The Commander-In-Chief (C-I-C) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, yesterday acknowledged her “implicit confidence” in the ability of AFL and security forces to effectively execute their duties in a post-UNMIL era as evident by their levels of preparedness.
She spoke at the program marking the 59th Armed Forces Day celebration at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.
February 11each year is a day set aside by an Act of Legislature to honor the gallant men and women serving in the nation’s armed forces.
C-I-C Sirleaf also paid homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifices in their service to the nation and people to attain the level of peace the country now enjoys.
She said the AFL has unique capacities that it can bring in supporting civil authority, particularly in the country’s development efforts as the force has demonstrated over the years with the recent acquisition of engineering equipment from partners that they have a vital role to play in the reconstruction of our country.
However, in the wake of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown, President Sirleaf warned that government must continue to strengthen border control mechanisms and remain vigilant against the negatives that will affect the country’s peace and stability.
“We must not waiver to protect ourselves against extremism and the consequences of terrorism, noting that 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 affects our peace, security and stability,” the C-I-C said.
The President then praised the efforts of the AFL contingent on peacekeeping duties in Timbuktu, Mali, a task she described as “very volatile and dangerous mission.”
“Our hearts go out to them and we look forward to proudly receiving them upon the end of their mission,” the President said.
C-I-C Sirleaf also expressed gratitude to all members of the AFL for being “a force for good” by exhibiting discipline, dedication to duty, commitment to the responsibility of protecting the country’s territorial integrity.
“The gallantry exhibited by you in executing your mission and tasks such as your deployment in The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), your support through Operation Restore Hope, as well as Operation White Shield, Operation Fielder Blizzard, rehabilitating our community roads are worthy of commendation, appreciation and recognition,” she emphasized.
President Sirleaf reiterated that the challenges the country face today is an embodiment of the path her government began nearly 11 years ago by taking bold decisions to change things and restore public confidence in the military and security sectors.
She indicated that it had not been easy, against the background of constraints of limited resources and technical inefficiencies; however, in spite of it all, her administration did not waiver.
“We all were collectively firm in the belief that our intentions were for the future benefit of our citizens,” the President said, adding, “The investments we have made in the military and our security sector, with the strong support of our partners, have given all of us the reassurance of a safe and secured society as UNMIL draws down.”
In another development, C-I-C Sirleaf commended Defense Minister, Brownie J. Samukai Jr. and his team for the “exemplary leadership in making our armed forces “a force for good.”
She said, “Your efforts in transforming our military have garnered the credibility and respectability both at home and abroad.”
In the same vein, President Sirleaf expressed gratitude to the Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Daniel Ziankhan Jr., for his “outstanding leadership and sense of discipline and direction that has engendered the confidence of the Liberian people. General Ziankhan, you make us proud,” she declared.
President Sirleaf also thanked all members of the AFL for their discipline, dedication to duty, and commitment to the responsibility of protecting our territorial integrity.
She also paid tribute to the importance of the families of the men and women who serve our country and personally thanked them for their continuous support that is positively imparting the performance of our troops.
President Sirleaf further paid tribute to the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Farid Zarif, and the UNMIL leadership for the “support, training and assistance to our security sector.”
She described their role as crucial in getting the country to where it is, and further urged the Special Representative to convey to all troops contributing countries her government’s gratitude for supporting the peace thus far.
She also commended Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yue for his “leadership and support of his government to the AFL.”
“This partnership has culminated into training opportunities and the donation of several engineering equipment, as well as a fleet of military trucks and other supplies to strengthen the operational capacity of the AFL.”
China, she said, has remained engaged in supporting Liberia’s development agenda, and making donations of much needed equipment and supplies to the AFL.
Earlier in her keynote address, Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara, said she is confident that Liberia can provide security and maintain peace after the inevitable departure of UNMIL, adding, “I believe sincerely that we can; and indeed, we must.”
She, however, warned that the security of the state and the maintenance of peace in the post-UNMIL era will not and should not rest with the military alone. Reflecting on history, she said, sustainable security and continuing stability in this country will be defined more by the efforts all Liberians make – as a government and as a people – in addressing national challenges such as youth unemployment, reducing inequalities in income and opportunities, reconciliation and national healing, decentralizing social and security services, improving the quality of education, maintaining the enabling environment for investment, providing incentives for investors with some growth promotion privileges for Liberian investors, among other things. “Ultimately, it is the legitimacy that the people bestow on the state and their well-being as possessors of their country that institutes actual fortification of security,” she pointed out.