AFL Slates Symposium on Post-UNMIL Operations

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The hierarchy of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) yesterday held a one-day symposium on the theme, “Operations other than War in Post-UNMIL Transition.”

The symposium is part of activities commemorating the AFL’s’ 59th anniversary, Assistant Defense Minister for Public Affairs, David K. Dahn, told the Daily Observer shortly after the program ended.

Panelists at yesterday’s symposium had expected Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper, was absent, as well as Varney Sirleaf, who only sent a proxy.

The rest were Madam Faith Akovi Cooper, Regional Advisor, the West African Disaster Preparedness Initiative; Major/General Salihu Uba, a Nigerian Army Officer assigned with UNMIL; and Professor Debey Sandee of the University of Liberia.

In their separate statements, each of the panelists expressed concern about UNMIL drawdown, but called on personnel of the AFL to corporate with civilians to see to it that the country remains peaceful and stable.

However, according to Mr. Dahn, activities marking the 59th anniversary ceremonies began on Friday with a Jummat Service at the Matadi Central Mosque, followed by a thanksgiving and intercessory prayer service at the Mount Zion Grove Baptist Church in Brewerville City, Montserrado County.

The theme for this year’s celebration, “Military Support to Civil Authority in Post-UNMIL Environment,” coincides with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown planned for June 30.

Other activities included “clean-up” campaigns the soldiers carried out in selected areas in Tubmanburg City, Bomi County, and its environs.

The New National Defense Act of 2008, which repeals the National Defense Act of 1956, the Coast Guard Act of 1959, and the Liberian Navy Act of 1986, outlines the official duties and functions of the AFL as defending the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

The Act also obligates the force to participate in international peacekeeping, peace enforcement and other military activities that would be initiated by the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union (MRU) as well as provide support to civil authority in the event of natural or man-made disasters, among others.

The Guest Speaker
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense has selected Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara, Liberia’s third female Foreign Minister, after Olubanke King Akerele and Dorothy Musuleng-Cooper. In the late 1970s, Kamara worked with the late Foreign Minister C. Cecil Dennis, who succeeded Rochforte L. Weeks, President Tolbert’s first foreign Minister in 1972.

Shortly after the 1980 coup, Marjon Kamara was employed by the United Nations and served for some time at the UN offices in Geneva, Switzerland. She was later appointed permanent delegate to the UN by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As Foreign Minister, she succeeds Augustine Ngafuan, who resigned a few months ago.
AFL’s Brief History
The military of Liberia was established in 1908 as the Liberia Frontier Force (LFF). The force was comprised of 500 men whose mission was originally “to patrol the borders in the hinterland (against British and French territorial expansion) and to prevent disorder,” an AFL website has recorded.

The Liberia Frontier Force became the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 1962; but the civil war, which started in 1989 and lasted for some 14 years, tore it apart.

In the History of the Liberian Armed Forces Day, before February 25, 1955, there was no Armed Forces Day as such, except for the country and militia units, each of which had its own quarterly parade day, enacted by law.

Then, the regular Army, then called the Liberian Frontier Force (LFF), used to combine with units of the National Militia to have joint parades on special occasions, such as Independence Day, Inauguration Day, etc.

However, in 1954, the late Colonel Francis M. Dean, then Assistant Chief of Staff (G-2), recommended in his annual report to the defense authority that a day be set aside by an act of the National Legislature to be styled and known as “Old Soldier Army Festival,” a day on which units of the Liberian Armed Forces throughout the nation would assemble at their respective headquarters to jointly participate in field ceremonies of parades and other planned military exercises.

Colonel Dean’s recommendation traveled through the necessary chain of command until it successfully reached the official desk of the late Commander-In-Chief, President William V.S. Tubman, who in turn approved and submitted it to the lawmakers for legislative consideration.

When the Liberian legislature met in session to consider Colonel Dean’s recommendation for legislative enactment, it was suggested that choosing any month and date to be set aside as Army Festival would be inappropriate.

Instead, a month and date with some historical background in which a member or members of the Armed Forces had performed some marvelous deeds in the supreme interest of the nation (Liberia) and its people, would be.

However, the only event that could quickly come to the minds of the lawmakers was the month and date of the Major Mckay Cadell incident in 1909. On January 26, 1957, the National Legislature enacted a law marking February 11 each year a National Holiday, to honor President Arthur Barclay and citizens who dislodged Major Mckay Cadell’s Monrovia invasion on February 11, 1909. By so doing, members of the incoming generations of the Armed Forces would continue to celebrate February 11, under appropriate military exercises in honor and remembrance of the heroic deeds of their comrades in arms; a suggestion that was embraced with popular support.

The day, by historical account, is set aside each year as Armed Forces Day to honor officers and enlisted personnel of the AFL as well as men and women who have made enormous constitutions in defense of the country.

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