Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has cautioned the public against politicizing the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) because, as a professional military organization, its character is commitment to the nation in defense of democratic values and the protection of the rights of all Liberians.
Mr. Obasanjo, speaking over the weekend at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia, in his keynote address at the 60th anniversary celebration of Armed Forces Day, said the military in every nation plays a critical role in nation building.
“No nation can be built where security and stability are not assured or guaranteed,” he said.
The former Nigerian leader said he is confident that the AFL “is a professional force that is being built, given the level of reforms over the years; and never should the military be involved in the conduct of elections in Liberia.”
“The beginning of a good and successful election is the preparation of the electoral body. I can sense and feel the rising heat being generated by the upcoming elections toward the end of this year. More politicians and citizens of Liberia are gearing up for this year’s elections as well as the international community, especially countries in West Africa. They are praying for things to go well with Liberia,” he noted.
Obasanjo called on the men and women in the Armed Forces of Liberia to perform their duties at all times in accordance with democratic values and human rights and avoid segregation and other unprofessional conducts.
He said the military should remain strictly neutral in politics and that on no account should it be involved in non-military duties during the conduct of elections. He stressed that the role of the AFL must focus strictly on the general security of Liberia during the elections.
He stressed the need for special attention to be given to capacity building in the AFL as a means of improving the army to better serve the people of Liberia and the country at large.
Obasanjo also lauded President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her outstanding leadership as chair of ECOWAS and for the mediatory role she played during the recent Gambian election crisis.
He noted that making the army professional does not end with proper training and equipment, but rather discipline, loyalty, and strict adherence to the role and functions of protecting and defending national integrity.
For peace, which he described as “the center of development,” he said the military must provide peace and stability because they are the basis for political, social and economic development and progress.
“Let me also say clearly that the welfare of the military, in terms of their basic necessities of accommodation, including mobility, and reasonable equipment to perform their role, and function, is an essential part of their professionalism,” he said.
However, Mr. Obasanjo said there is no nation that can provide all the equipment that their respective armed forces need, adding that they will have to make use of the resources they have, “because there are always competing priorities.”
In Liberia, Obasanjo said 14 years of the civil crisis has produced a nation that is completely divided along political, economic, ethnic and religious lines. He said these divisions that have caused bitterness and pain in the nation were also found in the old army.
According to him, those who died during the wars did not die in vain, because they played significant roles in the peace that Liberians are enjoying today.
“This day is not only for the remembrance and commemoration of our colleagues, but to remind Liberians for the price and sacrifice made by men and women, those who were in the military and those who worked as civilians to serve Liberia,” he said.
“It is therefore,” he said, “the day that caused a due reflection on the journey so far and a time for Liberia to be indeed a land of peace, a land of freedom and the land of happiness.”
Liberia has the divine right for citizens to maintain peace through collective nation building, adding: “Like every nation, Liberia has had to strive over challenges in the nation building efforts. Challenges like mismanaged culture, ethnic and religious diversities, political instability, socioeconomic disparity and good governance structure and institutions, which have all contributed to the absence of a national identity and have given rise to two civil wars and stagnated its development. This is why today, as we remember the fallen heroes and heroines, we must also be reminded of the darkest day and that God’s blessings will continue from there.”