Liberia: “Don’t Cross the Red-Line,” Defense Minister Warns Politicians



-- “Our passionate plea will be, do not dare cross that Democratic Red-Line [as] we will stand by the expressed will of the people in line with the Constitution of Liberia,” said Defense Minister Daniel Ziankahn. 

The Ministry of National Defense has warned Liberian politicians not to "cross the democracy red line" if their ambitions for elected office fail.

The warning from Defense Minister Daniel Ziankahn, a retired Major General of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), is not surprising as it reflects the thinking of the country's top military brass, given that the Chief of Staff of the AFL, Major-General Prince Charles Johnson, III, was chastised in 2022 for saying that the army will perform its "constitutional duties" to police the country if the is overwhelmed.

This time around, Ziankahn was speaking at the 66th Armed Forces Day program, which was attended by President George Weah, scores of government officials and top military personnel from the ECOWAS sub-region, as well as Liberia's development partners.

In a bold remark, Ziankahn said that while the military will remain apolitical as the country heads to elections on October 10, the Armed Forces will not accept any violence and will stand by the expressed will of the “people in line with the Constitution of Liberia.”

“Our passionate plea will be, do not dare cross that Democratic Red-Line beyond the collective will of the people if your dreams fall short by perpetrating violence,” Ziankahn said, as Weah and others Liberian politicians listened at a military program held on Feb. 11 at the Barclay Training Centre (BTC) barracks.  “You can rest assured, we will stand by the expressed will of the people in line with the Constitution of Liberia.”

“In this vein, we want to admonish every political actor, irrespective of your political affiliation, to remain peaceful and civil during this heated process. We encourage you to pursue your dreams of becoming whatever you want, but the sad reality is that, your dreams, ego and aspirations, will more often than not, fall short of the collective will of the electorate. As we draw closer and closer to the General and Presidential Elections come October 10, the Armed Forces of Liberia will remain apolitical.”

The remarks by the Minister of Defense, according to analysts, is a threat to Liberia democracy, given the recent surge of military coups in the ECOWAS region. But the Ministry would defend Ziankahn's words on any given day as one supported by the Constitution, Article 85, and the 2008 National Defense Act. The Ministry did so in 2022 when Maj. Gen. Johnson warned that the army may be forced to execute their ‘constitutional duties’ to secure the country’s hard-won peace if the national police is unable, saying  the army will not preempt by going ahead of the police but, when the situation escalates and the police can no longer handle it, the Army will step in.

Johnson referenced the 2008 New Defense Act, which he claimed gives the military the right to support joint security efforts aimed at ensuring there is peace and that the rule of law is respected, followed and obeyed.

Meanwhile, Weah as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President George M. Weah, has highlighted the gallant contributions and meaningful role members of the AFL, past and present, have played in upholding the county’s statehood and democracy over the years.

In his Armed Forces Day Address at the Barclay Training Center, he said the AFL has endured many struggles but equally managed to come out stronger, better, and more determined to create a better Liberia.

“We, therefore, use this day to champion and honor the past and present members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, because there cannot be a strong democracy without a professional military,” the President said.  “As Commander-in-Chief, I have implicit confidence in the ability of our troops and security forces to effectively execute their duties.”

The President added that he has progressively monitored the achievements of the AFL over the years and harbors no doubt that the Army is on the right path to greatness, both locally and in the international community.

He asserted that the AFL possesses unique capacities in supporting civil authority, particularly in the nation's development efforts, while stressing the need for continued strengthening of border control mechanisms.

Weah then rallied Liberians “never too waiver to protect ourselves against extremism and the consequences of terrorism”.

“Accordingly, we must be better informed, and ensure effective coordination and preparedness between and among our military and civilian law enforcement agencies, against any action that could affect our peace, security, and stability,” he said further. “On this day, we also remember and pay homage to those who, through their service in these Armed Forces, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation and its Peoples.”

He revealed that the Liberian flag is being carried proudly by AFL soldiers in the troubled regions of Timbuktu, in Mali, the Republic of Sudan, and the Republic of South Sudan. 

“Other countries where our troops are making contributions to peacekeeping include the Republic of Guinea Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  These are all very Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) missions. Our hearts go out to them, and we look forward to proudly receiving them safely back home at the end of their missions.”

During the ceremony at the BTC, Weah bestowed meritorious honors of Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on Colonel Washington Bower (Retired) and Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Nah (Retired) for serving Liberia tirelessly as pilots in the former AFL.