Acting Foreign Minister B. Elias Shoniyin
Shoniyin, British Diplomats Discuss MRU, ECOWAS Issues
MONROVIA, September 28 (LINA) - Acting Foreign Minister B. Elias Shoniyin and three British diplomats have held talks on regional and bilateral issues concerning developments in Liberia as well as at the Mano River Union (MRU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The MRU is a four-member economic bloc comprising Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, while ECOWAS is made up of West African countries and is chaired by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The delegation was led by British Ambassador to Liberia, David Belgrove and included the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington, and the British Defense Attaché to Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mr. Derek S. Deighton.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, Ambassador Belgrove informed the acting Foreign Minister that their mission was to inquire about the role of the two sub-regional bodies - ECOWAS and MRU - and how effective and efficient these regional entities are impacting regional stability.
In response, Shoniyin stressed the important roles of the two sub-regional organizations and indicated that both ECOWAS and MRU have similar objectives, aimed at promoting regional integration and political stability.
He told the British envoys that the MRU’s objectives are geared towards complementing efforts of ECOWAS and providing support to its key objectives, including promoting regional integration through enhancing trade, among others, and establishing a sub-regional market that will encourage investors into the region.
Shoniyin hailed the trade links between and among the four MRU countries, which he added is far encouraging where traders can freely cross borders to trade goods and services in neighboring countries, without hindrances as compared to other parts of the sub-region.
Shoniyin, who is the Deputy Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs, further said that moving goods and services across the ECOWAS region are even more difficult than the MRU basin, adding: “There are still hindrances at the ECOWAS level.”
He, however, hoped that regional leaders would work out modalities to reduce common tariffs and improve regional border security aimed enhancing trade in member states.
The Minister stressed that within the MRU region, a lot has been achieved in enhancing trade among citizens of the four countries and that plans are underway to connect the capital cities of the four member states by roads to enhance regional trade within the MRU region.
He noted that if roads are connected between MRU member states such initiatives would be used to enhance trade in the entire ECOWAS region, stressing that MRU’s effort is just a complementary modality to buttress ECOWAS regional initiatives.
While exchanging views on the upcoming Legislative and Presidential Elections, Minister Shoniyin informed his guests that the Liberian Government is directing resources towards the holding of the 2017 elections.
He also stated that efforts are underway to print national identification cards, within the framework of the National Identification Registry (NIR), established under the good governance structure.
Responding to questions about President Sirleaf’s initial priorities as Chair of ECOWAS, the acting Foreign Minister added that Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara is engaging other stakeholders in the region on regional integration, peace mediation and issues regarding development which, he said, poses additional responsibilities on the Ministry.
He said there are high expectations among inhabitants of the region about the direction of ECOWAS under the Chairmanship of the Liberian leader whose priorities focus on crucial areas as outlined in her inaugural speech in Dakar, Senegal.
The Minister said the President has begun to reshape priorities concentrating mainly on building regional health system and industrialization, which are also critical priorities under AU.
On migration, the acting Minister disclosed that Liberia will work closely with the EU and other partners to provide some basic economic activities that will limit the migration flow from Africa.
On the issues of Diaspora Liberians, the Shoniyin told the team that efforts were underway to pass a dual nationality law that will enable Liberians living abroad to participate in rebuilding efforts of their country.