29 January 2013

Liberia: Liberty Party Backs GOL to Send Troops to Mali

The opposition Liberty Party (LP) through its national chairman, J. Fonate Koffa, has endorsed plans by the Government of Liberia (GoL) to send troops to war torn Mali. The north of Mali has been occupied by mixed gunmen since rebels reinforced with seized weapons from Libya after the 2011 fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime took up arms against the government and people of Mali in 2012.

Separatist rebels, who initially launched the Mali onslaught, were later sidelined by the Islamist alliance of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and home-grown Malian groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA. Recently, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf disclosed that the GoL will contribute troops to the African-led International Support Mission In Mali (AFISMA).

Making the disclosure of troops contribution to the Mali peace mission upon arrival from an Extraordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) , which focused primarily on the conflict situation in Mali and other member States, President Johnson-Sirleaf told reporters Saturday, 19 January 2012 at Liberia's only International air port, the Roberts International Airport (RIA) that Liberia has pledged a platoon that will be integrated into one of the AFISMA peacekeeping battalions in Mali.

The Liberian leader indicated that the GoL's decision to send Liberian peacekeeping troops to Mali is due to what she calls showing solidarity to the people of that West African country, and to also show appreciation to Mali and all other countries and peoples who helped Liberia during the country's conflict years.

Howbeit, LP's national chair Koffa informed journalists Monday, 28 January 2013 that he was proud that Liberia has finally agreed to send troops to Mali, adding that: "even if we [Liberians] are symbolically represented, we [LP] believe that we have to be in that number, because when it was ours time of need, they [Malian] were there for us."

He recommended that Liberia should send to Mali about 250 to 300 troops or a little more, indicating that Liberia still enjoys protection from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and that the country is relatively peaceful.

He said by sending troops to Mali during that country's crisis time will signify that Liberia appreciates the government and people of Mali, adding that this will mean that: "we [Liberians] are a part of you [Malians], and we will be there with you whenever you are in need."

He accentuated that the decision to send troops to Mali is indicative of being a part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and being a mature state that has gone through similar crisis and has seen the level of help that was given.

Meanwhile, the last time Liberia contributed troops towards any peacekeeping initiative was in the 1960s, in the Congo.

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