Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara has told Liberians that the withdrawal of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from Liberia by June 30, 2016, puts the nation at a crossroad.
“We are being closely watched by the international community, to see if the years of reform and investments in democratic processes, including security sector reform will indeed yield sustainable peace,” Ambassador Kamara said. “Our partners have high expectations of us.”
Minister Kamara made these remarks on Thursday, February 11, when she served as the Keynote Speaker at Liberia’s 59th Armed Forces Day celebrations, held at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.
She, however, expressed her confidence that Liberia can provide security and maintain peace after the inevitable departure of UNMIL. “I believe sincerely that we can and, indeed, we must,” she added.
The new Foreign Minister nevertheless warned that the security of the state and the maintenance of peace in the post-UNMIL era will not and should not rest with the military alone.
Reflecting on history, she said, sustainable security and continuing stability in this country will be defined more by the efforts all Liberians make – as a government and as a people – in addressing national challenges such as youth unemployment, reducing inequalities in income and opportunities, reconciliation and national healing, decentralizing social and security services, improving the quality of education and maintaining an enabling environment for investment.
She indicated that cooperation and coordination between military and civil law institutions are key in the post-UNMIL environment; noting that the military can be useful in multidimensional ways in that environment.
The Foreign Minister noted that some Liberians do not believe that Liberians have the ability to secure the country.
“We must make our people understand – even if it means communicating in our local dialects – that there will remain a reduced UNMIL presence of military personnel and civilian police beyond June 30. However, security responsibilities once performed by UNMIL will now be solely in the hands of state security,” she clarified.
Reflecting on the military in the past, the Minister said today’s Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has evolved to become the most educated in the nation’s history with specialized skills in many disciplines.
“Our men and women in uniform reflect high quality and standards, integrity, loyalty and commitment not to any particular ethnic group but to the nation. They are being trained not only in national defense but also in strategic institution building and civic responsibilities,” she told the audience.
She stated that the military has also moved beyond its traditional role to being more civil and has become true to its mandate, as enshrined in the National Defense Act of 2008, in building a respectable track record for supporting civil authority. “The Health Department of the Ministry and the Medical Command of the Armed Forces have been providing medical examinations, treatment and HIV/AIDS counseling as part of their outreach to communities,” she said.
She thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of AFL, for her able and farsighted leadership and direction of the country and for the orientation of the nation’s security architecture, which began when she served as Chairperson of the Governance Reform Commission.
Among other things, the Foreign Minister said that she is particularly impressed with the progress that the military has made in integrating women. “I understand that seven female officers and 73 enlisted women currently serve in the military, and that the Ministry of National Defense desires to reach a goal of 20 percent female enlistment.”
Minister Kamara urged the Defense Ministry and the AFL to attain this target, which will contribute to the national objective of gender mainstreaming.
“We congratulate the AFL for all of these exemplary works and the continuing dedication to helping breach capacity gaps and render assistance where it is needed. In the presence of UNMIL, the military has demonstrated that, in addition to its statutory responsibility to defend the territorial integrity of the state, it can provide effective support to civil authority. We expect them to do no less in the post UNMIL environment,” she added.
The Foreign Minister reminded Liberians that they should not lose sight of the fact that the military is a part of the broader security architecture of the country that encompasses the police, immigration and other agencies. She asked these security agencies to collaborate under a well-coordinated framework to build synergies for the protection of Liberians within safe and secure borders.
Ambassador Kamara also called on Liberians to envisage a post-UNMIL environment with a strong, well-trained, equipped and people-friendly national police force, decentralized and deployed throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Following her speech, the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conferred upon her the nation’s Distinguished Service Order (DSO).