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Addis Ababa African Union Côte d'Ivoire Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Eritrea Guinea Liberia Reports

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Border security a priority, Liberia’s President Johnson-Sirleaf tells RFI

Liberia's president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf talking to RFI in Addis Ababa Sunday evening DR

Peace and security throughout the West African region, particularly the Liberian borders with Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, are a top priority for Liberia, said Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in an exclusive interview with RFI.

“I come from a region of fragility, and we’ve been having problems in West Africa, and so the report of the peace and security commission of Africa is very important to us,” she said on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

Sirleaf had seven bilateral meetings with other heads of state on the sidelines of the summit on Sunday, including with the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia 27/05/2013 - by Laura Angela Bagnetto in Addis Ababa Listen

“We met and discussed the more recent development on the border, and what we both are doing, working with the UN peacekeeping forces in both countries to make sure we monitor the situation and address any chances of there being any escalation in attacks,” she said.

Some 3,000 people died in Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election violence in 2010, and a reported 250,000 displaced people fled into neighbouring countries, including Liberia.

Liberia-Ivorian cross-border violence broke out in March earlier this year as three armed attacks forced villagers on the border to flee.

Liberian mercenaries participating in the fighting in Côte d’Ivoire had also contributed to instability.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which has been repatriating displaced Ivorians, said that the attacks in March had also temporarily disrupted return convoys along the roads leading to the border.

At the African Union summit, President Sirleaf said that direct discussions with her counterparts who border Liberia is key to preventing any escalation of violence.

“We’ve even just put some of our soldiers on the border just to reinforce our security agencies, to make sure that there are no major threats,” she added.

In her meeting here in Addis Ababa with Guinea Conakry’s President Alpha Conde, she said she “talked about the potential that may happen on the borders between Liberia and Guinea. We’re very much on top of it.”

Liberia regularly meets with its contiguous countries that make up the Mano River Union - Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. Sirleaf said that constant contact between security agencies in each of the bordering countries and telephone meetings with her regional counterparts has helped in reducing violence.

President Sirleaf said that she was also concentrating on development issues at the AU summit as one of the co-chairs of the post 2015 global agenda on Millennium Development Goals. “Those are things that are going to have very much relevance for Liberia,” she said.