The Informer (Monrovia)

15 January 2013

Liberia: Politics of Border Troop Withdrawal

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The divergence in the presentation of facts surrounding the withdrawal of troops of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) between Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lewis G. Brown is worth an analysis.

It appears that while Information Minister Brown is saying that as official spokesman of the Liberian government on policy matters, the withdrawal of Liberian troops from the trouble-torn Liberia-Ivory Coast border is a routine exercise that involves some soldiers leaving while others remain at the border to maintain the peace.

It can be recalled that few days prior to minister brown's pronouncement at last week's regular MIC AT press briefing, the defense ministry has reiterated in a press release that elements of the Armed Forces of Liberia were being withdrawn from the border because of a relaxation of the seething tension there.

The question that is being asked in several quarters is whether the AFL had really accomplished their mission for which they were deployed at the porous border areas in the first place. It is also speculated in certain quarters that the Information boss may have reneged on his previous statement that the AFL is withdrawing troops due to the unpreparedness of the government through the ministry of Finance to foot the bill of the high cost of maintaining the troops to patrol the border areas.

In the views of some analysts, the information boss may have been hinted of a potential strike action among some of the border patrol soldiers for promised benefits from government that are yet to be delivered to them after the completion of the mission.

Thus by emphasizing that the army is in a routine rotation while monitoring the progress of the Liberian peace process, minister Brown's concern center around the preservation of the relative calm prevailing in Liberia where threats of protest actions hang around several institutions since a hold was placed on the implementation of the 2012 National budget.

Reports emanating from the Ivory Coast is that the cold-war between loyalists of the detained ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and government troops of the Ivorian government of President Alassane Ouattara is far from over.

In fact the conflict has reached a point that the government is appealing to the rebels to observe a unilateral ceasefire in return for a general amnesty. A spokesman for the rebels is stating that the government is not really interested in peace, as there will be no authentic peace overtures until ex-President Gbagbo and his wife, Simone Gbagbo are released from further detention for crimes which they never committed.

Whatever the case may be, the robust security measures that were put in place by the Liberian government of Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has tremendously helped to avert an aggravation of the conflict that included the war being imported into Liberia. Like dozens of other African countries, Liberia shares similar border ethnic groups with all her neighboring countries. The Krahn, Mano, Gio, Mandingo and Grebo ethnic groups constitute some of the tribes that find themselves in Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

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