30 January 2013

Liberia: No Money for AFL Mali Mission, But...

Finance Minister Amara Konneh has disclosed that the government does not have money yet for Liberia to contribute troops to Mali. In his explanation on the financial implications of Liberia's decision to pledge a platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to a peace keeping mission in Mali, Minister Konneh emphatically told the plenary that no allotment has been made in the budget for such operation but assured that body that when the decision is to be made, there will be deductions from other areas in the approved budget.

Minister Konneh said the government will have to make a hard decision now noting, "I don't have any number to share with you. We need to look at the budget when the decision is made because there is a cost to the deployment of our troop to Mali."

The Finance Boss indicated that the ministry has been involved with AFL "operation restore hope" along the Ivorian-Liberian border and is under pressure to deal with UNMIL transition.

Last week the Liberian Senate officially received a communication from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asking them to concur with her decision of contributing a platoon from the AFL to ECOWAS as deployment in Mali.

For his part, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said the AFL is capable, ready and willing to combat military situation in that part of West Africa. He acknowledged that the mission comes with risk but the risk has been understood and the AFL is preparing for the risk.

Minister Samukai narrated that logistical support to the mission will be provided by the international partners but the first 90- days in Mali will be sponsored by the contributing countries.

Minister Samukai said Nigeria has agreed to do partnership with the Liberian platoon to engage into combat in the African International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and disclosed that the potency of the Army is 1,939 but the platoon which is made of 48 men, 2 soldiers from the combat medics will be added to increase the number to 50 for the operation.

According to him, if the soldiers receive the moral support of the Liberian people, they will immediately begin pre-deployment at Camp Ware outside Monrovia for 45 days training before departing for Mali. "Senators, I can assure you that the soldiers are covered under the Ministry of Defense. Secondly, the AFL is fully armed but our mission in Mali will be determined upon our arrival in Bamako. But all I can tell you is that they will be playing a combat role".

After the deliberation, a motion was made that the committees on National Security and Defense, Ways, Means, Finance and Foreign Affairs should handle the matter and report to plenary within a week.

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