Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai has stressed that the security apparatus of Liberia is not prepared to take charge of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity and people as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) gradually takes its exit from the country.
Minister Samukai said his concern stemmed from the porous state of the Liberian borders being manned by ill-equipped immigration and police officers who he said could not defend themselves in case of any eventuality.
The Defense Minister spoke at the turning over ceremony of two small arms and light weapons marking machines donated by the European Commission (EC) and other partners to the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiCSA) at the Police Training Academy in Paynesville.
The day also marked the opening of a two-day in-country training workshop on small arms and light weapons marking organized by LiCSA with support from Regional Center for Small Arms (RECSA).
The two Couth 2000 arms marking machines, estimated to be worth roughly US$28,000, have been provided to the government through LiCSA for every arm in the country to be properly marked and monitored.
Serving as the keynote speaker at the ceremony, Minister Samukai said that, “As UNMIL continues its drawdown exercise, it is extremely important for us to note that certain capacities are needed; and those capacities are required as a last resort or a means of protection.
According to the Minister, “If we do not provide those capacities to the security agencies, it would limit our ability to carry on the kind of confident actions that one would expect from law enforcement agencies.”
He explained that there were immigration officers currently assigned at very porous borders in areas prone to conflict doing their jobs totally unarmed.
“We have police officers from the PSU —and in some cases the ERU— who are responding to security situations at those borders without weapons; it is not advisable for this situation to continue.”
Minister Samukai noted that as Liberians consider the development of their country, they need to consider the fact that, “Security officers that we all rely on for protection cannot protect themselves when they are challenged.”
He said: “We now have that capacity and have the means for those weapons to be marked. These marking machines will make it easier for us in terms of illegal movement of arms. It will be easier for us to detect and pinpoint the exact source of these weapons and the institutions these weapons are coming from. I think we will have a special identification model when the process kicks off.”
The Defense boss said there is a need for the government and its partners to continue to invest in law enforcement agencies that have to take on the responsibility of protecting and policing the country as UNMIL draws down.
Minister Samukai has stated that the arms marking exercise will provide an opportunity for the government to account for all of its arms and ammunition.
“It also provides the public and international partners with a way to keep track of the stock and ammunition that we have. It makes it possible for everyone to cross check any weapon that has found its way into the country through our borders.
“My Ministry stands ready to support this initiative, we have nothing to hide, and we will make all of our weapons available to be marked. We would like to encourage all agencies, all ministries and others that have weapons to cooperate with the commission to ensure that their weapons are marked for our own security purposes.”
The Chairman of LiCSA, James Fromoyan, urged all relevant security institutions to work along with this institution to ensure that that the equipment is fully utilized.
He lauded the African Union (AU), EU, ECOWAS and other partners, who are working tirelessly to prevent the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, especially at the most volatile borders.