4 February 2013

Liberia: Senate Bows to Ellen's Request

After vigorous debate and split views over the Armed Forces of Liberia(AFL) participation in Mali, the Liberian Senate has dropped all political concerns on humanitarian grounds to allow AFL show case in the peace keeping mission in Bamako.

On January 19, 2013, Liberia through President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at an Extraordinary ECOWAS summit committed to join other sisterly West African States in confronting the forces that are threatening the territorial integrity of Mali.

Initially, the Senate had opposed the decision to commit the AFL to any peacekeeping mission on grounds that the President did not consult with the Legislature-the First Branch of Government before committing the AFL.

From the onset, the President did not communicate with the Senate when the Media picked the issue up. But as soon as it was reported in the media that Liberia would be sending troops to Mali, the Senate, on January 24, 2013 in one of its sittings, questioned the intent of the President's decision without the approval of the Body. And based upon the media report on such a crucial security matter, the Senate wasted no time to summon the Ministers of Justice, Defense, and Finance to ascertain from them the intent, purpose and financial implications involved in committing Liberian Troops to Mali.

Before the Communications from the Senate to the three Ministers could reach them, President Johnson-Sirleaf, realizing the need for an approval from the Legislature before she can act on her pledge, on January 21, 2013, quickly wrote the Senate on the matter. In her letter to the Senate, the President said she "pledged, based on the recommendation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and National defense who have earlier participated in the prior Security Council Meeting, that Liberia would contribute troops from the AFL to ECOWAS deployment".

Considering the size of the country, in her communication, the President told the body that the pledge made by her consisted of only a platoon (approximately 46 persons) which would have to be integrated into the battalion of Nigerian troops. Noting that she is "convinced that sending troops to Mali was the right thing to do"

As a matter of coordination, the three Ministers wasted no time and appealed before the full plenary of the Senate on January 29, 2013 to provide the implications involved in sending the Liberian troops to Mali.

Taking the stand before the Senate, the Justice Minister- Cllr Christiana Tah told the body that the President did not commit Liberia at the ECOWAS summit but what the President did was an idea proposed pending the Senate approval and not as it has been insinuated in the Press. For his part, Defense Minister Brannie Samukai told the Senate he had gone to interpret the "intent" of the President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 's proposal to the Legislature--asking the body to approve the troops' presence in Mali.

He, however, felt short of stating the budgetary implication per soldier and/or what is the exactly salary of an AFL soldier in Mali's service. But Minister Samukai stated before the Senate that by the approval of the Legislature, a platoon of the AFL numbering at most 50 would be sent as an "integrated combat force" within the Nigerian battalion.

Financially, Minister Amara Konneh was blunt to the senate that sending troops to Mali will cause the country much money. He, just as Minister Samukai, could not also give figure.

After their convincing presentation before the Senate, the body wasted no time to approve the President's request for the dispatch of the platoon on grounds that Mali helped through the ECOWAS peace initiative to restore peace to the Liberia during her civil crisis during which many Malians lost their lives and/or uncured harms one way of the other and it was just timely in whatever way to reciprocate .

If all goes well as planned, in 45 days from now on, for the first time since the end of the Liberian civil crisis, the people of Liberia will reciprocate their humanitarian gestures to the People of Mali to ensure that war in that Country is brought under control with their Military intervention. But what remains unclear is how much will it cost the people of Liberia to support their troops in Mali. More besides, political activists are concerned as to how Liberia will be recognized in the Mali Mission since Liberian troops will be under the direct military control of Nigeria?

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