Abidjan.