By Alvin Worzi, Gloria T. Tamba and William Q. Harmon
Chief of Defense Staff of Nigeria, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, has called on officers and leadership of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to consider getting more involved in regional security efforts.
General Olonisakin made the assertion yesterday when he served as keynote speaker at the 61st celebrations of the AFL held at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in central Monrovia.
The General said the time has come for the AFL to look more outward to support regional efforts to deal with some of the security challenges in the sub-region, including terrorism and conflicts, arising from resource scarcity due to the impact of climate change and migration challenges arising from unemployment and other socioeconomic problems.
He said the Armed Forces of Liberia should first see itself as part of the people in order to provide the needed services and support for security and the national development of Liberia.
Olonisakin indicated that in the discharge of responsibilities as military men and women under a democratic regime, it behooves the AFL, especially as military commanders, to continue to improve its relations with the civil populace.
“The military leadership has the task of educating personnel against clashes with the other arms of the security sector and see the need to cooperate and synergize with one another in creating a conducive environment for the delivery of dividends of democracy in Liberia,” he said.
“There is an urgent need for attention in our training and doctrinal approaches to military operations away from what we are accustomed to. We have to understand and embrace the new warfare needs thrown at us by new internal and regional security challenges.”
According to him, military professionalism draws strength from a healthy civilian control of the military, which defines its political boundaries while fostering virile military capacity-building.
“If the military has to be part of the nation-building efforts of the people, it must have a clear understanding and workings of the principles of supremacy of the Liberian constitution, civil control of the military by the political class, military class, military professionalism, and the need for improved civil military relations,” he indicated.
Daniel Dee Ziankahn, Minister of National Defense, said although he has transitioned from a soldier to a civilian, however, his commitment to the security sector, particularly the AFL, remains unbending.
“I want to assure you (referring to President Weah) of my preparedness to work along with the command structure of the AFL under the leadership of Maj. General Prince C. Johnson, III to ensure that the Armed Forces of Liberia will reflect the good work of the country’s democracy,” Minister Ziankahn said.
According to him, the Armed Forces of Liberia was honored to have one of its own to serve them as minister, lauding President George Weah for his preferment as Minister of National Defense.
Minister Ziankahn said despite the challenges Liberia continues to face, some progress has been made over the years, which would not have been possible without the support of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), international partners, including the Peoples Republic of China and the United States, for their contributions in the rebranding of the military.
He indicated that the training opportunities and support instituted by these countries have given Liberia the opportunity to strengthen the AFL’s operations and capabilities.
“Today, our troops are currently deployed in Mali on a peace keeping operation with the United Nations. As a result, we have improved our capabilities and want to appreciate the men and women for bringing peace to that part of Africa. As we have gathered here to show gratitude to the gallant men and women of the AFL, I want to salute them for maintaining peace and stability,” former chief of staff said.
“Your welfare will always be my top priority. I will work with the National Legislature and others in mitigating the numerous challenges faced by the gallant men and women of the AFL.”
Commenting on the Liberia-Nigeria relationship, General Olonisakin said it traverses cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military spheres.
According to him, Liberia and Nigeria share a history of collaboration towards the attainment of continental and regional peace and stability.
He recalled that at the continental level, the two countries played important roles during negotiations of the charter that heralded the birth of Organization of African Unity, now African Union.