When the British Broadcasting Corporation the BBC recently broke the news to the world that one of West Africa’s fast-growing countries had been attacked by Islamist Militants, it was a great shock to most of us in the region. Given the stability of La Cote d’Ivoire except for its recent political “ups” and “downs”, no one would have imagined such an attack taking place at such an elaborate environment very close to the city center.
Usually when such an occurrence takes place we tend to ask more questions than think about the casualties. It obviously becomes obvious because of several factors. Considering the size and military strength of that country, it would be very difficult to click anybody’s imagination to ever think that, that would ever happen. What about its international political clout and alliance with one of the world’s Super Powers France? You would think that they would enjoy the benevolent protection of France right? One of France’s “Untouchables” right? With its over twenty million population, one would have also thought that alertness would have been at the core or a priority to avert such unexpected and surprising attack. Despite all of these, the Sunday March 13 Grand Bassam Resort Beach attack, sadly claimed the lives of sixteen people. The Islamists wore balaclavas, armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades and stormed the beach to the greatest surprise of those who were there at lunch time. The Resort is said to be a popular weekend endpoint for both Ivoirians and foreign nationals. According to NBCNEWS quoting Ivorian government sources six Islamist militants carried out the attacks that killed the sixteen people that included Europeans and two Ivorian soldiers. Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara was quoted to have said that the six attackers were also killed, and the situation was under control. Good news! President Ouattara also said twenty-two other people, including three Special Forces members, were injured. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assaults, according to the global security firm Flashpoint Intelligence, an NBC News partner. The BBC’s account of the attack suggests al-Qaeda-linked militants are increasingly focusing on France's former colonies, as a way of getting back at France for its leading role in fighting them in West Africa. It says the former colonies have become increasingly vulnerable following a French-led military operation in northern Mali in 2013, which beat back al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its local affiliates after they seized control of the region and threatened to take the capital, Bamako. The insurgents retreated to their desert hide-outs and regrouped and in the last year have launched high-profile gun and bomb attacks. In November, they killed 22 people in an attack on a luxury hotel in Bamako. In January, at least 30 people were killed in an assault on a hotel and CAFe popular with foreigners in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou. One can imagine how every Ivorian is on edge right now regarding security. No stone is being left unturned for any given situation right now in that West African Country. Not even a “fly” will pass by any Ivorian without wanting to check for its make or color, to say the least. Ivorians from every nooks and corners of their country are said to be heavily involved in averting a recurrence. It is just part of a normal human behavior to panic when the news relating to death just a “stone throw” away from your city is revealed. So was it when Liberians and other nationals heard the news in Liberia, fright immediately grip the people and country. There is a saying that when your neighbor’s house is on fire, don’t rejoice; think about your condition so that just in case it happens to you, you will know how to avert the situation. Liberians are indeed sad about what has taken place in La Cote d’Ivoire especially the death toll and what it has led to. Given the closeness of culture and border, Liberians are fervently praying for a peaceful situation for their Ivorian brothers and sisters. This was indeed exhibited during the Liberian Leader’s recent visit to that Country to attend the African Development Fund first replenishment meeting in the Ivorian Capitol Abidjan. She used the time while in Abidjan to pay a solidarity visit to the site of the attack, the Resort of Grand Bassam where she signed the book of condolence and expressed profound regret over the terrible incident. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did this on behalf of the government and people of Liberia and in her own name. Prior to the visit President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a message to her Ivorian Counterpart said that the recent terrorist attack in Côte d'Ivoire has implications for the peace and security of the entire Mano River basin comprising Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire. The Liberian leader also stressed the need for the "senseless attack" to bring about the strengthening of the two countries' individual national resolve, sub-regional as well as regional cooperation in combating forces that threaten the peace and stability of the region. She noted that the situation must generate a sense of foreboding in the sub-region. We are indeed touched by this show of solidarity from the Liberian Leader and other African and World Leaders. We are sure the Ivorian people and government are very appreciative and will use it as a source of solace during this challenging period of theirs. We trust and believe in President Alassane Ouattara’s ability to certainly work with his people to stamp out any recurrence. Since the attack we have been following closely comments and analysis on what needs to be done to prevent a similar attack in any