By Trokon Wrepue, Contributor ([email protected])
The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Maj.Gen. Prince Charles Johnson III, has disclosed that the United Nations has asked Liberia to increase its military strength in war torn Mali by 45 percent.
General Johnson declined to clearly state the number of AFL Soldiers the 45% represents on grounds that doing so might compromise the security of the current troop in Timbuktu.
“The soldiers are doing well. Currently as I speak to you, the United Nations has asked us to increase by 45% of what we have there. The 45% will be a company plus size.” General Johnson said in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
“I can’t tell now the number of soldiers the 45% represents. The issue of stating exact number could compromise the security of the soldiers we currently have on Mission in Timbuktu, Mali.” He averred.
According to General Jonson, the AFL soldiers will be leaving for Sector West in Timbuktu, Mali mid-August to help enforce the UN Peacekeeping Mission in that African country.
“I will tell you that the information coming from Mali is very rewarding for the Armed Forces of Liberia that’s why the UN has requested us (Liberia) to increase the size we currently have there.” General Johnson noted.
“In Southern Sudan, the newest country in Africa, we also have Military Staff Officer (MSO) there. We also have Military Staff Officer (MSO) in Sudan so our presence is in three countries where we are making sure with the help of others to restore peace.” The AFL Chief of Staff said.
“We are doing extremely well I will tell you. I am happy with the work the guys are doing in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan.” He mentioned.
“I will tell you it means a lot. You may we aware that our last peacekeeping mission was in the 1960s in the Congo and, after so many years, in 2013 former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf decided to launch the AFL into peacekeeping. I think we will say all credits go to the people of Liberia first, the government under Madame Sirleaf and the current government under President George Manneh Weah for always providing all necessary support for us to be in those countries.” General Johnson mentioned.
“The national army then was disbanded and restructured because of activities that went on during our civil war. If you read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (TRC), our institution was rated number seven for worst atrocities committed during the civil war among 27 war fractions and just imagine from 2006 to 2013, to launch the army into peace keeping, I am proud.”
General Johnson noted that the progress made by the soldiers in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, shows how much Liberia is committed in keeping peace across the African Continent.
He boasted that the army is ever ready to tackle the issue of terrorism that is sweeping across Africa.
“Terrorism has crossed the Sahara and is creeping fast south of the Sahara in West Africa. Today in Mali, Burkina Faso and other countries, we keep hearing news of terrorist activities in those countries. It is time we move to put a halt to that issue. We have to swiftly move to work with the ECOWAS and the UN to put a halt to the spread of terrorism,” General Johnson said.
“With Liberia being in it, I will tell you the experience is there; just in case we have any issue of such, the army is trained to be able to counter any activity of terrorism. We are ready for that,” he explained.
General Johnson then praised the United Nations for always prioritizing the empowerment of Liberian soldiers and noted it was a good thing to partner with the UN in Mali.
“We are getting a lot of benefit from the United Nations. For now, the soldiers in Mali are receiving 80% allowances form the UN while the 20% goes for operational cost.” General Johnson said.
Meanwhile the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia is calling on the government of Liberia to capture peacekeeping support in the national budget.
“For now, it is not there all the time the soldiers have been out. It is the 20% we [have] been using for using for operational cost, including getting passports, contingency cost; all come from the same 20%.” General Johnson noted.