Politics

AN UPDATE ON THE ARMED FORCES OF LIBERIA STATUS AND ITS INVOLVEMENT IN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS – FrontPageAfrica


INRTRODUCTION

The Ministry of National Defense conveyed its warmest compliments and has the honor to respectfully inform the people of Liberia of the status of the Armed Forces of Liberia.  The new Liberia military, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) since its inception in 2006 and subsequent activation of its sub-units, has been involved in many military operations, including, humanitarian operations, and civil-military operations, coupled with numerous exercises to sustain and meet its core competencies. This update intends to highlight some key issues or events that the AFL has been involved with over the period.

ADMINISTRATION

The force has shown tremendous work towards nation-building and maintaining peace and tranquility in the country and the West African Region. To sustain these gains, the AFL has begun strategic deployment of its troops at specific locations around the country and engaged with the militaries of neighboring countries on border security and regional control of illegal military activities along member states’ borders. Additionally, the AFL has involved itself through the Ministry of National Defense, with national and international efforts toward world peace. One of these efforts is our deployment to Mali under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) since 2013, and United Nations Missions in Sudan and South Sudan.

Since the inception of this Government, its continued support of the Armed Forces of Liberia has been commendable. The Government of Liberia (GoL) on 11 February 2018 during the Armed Forces Day  Celebration, Commander–In–Chief and President of the Republic of Liberia promised to construct the 14th Military Hospital.  The 14th Military Hospital is the first of its kind in Liberia and was completed and dedicated in September 2021. The facility is fully operational and provides services to military personnel, their dependents, and the general public.

Additionally, the Government of Liberia over the period has provided logistics to the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia. These logistics include but are not limited to twenty (20) assorted vehicles to boost operational capabilities, funding to renovate some  AFL Military Barracks, and constructing new accommodations for military personnel and dependents in order to decongest the Edward Binyah Kesseley Barracks.  Through the Office of Liberia’s First Lady Her Excellency Mrs. Clar M. Weah, a Vocation School for Soldiers’ wives was constructed at the Edward Beyan Kesselly Barracks (EBK) and dedicated on 13 April 2022.

PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS

The Armed Forces of Liberia is not only contributing personnel to United Nations Missions in Mali, but also has military staff officers and military observers in the Republics of South Sudan, and  Sudan. The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), in recent months, deployed personnel to Guinea Bissau under ECOWAS Support Mission to that country. The participation of the new AFL in Peacekeeping Missions began on 22 June 2013 and continues to present. 

It is important to note that the Armed Forces of Liberia’s participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations has been self-sustained by the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia from 2013 to 2021 by a twenty percent (20%) deduction scheme applied to troops’ allowances. It is important to state that this is best practice amongst developing nations that participate in United Nation Peacekeeping Operations. Additionally, the funds deducted was the lowest when compared with othe countries in the sub region. The funds under this scheme are used for pre-deployment training, post-deployment training, transporting troops in and out of the mission area, and the lease of Liberian Contingent quarters in Bamako.

Other areas involved with the funds are the purchase of uniforms and accessories, purchase and maintenance of equipment (armored personnel carriers, troops carrier vehicle (TCV), pick-up trucks, field kitchens, beds, foot lockers, binoculars, night vision goggles, communication assets, generators. The defense attaches in New York and Addis Abba are also covered under this fund and include official travels related to peace operations among others.

National Government Support to Peacekeeping

Considering the constraints associated with the sustainment of our troops in the UN Mission, the Government of Liberia has provided relief through the allocation of funds for AFL Peacekeeping Operations into its 2022 Fiscal Budget. The Ministry of National Defense has seen an increment in its fiscal budget of 2022 to about Eighteen million United States Dollars. This is the biggest increment since Fiscal Year 2010. In this regard, the Ministry of National Defense and the AFL are pleased to inform the people of Liberia that Peacekeeping Operations is now been captured in the 2022 Fiscal Year Budget. An initial Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars ($700,000.00) has been approved and provided to the Ministry of National Defense and AFL to fully support Liberian Troops deployed in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (Mali, Sudan, and South Sudan). This amount also covers the support to Liberia’s Defense Attaché to Liberia Permanent Mission to United Nations in New York USA.

The AFL is to complete the deployment of Liberian Batallion (LIBATT 8) personnel of all ranks to MINUSMA, Bamako, Mali, in mid-September 2022. In support of the ECOWAS mission to Guinea Bissau, the AFL deployed one staff officer to ECOWAS Mission Headquarters last month. Furthermore, the AFL currently has deployed 2 Military Observers each to Sudan and South Sudan to United Nations Missions. The AFL also has 11 Military Staff officers in MINUSMA. The payment of LIBATT 7 is ongoing with deposits being made to personnel accounts.  As captured earlier, all funding to support peace operations was internally generated from a 20% deduction on personnel allowance from June 2013 to December 2021. However, the Government of Liberia is now capturing peacekeeping in its Annual Budget FY22 from January 2022 onward. Consequently, there will be no further deduction of twenty percent (20%) from soldiers returning from peacekeeping missions.

After nine years of participation in peacekeeping operations by the AFL, the benefits include, but are not limited to force readiness, interoperability with partners militaries, economic empowerment of troops,  information sharing with partners, knowledge, coupled with skills in operating in a joint operational and multidimensional environment.

TRAINING AND RECRUITMENT

It is also important to note that the Government of Liberia continues to provide tremendous support to the AFL through training assistance programs provided by our foreign partners (the USA, the UK, France, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, India, Sierra Leone, Brazil, China, etc.). The training assistance will help build AFL personnel’s capacity for job proficiency and professionalism. In order to strenghten the relationship with our partners, I recently traveled to Ghana and Nigeria to hold discussions with my counterparts to discussed further areas of training assistance. I pleased to announced that the visits were fruitful as the AFL has recieved additional vacanies for capacity building of its personnel from both countries.

