– Says Defense Minister designate Ziankahn
Defense Minister-designate Daniel D. Ziankahn is contemplating placing a temporary moratorium on the recruitment of soldiers into the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) until the living conditions of those currently in the service are significantly improved.
“This new AFL Administration has to ensure that we cater to the welfare of our soldiers by improving their living conditions before any recruitment exercise. Bettering the lives of our servicemen is our utmost focus for now, which means the recruitment process of the AFL is on hold for now,” said Ziankahn who is still awaiting confirmation.
He spoke yesterday at the symposium officially commencing the 61st celebration of Armed Forces Day.
The symposium was held under the Topic: Safeguarding the military’s integrity during democratic transitions to promote peace and stability,’ and was held at the Monrovia City Hall.
“I will not encourage the Chief of Staff of the AFL to recruit even a single soldier when the lives of others that are currently serving their country are not improved. We have to ensure quality life for the soldiers. Therefore, there is no need to have a very huge army that won’t have a better life.”
The Defense Minister-designate rhetorically asked how can a new batch of officers be encouraged to come in when the current ones lacked basic necessities that should be provided them, adding, “how can you recruit soldiers when the living conditions of others are not improved; there are no good health facilities, good insurance, electricity, logistics among others? I simply mean, there is still much work needed to improve the lives of the soldiers, not hundred percent but to a certain point that others will see an improved working environment for the soldiers.”
Ziankahn explained that the decision to place the recruitment process on hold is not about having the largest number of troops, “but about having an improved environment for soldiers to serve their country very well as ‘A Force for Good.'”
He called on the government to provide the necessary support, including budgetary allotment, to the military to enable them to work smoothly.
The program brought together several panelists including representatives from the Liberia National Bar Association, the Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Mission, and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, whose Minister, Samuel Tweah, was represented by a proxy.
In his discussion on behalf of Finance Minister Tweah, the Senior Economic Advisor-designate to the African Development Bank based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast admonished members of the AFL to be neutral in the country’s politics.
Rufus Darkortey cautioned that the military should remain politically neutral by abstaining from politics and campaigns, adding: “The neutrality of the military will ensure the security sector reform of Liberia was carried out as a requirement for the success of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA).”
He noted that in an emerging democracy such as Liberia combining popular government and civilian control of the military is usually challenging, therefore, government should ensure that the military must not defy authority.
Darkortey stressed that in many former autocracies, the military had been deeply involved in politics, and sometimes preyed on society instead of protecting it. According to him, the military can help to sustain democracy and peace by assuring a highly trained, educated, and competent military force. He emphasized that the AFL should align its operations as suggested so as to support the Commander-In-Chief, George M. Weah’s vision for sustainable development.
The panelists called for a budgetary allotment for the military that will enhance the growth and improve the well being of the military to fully serve the nation. They also warned the army to be transparent and accountable to ensure a better army.
The Chief of Staff designate of the AFL, Prince C. Johnson, also assured that the new leadership of the army will ensure an improved environment for the soldiers. He disclosed that the keynote speaker for this year’s Armed Forces Day celebration is Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin.
Activities leading to the Armed Forces Day celebration include the symposium; Friday – Jumaa Service at the Smell No Taste Mosque in Margibi; Saturday – cleanup campaign at the Binyan Kesselly barracks; Sunday – service at the Good Shepherd Church on the Old Road; and Monday – the official program at the Barclay Training Center (BTC).