Challenges for the New AFL

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In his very lucid account of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's report to the Legislature on the current status of Liberia's Armed Forces, our Senior Reporter C.Y. Kwanue listed a number of highly positive AFL achievements since 2006 when her government assumed power.

Commander-in-Chief (CIC) Sirleaf included among these the building of a 1980-strong ethnically balanced and professionally trained force to defend the nation.

Her government has also striven to enhance the professional capacity of other security apparatuses, including the Liberian National Police (LNP), immigration and intelligence agencies in line with their responsibility to man the country's borders.

According to Senior Reporter Kwanue, the CIC also put out some good news which many Liberians loved to hear: that the AFL Chief of Staff will, come February 11, Armed Forces Day, no longer be a foreign national, but a Liberian general.

That top army post has for the past several years been held by a foreign general, as stipulated by the Accra Peace Agreement that ended the 14-year civil war.  Many Liberians who did not  understand this criticized the President for putting a foreigner in charge of the AFL.  But she knew what she was doing and why.

In her Annual Message last Monday, she announced that she had officially nominated, for confirmation by the Senate, three Liberian officers to assume the positions of the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff and the Brigade Commander, respectively.  If confirmed, they will all be installed on February 11.

It is at that point that Liberia will bid farewell to General Suraj Abdurrahman of Nigeria, whom the President said had served "so well as the Command Officer-in-Charge of the AFL."

General Addurrahman is a giant of a man, big, tall and visibly strong, but with a pleasant smile on his face that earned him the description in many quarters as a gentle giant.

We join the President in extending our appreciation to General Addurrahman for a job well done.  He leaves behind many friends and a grateful nation.  That gratitude extends also, of  course, to our Nigerian brothers and sisters and their leaders, President Good Luck Jonathan and his government and past Nigerian leaders, Generals Babangida and Obesanjo included, for the invaluable assistance they have, at great sacrifice, given Liberia since the outbreak of our civil war in 1989.  Nigeria took the leadership, both in terms of men and money, to save us from ourselves during that bitter and vicious fratricidal conflict.

Immense thanks are also due to the United Nations and its Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) who are now gradually scaling down its peacekeeping operations; to the United States, who helped train the new AFL, and to all the other nations in West Africa and around the world which contributed to the peacekeeping forces.

The new AFL, which the President said will continue its training at Camp Todee, will be expected, after it gets its new leadership on February 11, to help their country in three tangible ways.

First, the new AFL must help maintain and strengthen our democracy by keeping our borders as well as the nation within, safe and secure. The AFL must never be tempted to intervene politically, but remain dogged in defending the constitutional democracy that the Liberian people have elected to follow. Second, the new AFL should reach out and help their country and make their presence felt in maintaining and building roads and highways. We pray that the government will provide sufficient training and resources for the Army's Engineering Battalion to perform this vital function.

Third, government must ensure that the new AFL develops an Agricultural Battalion that will intervene directly in helping the nation to enhance its food security. The AFL soldiers must come to realize that the number one reoccupation of their people is farming; and that anything the soldiers can do to help the people improve their crop and animal production should be done, even as the Ag Battalion produces its own crops and livestock.

In these two non-militaristic  endeavors–road engineering and agriculture–the nation's men and women in arms  could win the hearts of the Liberian people.

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