February 11 is on Liberia’s calendar as Armed Forces Day to recognize and honor our gallant men and women in uniform to defend Liberia. Formerly the Liberia Frontier Force (LFF) upon formation in 1908, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as it is today, came in 1956 and has been serving as a guard to the nation with the help of the Almighty.
As the 63rd commemoration was ongoing yesterday, there were many exciting activities that were not really new or unusual compared to the past; however, there were some striking things, one of which was the prayer offered by a Muslim after the Christian prayer.
In the prayer, the officer who offered it was emphatic to mention three things the AFL wants to see: “Allah, bring us a better economy; help us to get logistics, and help us to be capacitated to accomplish our mission successfully.”
This post-war AFL is the most intelligent Armed Forces Liberia has ever had. Unlike the pre-war Armed Forces which members turned to be composed primarily of a particular tribe and were illiterate and belligerent with a poor human rights record, today’s AFL is composed of educated men and women who are conscious of national duty and respect for human rights.
Today’s AFL has proven its potential as a force that is being recognized at the international level. This is evidenced by the presence of the AFL on peacekeeping missions in Mali, South Sudan and the Sudan Republic.
Since the presence of the Liberian army was felt in Congo Brazzaville in the 1960s, this is the first time it is gaining international recognition. Had the AFL been like the past, we would be comparing different scenarios by now.
However, as this national first class force keeps up with its ethics and uniform code, there have been complaints rising about welfare and logistics that we were quick to retrospect when the prayer was being offered.
Throughout the existence of the AFL since 2006, officers have complained about the lack of electricity at the Kesselly Barracks where the men and women are camped. There is no water supply and most of the buildings hosting the officers are in dilapidating condition.
Just recently, we monitored the Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Prince C. Johnson, III and some of his subordinates discussing plans that led to the celebration of Armed Forces Day, and some callers believed to be members of the force were raising issues about poor welfare of the soldiers at the barracks.
In the immediate past administration, the AFL complained a whole lot about deduction of money from their salaries that they claimed could not be accounted for. As tense as the economic situation in the country has become, the soldiers face the same difficulties as ordinary citizens would encounter. In fact, a military personnel had disclosed to this paper, the Daily Observer, that officers are anxious to go for a peacekeeping mission in Mali despite the danger because from there they are able to get a pay that it may take them the next 20 years to get in Liberia if they are paid regularly.
Besides the American Government and some others who help the AFL with logistics, the Government of Liberia according to this officer cannot recall when it ever bought a set of uniform for the AFL. He said even the two military trucks said to have been donated by Qatar as a result of President Weah’s visit in the Middle East some time last year is not true. According to him, the trucks were bought using money deducted from military personnel serving on peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Prayer, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is an address or honest petition to God in word or thought; an earnest request or wish. The prayer offered by the AFL officer requesting all of these does not mean that they have and want to add up, but are perhaps lacking and the situation is so difficult that there is a need for intervention.
The prayer offered is meant for the hearing of the government so that the Heavenly Father will endow the leaders with wisdom and caring mind to address the plight of the only national force that is prepared to defend the country against aggression.
The Daily Observer, seeing the need for adequate attention to the security sector, is admonishing the government to see this prayer as a direct request to remind the leadership of its responsibility to address those needs that the soldiers are raising.
In the Ivory Coast right nearby, we witnessed military mutiny about a year ago that disturbed the country because soldiers were not paid or their salaries were not reaching them. This compelled the government to immediately disburse their salaries and to sack some military heads.
Prevention is better than cure; let the government take cue from this prayer to address concerns being raised by the AFL soldiers to prevent future occurrence that may threaten peace and stability.