Liberia: Mutiny on Armed Forces Day

— Armed Forces Day Celebration Canceled; “angry men can’t parade,” disenchanted AFL officers say

The annual Armed Forces Day celebration, scheduled for February 11th, has been canceled because of dissatisfaction among officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Impeccable sources told the Daily Observer early Monday morning all the country's barracks are currently on lockdown. The decision to cancel the event was made by officers who have been expressing their grievances through their wives who have blocked several major roads and arteries leading into and out of Monrovia.

The decision to have the event canceled was reached among officers, who have been protesting through their wives for more than a day or two ago but was relayed to the President, who is the Commander-In-Chief (CIC) of the Army Sunday night when the command of the AFL visited his home in Rehab.

Members of the AFL high command, who slept outside the home of the President last night informed him about the high-security risks that are currently hovering over the army and that officers have practically become disgruntled and are no longer taking instructions from their superiors — a situation that has a likelihood to spiral out of control.

Protest against Maj. General Prince Johnson’s Appointment Intensifies

The army officers have been indirectly protesting through their wives against bad labor practices, low incentives, inadequate housing, and a lack of proper retirement programs for officers.

The officers have also accused the former Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson, of corruption and embezzlement, with specific reference to funds that were intended for servicemen who were serving on Peacekeeping Missions, especially in Mali. They are calling for his nomination as Minister of Defense to be revoked, though he has already been confirmed by the Senate.

Last week, AFL stormed the grounds of the Capitol Building, urging members of the Senate not to confirm retired General Prince Johnson lll as Defense Minister.

However, the protests against the appointment of Maj. Gen. Johnson as Minister of Defense have intensified across the country, spreading to barracks in Gbarnga, Todee, Zwedru, Robertsfield Highway and other parts of the country.

A soldier’s wife manning a checkpoint near an Armed Forces outpost in Careysburg

The wives and widows of army personnel are blocking roads and calling on President Boakai to call for the resignation of Maj. Gen. Johnson. The women allege that he denied their husbands certain benefits and incentives during his time as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The officers also want the government to craft a good welfare plan for the AFL considering good salary, policy on retirement and death benefits, as well as good housing and medical services.

“We want to tell the government that we have been living a destitute life and this must come to an end. The army should be a place of respect,” an officer told the Observer. “Sadly, we are not seeing that. We are now prepared to stand up. We will stand until the right things are done.”

He said all the barracks across the country are on lockdown and that the officers are prepared to put their lives on the line for the well-being of them and their families. “Enough is enough. We have been played with too much. We must put this to an end. He said. “So we decided that none of our men will step foot to parade. Angry men don’t parade. Men and women in arms have no interest in having a public fanfare when they are practically living a destitute life.”

The officers have expressed their readiness to protest until these issues are addressed. President Boakai is currently engaged in negotiations with the officers, but a resolution has not yet been reached.

Additionally, the officers are disappointed by what they perceive as a deceptive move by Vice President Jeremiah Kpan Koung, who they claim used a supposed discussion with the protesting wives as an excuse to penetrate the blockade on the Robertsfield highway to travel to Nigeria.

“The government is starting on a very bad note, and it is not good for them. Jeremiah Koung sent words through Lofa County Senator and Chairman on the Senate Committee on Defense that he wanted to discuss with our wives…later we know that he only wanted a passage as he did not have anything substantive with the protesters and left for Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the situation remains tense, with traffic disruptions in Monrovia and other parts of the country.