Senator Karnga-Lawrence’s National Security Concerns

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Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence on February 12, 2015 wrote a letter to the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Armah Zolu Jallah, calling for an urgent hearing on the Executive Branch of government to discuss the serious issue of national security.  Such a meeting, she suggested, requires the participation of the heads of all security agencies, including the Defense Ministry, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Directors, respectively, of the Liberia National Police and the Immigration and Naturalization Bureau. 

Senator Karnga-Lawrence rightly conjectured (thought) that UNMIL might not be inclined to sit in such a hearing.  She therefore suggested that the Senate should have a closed-door meeting with that UN Agency for a frank exchange of information and ideas on the issue of Liberia’s preparedness for UNMIL’s scheduled departure in June 2016.

Why is the Senator so concerned about Liberia’s post-UNMIL security?  She vividly explained her concerns in her letter to the Senate Pro-Temp.  “Considering what I have gathered from informal discussions and observations with those who should know,” she said, “unless some serious efforts are made to beef-up our national security prior to the conclusion of the UNMIL drawdown, the security of this country could be at risk.”

This matter has for a while been the serious and constant concern of the Daily Observer, too.  In two very recent editorials just last month—February 17 and 20—we addressed the issue of national security and the nation’s preparedness for UNMIL’s departure.  In the February 20th editorial, we dealt with police harassment of ordinary people they are sworn to protect, and their penchant (fondness) for bribery.  We wondered whether this was due to low salaries and benefits—the same issue Senator Karnga-Lawrence referred to—or whether it is simply a question of CHARACTER.  In that editorial we contended, just as Senator Karnga-Lawrence has now stated, that it was critical that GOL should seriously address these issues (of salaries and incentives) “if ever we are to depend on these institutions (Police, Immigration, etc.) to protect us after UNMIL’s departure.”

In our February 17 editorial, which was entitled “Preparing for UNMIL’s Departure,” we quoted Deputy Justice Minister Wheatonia Dixon Barnes telling the Liberian National Police and, by implication, all other agencies, to be “accountable and transparent” in all their work.

We linked this accountability and transparency directly to our security agencies’ preparedness to take over from UNMIL.  If our police and other security agencies are underpaid and have to worry about where their families will sleep, they will not be up to the task of defending the nation because their minds and attention would be focused more on the issue of survival than on protecting the country.

In several previous editorials, we have called for the re-equipping—Senator Karnga-Lawrence called it “beefing-up”—of our security agencies, especially with logistics—transportation, communication and travel allowances—to keep them independent, efficient and proactive.

This Wednesday when we carried Senator Karnga-Lawrence’s story, we included in it two murder incidents in Nimba that clearly illustrated how unprepared our security forces are.  One man murdered another in Beeplay, in the Buu-Yao Administrative District, then fled to Buutuo, on the Ivory Coast border, and turned himself over to the police, who were the only two officers   stationed there.  When friends of the murder victim in Beeplay angrily descended on the Buutuo police station to avenge their friend’s murder, the two lone police officers fled the station, leaving the prisoner at the mercy of his attackers, who butchered him to death.

We reminded our readers that this unfortunate incident occurred in exactly the same border town—Buutuo—which Charles Taylor and his band of rebels entered from the Ivory Coast to start the 14 year civil war that devastated Liberia and claimed nearly 300,000  lives.

This, we submit, is more than sufficient evidence of the veracity (reality, genuineness) of Senator Karnga-Lawrence’s concern.

We think the Senate should take the matter very seriously and expedite the hearing and the contact with UNMIL.  This would lead to a candid assessment of our military and security preparedness, and possibly to the Security Council’s reconsideration of its drawdown schedule.                  

UNMIL has since 2003 been responsible for the nation’s security and is due to end its mission by June next year.  She, therefore, suggested that the Senate holds a closed-door meeting with the UN Agency

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