28 January 2013

Liberia: Committing Troops Without Consultations, a Bad Example for Liberia


On Saturday, January 19, 2013, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced that she had committed Liberia to sending military troop to participate in peacekeeping efforts aimed at restoring calm to Mali.

The President made the pronouncement at the Roberts International Airport following her return from an extraordinary Summit of West African Heads of State in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

President Sirleaf Said Liberia will contribute a platoon that will be integrated in a battalion of ECOWAS Troops. The President, in an apparent joyous mood stated: "I am pleased to report that Liberia for the first time in recent years will now have peacekeeping troops."

Since The Pronouncement was made, there have been mixed views from the public. Some citizens welcomed the contribution of Liberia to peacekeeping mission in Mali because, according to them, Liberia has benefitted from ECOWAS' intervention during Liberia's decade-long civil war; while others are opposing to the commitment made by President Sirleaf in that, the Armed Forces of Liberia is not prepared to participate in regional peacekeeping. They also observed that Liberia was still in security transition and should not send troops to Mali.

As The Debate continues, the Liberian Senate disagreed with the President for committing Liberia to participate in peacekeeping mission in Mali without informing them. During their session Tuesday, the senators questioned the power of the Executive to commit the country's Armed Forces to a regional group without their knowledge. Senate Pro-tempt Gbenzonga Findley told plenary that information regarding troops for peacekeeping mission in Mali has not been communicated to the Liberian Senate by the President.

Senator Findley Told his colleagues that President Sirleaf called him last Sunday via mobile phone and told him that she has committed Liberia to sending a platoon to beef up the military strength of ECOWAS to restore peace and security in Mali. When the information was released to the Senators, Plenary which is the highest decision-making body of the Liberian Senate requested President Sirleaf to write an official communication to them about the decision she took. The Senators said if the President fails to send an official communication, they will reverse her decision.

For Us, The senators are proceeding very well on this matter of troop contribution to peacekeeping in Mali. The Senators represent the state and its people and for the President of the Republic of Liberia to take a unilateral decision on serious security matters, is a terrible beginning for our democracy. The President should not have discussed such a significant state decision on the phone; instead, it should have been officially communicated to the Legislature so that a decision could be taken together with members of the National Legislature.

We Have Observed, that even if President Sirleaf had not talked to Senator Findley on Liberian troops' participation, she would have still committed the country to ECOWAS. Like us, President Sirleaf is aware of Article 34 (c) of The Liberian Constitution. According to the article, "The Legislature shall have the power to provide for the common defense, to declare war and authorize the executive to conclude peace, to raise and support the Armed Forces of the Republic, and to make appropriations therefore provided that no appropriation of money for that use shall be for a longer term than one year; and to make rules for the governance of the Armed Forces of the Republic."

The President Must follow the right procedure by seeking legislative endorsement and desist from making unilateral decisions especially when it relates to sending troops to Mali. It is our hope that the right thing will be done in keeping with the organic law of the land.

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