part of Africa. Liberian Leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared that the situation must generate a sense of foreboding in the sub-region. You don’t have to be a Rocket Scientist to interpret or understand what Arica’s first Female President is saying or up to. It happened in Mali and Burkina Faso and most recently in La Cote d’Ivoire. Any far-sighted Leader will immediately be warned and begin planning and preparation for any eventuality. And we think and believe this is what this soon-to-be seventy-eight year old world respected Liberian Leader is urging. Again referencing our following of analysis on the Abidjan beach attack that immediately caught the attention of everybody especially those in the security arena, we took keen interest in what ssecurity Expert, Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning of Ghana said. According to him the lack of security consciousness among Ghanaians can hinder a national effort to prevent terror attacks on the country. According to Joy Online, Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning said the nature of attacks by the terrorist groups, their alliances with local indigenes, and choice of targets as happened in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast is difficult to detect. He further said if Ghanaians are not taught how to detect irregular and suspicious behavior of people in their surroundings, the country will become vulnerable to attacks. Speaking on the Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Dr. Aning said: “When you don’t tell the people what to look out for; what is it that is out of the ordinary within the context which they are used to, they become vulnerable.” We want to take our cue from what this security expert from Ghana has stressed. Our point of focus is that the beach attack in Abidjan is a clarion call for a well-detailed and involving security plan. It must not only be well detailed, but clearly understood minus of all ambiguities so its implementation will flow with ease. We are convinced that the point stressed by Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning is further buttressing ours because if you modernize any security mechanism where it will be as involving as possible, void of any 1920 security format, the sooner you detect any menace; no matter how minute it can be. Like he said people need to be told what to look out for clearly in such a situation, you further compound and complicate things. We need to move away from that archaic way of handling security matters in order to get better results. The timely release of information for public consumption and action must be of essence. Waiting for the eleventh hour will do no good. Literally it is said that you cannot pick a lice from the hair on the head of a person with one finger. So too, security issues especially when it borders on national safety, we are of the opinion that all hands must be on deck to achieve a long-lasting goal. The key point stressed by Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning for Ghanaians to be taught how to detect irregular and suspicious behaviour of people in their surroundings must seriously be replicated in Liberia if it has not started, to avoid vulnerability. It is not just enough to be rhetorical about how the Liberian government has improved its security activities as stated by Information Minister Eugene during a March 14, 2016 interview with the UN Radio in Monrovia. How involved are the Liberian people when it comes to the implementation of the Liberian government’s security plans or activities? Minister Nagbe acknowledged the porosity of borders in the MRU basin. More than that, the security personnel manning those borders are not well catered for. In most instances they rely on the community residents to survive. For us this should be the more reason why the Liberian government should be telling its people what to look out for instead of assuming that the people already know. It is one thing to give assurance and try to ally public fears, but more importantly Minster Nagbe should go beyond assurance and calling for public cooperation and give specific instructions and information about what to be done. Let the government begin to inform and educate the public that security is everybody’s business. This government must heavily invest in its security as a way of gaining the trust from the people. When security personnel publicly appear shabby with torn uniforms, they are overlooked and looked down upon. They become vulnerable and eventually make the society vulnerable. Stop creating the impression that you can do it when in fact, you are still heavily relying on the presence of UNMIL and other partners in Liberia for security. Begin instilling some sense of responsibility into your people so there can eventually be a “share the glory and minimize the blame” situation in Liberia. You must begin facing the realities with your people and refrain from looking at them as “Distant Partners” in handling security matters. How can Minister Eugene Nage be talking about an improved security in Liberia when there is still great public distrust in the Police and the country’s justice system? What is the improvement he is referring to? Most times Liberian government officials tend to be orators instead of realists when addressing pertinent issues of national interest. You cannot be pocketing tax payers’ monies and pretend to be seeking their interest. The Community relations issue Minister Nagbe made reference to during his UN Radio interview, must be supported and prioritized as a stepping stone if a well-detailed and involving security plan must be hatched properly to ensure national security now and when the Liberian Government is properly in the driver’s seat managing security matters by the end of June 2016.