New border post key to ending Sierra Leone-Liberia trafficking

08 Jun 2009

Sierra Leone and Liberia made another break from their charred history of violence and war by establishing a border post at a key crossing for arms trafficking and illegal immigration.

The Jendema Integrated Border Control Post, officially opened on May 1, is a main crossing point, as well as a key trading route. It houses both immigration and customs offices, and is aimed at reducing cross-border trade in small arms and light weapons, and deterring illicit trafficking of people and goods.

“The opening of the control post is a clear indication that Sierra Leone and Liberia, two countries that have been plagued by a very serious and devastating war, are now poised to move from the image of war-torn countries to a development phase,” said Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, Zainab Hawa Bangura, at a ceremony to commemorate the opening of the post.

The initiative is part of a broader UNDP-supported programme, Arms for Development, which works to improve security and create opportunities for socio-economic development in rural areas, while promoting the voluntary surrender of arms in exchange for development.

Delegations from both countries attended the May 1 ceremony Paramount Chief of Sorogbeima P.C. Zombo, (in whose chiefdom Jendema falls), expressed appreciation to all partners for the construction of the building in their community, which was funded with contributions from the Government of Japan.

Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Conmany Wesseh, praised the efforts of the Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to find peace and stability.  “Our countries together will consolidate peace in the region, and we will be a net exporter of peace,” he said. The Mano River Union is an economic cooperation pact among the three countries.

Executive Representative of the UN Secretary General, Michael Schulenburg, applauded both countries. “Both Sierra Leone and Liberia have become symbols for peace and stability in the region and beacons to other countries in Africa and the wider world of how countries can come out of war and start to rebuild their countries in a democratic and fair manner, he said.

The Arms for Development Programme was launched by the government of Sierra Leone and UNDP in 2004, with three linked areas of focus - increasing awareness of the dangers of illicit small arms in rural communities, strengthening capacity for small arms control and improving border control.  The latter, otherwise known as the Border Strengthening Programme, is a product of a series of assessments and consultations with border communities and district level officials, and includes policy and legislative reforms, training of personnel, and provision of logistics.