... “We are going to resist any attempt to cut the twenty percent deduction from our allowances,” some of the soldiers told the Daily Observer. “I left my family and put my life at risk for twenty-three months, and now they are saying they will cut over US$6,640 from my allowances.”
Some soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who have just returned from Mali have threatened to protest if the government goes ahead with its plan to deduct 20% from its allowance while serving in Mali.
The soldiers who had just returned from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have disclosed that they have been informed by the armed high command that the government has reintroduced the 20 deduction scheme despite its cancellation earlier this year.
“We are going to resist any attempt to cut the twenty percent deduction from our allowances,” some of the soldiers told the Daily Observer on condition of anonymity. “I left my family and put my life at risk for twenty-three months, and now they are saying they will cut over US$6,640 from my allowances.”
According to the soldiers, some of them were receiving a monthly allowance of US$1,428 MINUSMA and would not accept any cut to the money on grounds that the government had early announced the termination of the 20% deduction scheme from the allowances of AFL personnel who completed their tour of duty.
“We are making this early call for the requisite authority to take the necessary precautionary measure so that our allowances can not be touched,” the soldiers, who on August 31, returned to Liberia after their tour of duty in Mali.
According to the UN, peacekeeping soldiers are paid by their governments according to their national rank and salary scale. Countries volunteering uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the UN at a standard rate, approved by the General Assembly, of US$1,428 per soldier per month as of 1 July 2019, the UN said on its United Nations Peacekeeping website.
It added that the UN also reimburses the Member States for providing equipment, personnel, and support services to military or police contingents.
Meanwhile, all effort's to contact the Ministry of National Defense proved unsuccessful as the Assistant Minister for Press and Public Affairs, Sam Collins, could not be reached.
The soldiers were sent to Mali as part of Liberia’s contribution to the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission. Liberia has since 2013 been deploying soldiers in Mali, and now has a military contingency size which has been increased by 45 percent based on the request of the United Nations in 2020.
The AFL, according to the Ministry of Defense has conducted 6 successful rotations in Mali and has extended and currently personnel deployed in Timbuktu, Mali as Troop Contributing Country (TCC) with thirteen (13) Military Staff Officers.
At present, the Ministry said an AFL personnel occupies the position of chief personnel of the entire military force in MINUSMA. In 2018, a Liberian officer served as the Senior Military Observer (3rd in command) of the Mission. In Mali, Liberian troops are involved in conducting short and medium-range patrols in the general area of Timbuktu to assess the security situation and to create awareness.
However, since 2013, the operation has been self-sustained by the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia with the establishment of a 20% deduction scheme applied to troops’ allowances, the government said.
The scheme, according to the government, is intended for pre-deployment training, post-deployment training, transporting troops in and out of the mission area, and the lease of Liberian Contingent quarters in Bamako.
Other areas involved with the funds are the purchase of personnel uniforms and accessories, maintenance, and purchase of military hardware such as (armored personnel carriers, troops carrier vehicles (TCV), pick-up trucks, communication assets, and generators, the government added.
But in June 2022, the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICAT) issued a press release on the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) peacekeeping operations, announcing the termination of the 20% deduction scheme from the allowances of AFL personnel who completed their tour of duty.
“An initial US$700,000 has been approved and provided to the Ministry of National Defense and AFL to fully support Liberian Troops deployed in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations,” the release said. “Thus terminating the 20 percent (20%) deduction scheme of AFL personnel allowance upon completing their tour of duty in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.”
“Considering the constraints associated with such sustainment. The Government of Liberia has provided relief through the allocation of funds for AFL Peacekeeping Operations in its 2022 Fiscal Budget. An initial US$700,000.00 has been approved and provided to the Ministry of National Defense and AFL to fully support Liberian troops deployed in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Thus, terminating the 20 percent (20%) deduction scheme of AFL personnel allowance upon completing their tour of duty in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission,” it says.
Meanwhile, the government noted then that the 20% deduction was not unique to Liberian troops serving in United Nations Missions peacekeeping missions, but regional best practice for under-developed countries that use it to complement governments’ inadequate budget allocations towards sustaining troops and logistics requirements in United Nations Missions.
The release noted that President George Weah then ordered the Minister of National Defense and Chief of Staff to terminate the 20% deduction scheme from AFL personnel returning from the UN Mission with immediate effect as of January 2022.
It added that the President has seen the need for national government support for peacekeeping operations. Thus, considering peacekeeping operations as a budget line item in the 2022 Fiscal Budget and beyond as long as the AFL is involved with peacekeeping operations.
“The Government of Liberia will continue to provide all necessary support to our gallant men and women in arms to uphold the Liberian Constitution and safeguard the territorial integrity of the people of Liberia and support international peace as “A Force for Good,” the release said.