Furthermore, in order to meet the manpower requirement of the AFL considering the challenging security environment. the Commander-in-Chief directed that 1,000 additional soldiers be recruited into the Liberian Armed Forces in the ensuing year. The vetting process of the initial 350 candidates to begin recruit training is ongoing in all 15 counties. The Commander-in-Chief also directed the Minister of Finance to source funding in enabling the Ministry of National Defense and Chief of Staff of the AFL to ensure the promotion of qualified AFL personnel to the next higher ranks in line with its regulations and standards.

a.      Local Training– Eighty AFL personnel are benefiting from a peacekeeping training package from the U.S Army Special Forces Operations Detachment from 25 Jul to 15 Sep 22. The package covers first aid, communication, tactics, convoy operations, and other basic military survival skills.

b.  Maritime Training-The Liberia Coast Guards participated in a series of training exercises sponsored by the Support to West African Gulf of Guinea Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) alongside partners (Bureau of Maritime and National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority). The exercises were conducted in phases.

(1)     Phase 1– Phase 1 was the Maritime Surveillance Exercise (MARSUREX) 20 -22 Aug 22- (it covers maritime domain awareness).

(2)     Phase 2–  Phase 2 covers basic boarding operations, search, and seizure which was followed by a Communication Exercise (COMMEX) – {Land to sea}.

Furthermore, twenty AFL personnel were to train with the Michigan National Guard on Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) in November in preparation for MINUSMA deployment. A strategic discussion is ongoing with the Michigan National Guard and AFRICOM on the establishment of an NCO Academy.

Additionally, Seven (7) female personnel of the AFL departed for the United Arabs Emirates on 27 Aug to 3 Nov 22 for the Foundational Military Training Course sponsored by UN Women and the Government of the UAE. The course covers the following areas:

a.      Basic military training.

b.      Peacekeeping training.

c.       Jujitsu (self-defense).

d.      First Aid.   

COMPULSARY SAVING

In a recent development, the Government of Liberia has provided funding to refund compulsory savings contributions made by AFL soldiers. To date, all active duty AFL personnel who contributed has been refunded.  While payments to AFL Personnel Dishonorably Discharged, Administratively Discharged and Dropped from Roll are nearing conclusion.

The compulsory savings funds were disbursed in 5 phases:

a.      Phase I– First payment to 916 AFL personnel (Active duty) in July 2018 (private to Corporal ranks).

b.      Phase II– Payment to 606 AFL personnel (Active duty) in December 2018 (Sergeant to Staff Sergeant).

c.       Phase III– Payment to 217 AFL personnel (Active duty) in January 2022 (Staff Sergeant to Master Sergeant).

d.      Phase IV–  Payment to 186 AFL personnel (Active duty) in March 2022 (Sergeant Major, Warrant Officers, and Commissioned officers).

e.      Phase V– The final payment of 547 former AFL personnel (including the deceased) is currently ongoing. The amount of US$122,712.00 has been paid to 335 non-active duty personnel (All ranks).

NOTE: A total of US$1,864,933.00 has been paid to both active and none active duty personnel (2,260 personnel).

The number of 212 non-active duty personnel has not been reported for payment (All Ranks).

LOGISTICS

For the period under review, the MoD/AFL took delivery of 10 Toyota land cruiser vehicles (4 SUVs and 6 pickup trucks) from the Government of Liberia. The AFL also received 3 used Mercedes Benz light-wheeled tactical vehicles and 4 used Volvo heavy-duty trucks. The MoD/AFL continues to receive its routine supply of fuel and dry ration for its personnel from the national government.

OTHER OPERATIONS

Engineer Projects. The Engr Coy also executed some notable projects during the period under review. Some of the projects are highlighted below:

a.      Invincible Sports Park Project.

b.      Todee Road Rehabilitation.

c.       Renovations of AFL Barracks.

Liberian Coast Guard

For the period under review the Liberian Coast Guard has accomplished the following:

a.      Maritime Arrest (Support from Sea Shephard):

                    (1)     F/VBao Lucky- (19 Apr 2022).

                    (2)     F/VGlobal 8 (10 Apr 2022).

                    (3)     F/V Guoji 828 ( 14 Apr 2022).

                    (4)     F/V Guoji 832 (14 Apr 2022).

b.      Some common violations:

(1)     Fishery Regulations (Registration issues, licenses)

(2)     Maritime Regulations (safety of the vessels and crew)

                    (3)     Faulty Fire extinguishers.

                    (4)     Expired life rafts.

                    (5)     Over crowdedness of crew.

                    (6)     Immigration issues (Expired passports and seamen books)

                    (7)     Inadequate Safety equipment and other violations.

The LCG executed some operations notable of which are highlighted below:

a.      Fisheries Enforcement – Fisheries enforcement was a joint operation between the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and the LCG. The operation was designed by NaFAA and assisted by the LCG in order to support NaFAA in conducting canoes registration in the 9 coastal counties of Liberia, namely: Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Kru and Maryland Counties. The operation was successful.

CONCLUSION

The new AFL has achieved a lot within it short period of existence and it has alligned with my vision, “ to build a disciplined, well trained and professional force with improved troops welfare and enhanced operational readiness capable of defending the territorial integrity of Liberia”. These achievements have been reached with the tremendous support of the Government of Liberia that has continued to provide all necessary support to our gallant men and women in arms in upholding the Liberian Constitution and safeguarding the territorial integrity of Liberia and support international peace as “A Force for Good”.   

Signed: _______________________





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