The military leaders of three United Nations peacekeeping missions in West Africa met in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, today to coordinate their operations and strengthen sub-regional cross-border security.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Côte d'Ivoire, Albert Tévoédjrè, said the UN Mission in that country (MINUCI) convened the meeting of the force commanders for Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the regional dimension of their mandates, highlighted in Mr. Annan's most recent report to the UN Security Council.
That report noted that a number of cross-border problems underlie the instability in Côte d'Ivoire and the Mano River Union countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. These include the pervasive culture of impunity, the use of child soldiers, the employment and proliferation of mercenaries, the exodus of refugees and the prevalence of numerous West African ex-combatants.
Lieutenant General Daniel Ishmael Opande, Force Commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), Major General Sajad Akram, Force Commander of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and Brigadier General Abdul Hafiz, Chief Military Liaison Officer of MINUCI attended the coordination meeting, which was the third of its kind in the sub-region, but the first to be held in Abidjan.
Military coordination among the three peacekeeping missions has included measures to promote the easy exchange of information, greater coordination and rapid intervention when necessary. Through border observation posts and other sources, the missions warn each other of potential hotspots.