Human rights activist and former Minister of Public Works and Labor, Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, will tomorrow deliver the 2015 Armed Forces Day keynote address at the Barclay Training Center (BTC), where the official celebration commemorating the day will be held.
Up to press time last night it was not clear as to what topic the former Minister, now a critic of the Johnson Sirleaf administration, would address, but the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) says Wednesday’s celebration of the 58th Armed Forces Day will be hosted under the theme, ““Enhancing the Capability of the Armed Forces of Liberia to Conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations.”
Woods was born in Monrovia on May 1, 1964. He was one of 20 children and has worked tirelessly in the field of human rights, exposing child labor practices and injustices throughout Liberia.
Mr. Woods, who began his activism as a student, was first arrested in 1981, during the early days of the Samuel K. Doe regime. During the Liberian civil war in 1989 Woods escaped to Ghana, but returned to Liberia in 1991 and founded a human rights organization, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC). He operated a radio program aimed at exposing improper arrests, unlawful executions and informing citizens of their civil rights.
In 1994 Woods created the Forefront Organization in order to shed light on human rights abuses during the second Liberian civil war.
In 2006, Woods became the Minister of Labor under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, only to be later appointed Minister of Public Works in 2009 following a cabinet shake-up.
As part of this year’s celebration, the soldiers on Friday, February 6, observed the “Jummat Service” at the Gurley Street Mosque in Monrovia. This part of the program formed the religious activity of the Armed Forces Day.
On Saturday, February 7, they carried out a clean-up campaign exercise at five different communities in the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The clean-up campaign was followed by a “Thanksgiving Service” on Sunday at Tubman Memorial United Methodist Church on Duport Road, Paynseville.
After the Thanksgiving Service, the MOD authorities, yesterday hosted a one-day symposium at the Monrovia City Hall, under the theme, “Military Support to Civil Authorities: The Way Forward.”
The entire Armed Forces Day activities will be climaxed on Wednesday, February 11, with a military parade commencing from the Barclay Training Center (BTC) through the principal streets of Monrovia by way of Lynch Street.
Wednesday’s anniversary is expected to bring together members of the diplomatic corps and the general public, as well as an array of government officials from the three branches and members of the business community, among others.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued a proclamation declaring Armed Forces Day 2015 to be observed throughout the Republic as a National Holiday.
Yesterday’s Proclamation is in consonance with an Act of the National Legislature of Liberia which declared the 11th day of February of each year as Armed Forces Day to be observed as a National Holiday in recognition of the vital role of the AFL in defending and protecting the country’s territorial integrity.
The Proclamation directs and orders all military and paramilitary organizations within the Republic to organize and execute appropriate programs, parades and ceremonies in recognition of the day.
According to the Proclamation, special attention and honor are to be given to the “veterans” of the Army and the Coastguard, who have seen active and experienced actual service therein.
The Proclamation further directed and ordered all government offices, public and business houses closed during the observance of the day.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that Liberia has found it necessary to recognize the talents, services, patriotism, loyalty and gallantry for the upkeep of country’s noble heritage by those men and women who are now memorialized through the establishment of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as ordered by the Act Of The National Legislature Of Liberia on July 22, 2008.
“With the passage of the National Defense Act Of 2008, the AFL remains steadfast in supporting the foundation for long-term security and economic development in Liberia as well as fostering regional peace for the consolidation of our emerging democracy”, the presidential proclamation further declared.
The proclamation also asserted that with the professional development of its men and women, the AFL has been reinvigorated to discharge its constitutional responsibilities of safeguarding the Liberian borders including remaining vigilant for possible foreign aggression, against the state and throughout the fight in containing the Ebola epidemic outbreak in the country.
The proclamation further noted that the observance of the event will inculcate the sense of loyalty and patriotism in the citizens of the nation and recognize the immense and sacrificial services rendered by the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia for the protection of the free and democratic state of Liberia.