The New Dawn (Monrovia)

22 January 2013

Liberia: PYJ - Senators Unaware of Troops for Mali

Plan announced by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to deploy a platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia on peacekeeping mission to Mali is being cautiously received here with the Liberian Senate saying it has no official knowledge of such plan.

Commenting on the decision in an interview with The New Dawn, the Senate Chairman on National Defense and Intelligence, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, said the upper House is not aware.

Senator Johnson told this paper Monday via mobile phone that the President's commitment made to the regional leaders to send Liberian troops came as a surprise to him and his colleagues in the Senate.

Sen. Johnson noted that such decision is delicate, and reaching a conclusion with the international community without consultation with the First Branch of Government is worrisome, which sends a bad signal to the rest of the government.

The Senator, himself a veteran soldier of the defunct Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and ex-rebel leader however noted that the President's intention to contribute to restoring peace to Mali is ok, but normal procedurals or constitutional requirements should be fulfilled in the spirit of cooperation. He said the Liberian Legislature should have been briefed on the issue, and the Senate should have formed part of the decision making.

"Madam President took the introverted decision that will affect our troops in the next years to come. By law or precedence, the President should have given us the full detail of how the troops will be taken care of; their logistics and wellbeing as soldiers. You are aware that that terrain is a combat zone, meaning the Liberian people should be very much abreast about their sons, husbands, fathers and so forth of their safety", Senator Johnson emphasized.

He pointed out that the Liberian leader has developed much appetite to disengage the Senate on critical national security issues, noting it is detrimental to the state and its people.

However, Senate Pro-tempore Gbezongar Milton Findley said the President informed him about the decision through telephone conversation, and promised to have formally communicated with the entire body by the end of yesterday.

Mr. Findley, Senator for Grand Bassa County, said the Senate will take up the matter in plenary today, Tuesday in order to reach an informed decision. House Speaker Alex Tyler similarly said President Sirleaf spoke with him on the phone about the troops going to Mali, but the House will debate the issue hopefully today.

Immediately upon her return from an extraordinary meeting with fellow leaders in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire over the weekend, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, disclosed plan to send a platoon of soldiers to be integrated in a battalion of an ECOWAS Peacekeeping Mission in Mali.

She said this will be Liberia's first time in the most recent years to participate in an international peace mission. The President added that the objective is to express Liberia's solidarity to the Malian people that Liberians appreciate their effort in helping to restore here during her own crises, and that it was time to give back, adding that details will be worked out by the Ministers of National Defense and Foreign Affairs.

President Sirleaf said the West African countries have pledged support to France for launching military operations in Mali, within the framework of respect for the sovereignty of Mali under the international legality to halt the advance of terrorist and extremist groups, thus paving the way for the implementation of Resolution 2085 (2012).

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