The Commander-In-Chief (C-I-C) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has declared that by February, Liberians would fully take charge of the nation’s armed forces.
They will, accordingly, serve in the echelons (levels in a hierarchy) of the AFL’s command structure.
President Sirleaf described as ‘tough’ the times when a Nigerian officer had to be in charge of the AFL. A turn of events that took place in keeping with the crafting of 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The President was pleased to announce this situation was now something of the past.
According to C-I-C Sirleaf, with the support of the international community, especially the United States and United Nations’ peacekeeping and peace-building efforts, Liberia has rebuilt a new, ethnically balanced and professional army.
The President maintained that her government has embarked upon a process to enhance the professional capacity of other security apparatuses, including the Liberian National Police (LNP), immigration and intelligence agencies in line with their responsibility to man the country’s borders.
However, she admitted that much work remains to be done. As such, government welcomes the recent United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2116 extending the mandate of UN peacekeepers to September.
President Sirleaf’s statement was contained in her Annual Message to the third Session of the 53rd National Legislature on the theme: “Consolidating the Processes of Transformation.”
Referencing the role of the Ministry of National Defense (MOD), the C-I-C said the 1,980-person-strong AFL continues to position itself to support a democratic environment through tactical and technical proficiencies and the development of a robust capacity to defend Liberia’s territorial integrity.
She explained, “The Armed Forces Training Command now headquartered at the newly renovated Todee Camp, Upper Montserrado County, assumed responsibility for tactical and proficiency training locally and is presently training 140 new army recruits.”
“The number,” C-I-C Sirleaf noted, “would be increased by some 400 recruits who have already been vetted and endorsed by the Joint Personnel Board.”
“The AFL is also expanding its engineering and medical units to assist in reconstruction projects and social service delivery. Similarly, the Coast Guard of 82 persons, is expanding and strengthening its capabilities to patrol and protect the country maritime domain, as evidenced by the recent arrests of several illegal fishing vessels in the country’s territorial waters,” explained President Sirleaf.
The President also disclosed that the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) transition plan to transfer security management of the state to the government has entered its second phase.
The exercise follows the completion of phase one in strategic locations, such as Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County; Foya District, Lofa County; and the Loguatou Border in Nimba County, respectively.
According to C-I-C Sirleaf, plans are well under way for trained security units to fill security personnel gaps created by the UNMIL drawdown.
In her last year’s Annual Message, President Sirleaf indicated that government would, at this year’s Armed Forces Day—February 11— celebration, install a Liberian army Chief of Staff, among other top military brass.
The process is the result of close consultation with relevant committees, particularly the security sector.
Based on the consultation, “We have officially nominated, for confirmation by the Senate, the Chief of Staff, the deputy Chief of Staff and the Brigade Commander, all of whom, if confirmed, would be installed in these positions on February 11; Liberia’s Armed Forces Day.”
Afterwards, the government would then bid farewell to General Suraj Abdurrahman of Nigeria, who the President said “served so well as the Command Officer-in-Charge of the AFL.”