1 February 2013

Liberia: Senate Endorses AFL Mali Mission

Amidst reports of no budgetary allotment for the deployment of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to Mali, the senators have endorsed the request of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to deploy the soldiers on the international mission to defend the West African state from further insurgence activities.

"As a national legislature, as it relates to the Liberian senate, we today concord with the lower House of Representatives as with regards to the request of Her Excellency the President of the Republic of Liberia in sending troops to Mali.

"We think today's vote is a milestone indication that Liberia is once more returning to the committee of nations. The concurrence marks also an important milestone as it relates to our engagement in international relations," Sen. Dan Morias (Maryland County), Senate Chair on Foreign Relations Committee told journalists during a press conference yesterday.

The decision which followed a similar concurrence vote by members of the Lower House of Representatives took place two days after fire gutted the Capitol Building and destroyed some documents.

The decision also means that members of the AFL who are undergoing training for the mission should now be fully prepared to partake in the mission to the sisterly country of Mali as the government scuttles for funding.

In the plenary of the senate where the only item of discussion on their agenda was the President's request for the troops' deployment to Mali, Sen. Armah Jallah (Gbarpolu County) moved a motion to concord with the request for the deployment of the soldiers.

"I move if I can obtain a second that this senate concord with the House by granting the request of the President of the Republic of Liberia to deploy a contingent of the AFL to the Republic of Mali as part of ECOWAS or AU mission to bring peace to that sisterly Republic of Mali," he said.

However both Senator Fredrich Cherue and Sen. Cletus Wotorson initially opposed the move on grounds that the committees which were designated by the plenary to work with the Defense Minister, Justice Minister and Finance Minister in gathering facts from them with regards to the legal and financial implication of the deployment, were yet to submit their report.

"I am unready to vote until the committees on Defense and Security can give me a briefing as to their interactions with the [three] ministers, and let me get this clear that I do not endorse a troop going to Mali. I am in support of sending troop to Mali because last week, I said here clearly that my life is here today because other people came here to protect us," Sen. Cherue (Rivergee County) clarified.

Sen. Cletus Wotorson (Grand Kru County) disclosed that the three cabinet ministers were supposed to provide some facts through the designated committees with regards to the planned deployment.

"So what is it that we are concurring to? Do we have the facts or we just want to show off?" he questioned. I am not against their (AFL) going on the mission, but I just want to make sure that before they leave, we are prepared for their departure," he also noted.

But following some clarifications by Sen. Morias that there was optimism that all the bench marks that were set by them prior to their consultations with the Ministers were met, the senators voted granting the President's request for the army to participate in the African-led mission to Mali.

Sen. Morias later told journalists that the concurrence was important for the future protection and safety of Liberia as a nation. He recalled that Mali was amongst key West African states that sent troops to Liberia during the height of the country's civil war.

"So it behove the people of Liberia to reciprocate such gestures at this time. So we (Senators) in our own gesture saw that it was prudent to do that (concord) at this time," he said.

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