Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Liberia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, has expressed alarm that the Mano River Union basin is in a critical stage of development.
Minister Kemayah told MRU members that the twin problems of the Ebola epidemic, which has begun to resurface in border areas of our sub-region, and the coronavirus pandemic, have posed a grave challenge to every member state with no exception.
He said Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a major negative impact on the health sector and economic performance of member states.
Minister Kemayah made these remarks on Monday, May 24, 2021, when he served as keynote speaker at the start of a two-day MRU sub-regional meeting of Ministers of Defense and Chief of Defense staff held in Monrovia.
The meeting is currently being held under the theme: “A Sub-regional Approach in Addressing Growing Security and Terroristic Threats.”
According to him, normal lives of our citizens in the sub-region have been completely upended, and cross-border trade has declined due to the restrictions imposed on the free movements of people and goods owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister Kemayah, however, revealed that terrorism of today is fast becoming a global phenomenon, rooted in logics that exist both within and outside of the societies it affects. In turn, this influences diplomacy, intelligence, and war.
He said: “As you may well know, terrorism creates terror, a feeling of insecurity, and the idea that leaders can no longer protect those they lead. Reports from the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) indicate that criminals and violent extremists are exploiting the pandemic to build their support networks, undermine trust in government and even weaponize the virus.”
According to him, it is also important to note that terrorism alters economic behavior, primarily by changing investment and consumption patterns; as well as diverting public and private resources.
In recent months, Minister Kemayah said, the MRU basin has seen growing cross-border threats from terrorist groups, which “We believe have tested the resilience of the entire regional architecture on peace and security.”
It is a known fact, that with the vast number of porous borders in the region, no one member state can completely boast of its national security. “We have to pursue a collective effort as a sub-region, in order to succeed in addressing the growing security and terroristic threats the region faces. It is about time that we engage in a win-win cooperation, not a zero-sum game. The more complex the war on terrorism becomes, the greater the need for collective response, solidarity and unity.”
According to him, no member states should be left behind in the fight against terrorism, instead, “We must work together to further enhance the security of our borders, and ensure that we achieve the much needed security and prosperity we seek.”
“We believe that you are the experts that can draw up the roadmap to achieving our objectives; as far as it is concerning the enhancement and sustenance of peace and security in our region. You are the crème de la crème that can provide solutions to the problem of terrorism in the region. Hence, we would like to encourage you, as you deliberate, to keep the focus on actionable and achievable solutions to this growing menace called terrorism; especially now that we have to deal with another faceless enemy called COVID-19,” he said.
In his welcome remarks, Defense Minister, Daniel Dee Ziankahn said the ongoing meeting is important because it gives “The leaders of the security sector of the individual MRU country the opportunity to reflect on the security challenges in the MRU basin.”
“We are here to identify workable solutions for an improved or mitigated situation,” he told his counterpart.
The MRU was established in 1973 as a tool for regional cooperation among member states including Liberia, Côte d’ Ivoire, Sierra Leone and later the Republic of Guinea.
Minister Ziankahn said over the years, MRU states have been involved in fostering economic growth, social and cultural advancement and collaboration among member states in confronting critical security challenges affecting them.
He further noted that the MRU member countries also experienced violent political instability, deadly pandemic outbreak—including the Ebola and Covid-19, which impacted the sub-region negatively thereby slowing the progress and gains they should have achieved.
“As you may be aware, today’s meeting is part of the outcome from the January 2021 meeting held in Dakar, Senegal between MRU and UNOWAS in which a consensus was reached for collaboration among member states under the authorities of the members of Defense, State to organize a sub-regional meeting of Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff and other relevant security agencies to foster cooperation in addressing the prevailing security threats in the sub-region considering the impact of the Covid-19.”
Also speaking, Deputy Defense Minister of Sierra Leone, Col. (Rtd) Muana B. Massaquoi, indicated that Sierra Leone appreciates the sustained commitment for the maintenance of peace and security, which is the hallmark of their collective aspirations within the region.
He reiterated that the meeting represents another significant step in their role of monitoring and evaluations of “our sub-regional security roadmap.”
The Deputy Defense Minister for Sierra Leone Massaquoi said that the meeting is also crucial in setting the context to address the threats they face in the MRU basin.
“Today, the Covid-19 pandemic, terrorism, violence extremism, an organized crime are some of the serious security challenges that confront the region and represent key challenges to peace and stability in the sub-region,” he noted.
Deputy Minister Massaquoi further reiterated the government of Sierra Leone and the people’s commitment to a peaceful, safe, and secure MRU and urged the meeting to proffer solutions that will address the various issues affecting them.