The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Pres. Sirleaf's Armed Forces Day Message

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Fellow Liberians;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

All other Protocols observed

On this day every year we gather to honor our courageous men and women for their invaluable service to our country. We appreciate their commitment to protecting our territorial integrity and aiding civil authority in the maintenance of internal peace and security. We commend all members of the Armed Forces of Liberia - those on active duty, those honorably retired, and those who have paid the ultimate price and departed us, for their immeasurable service. Your dedication and sacrifices remain indelible in our hearts and minds. Today especial lywe applaud you as you continue to serve as a "Force for Good", and the pride of our nation.

We are very pleased to have in our midst friends and colleagues from ECOWAS Countries, especially those from the Mono River Union, including the Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Defense Staff of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Republican Guard Forces of The Republic of La Cote D'lvoire, as well as Officials and Representatives of the sister Republic of Guinea. We extend our gratitude to all ECOWAS countries who have sent military personnel to help the AFL become a professional and reliable force. We want to recognize and welcome Lieutenant General Charles R. Kayonga, Chief of Defense Staff of Rwanda, and his accompanying officers for celebrating this day with the Liberian people.

We also welcome Major/General Charles Hooper, J5, U.S. AFRICOM, and his delegation, who are here with us today. The support of the United States Government, specifically the role of U.S. AFRICOM, under Operation Onward Liberty, has been pivotal in the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

We want to recognize the enormous contributions of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in maintaining the peace and security of our nation, while simultaneously helping with the skilled advancement of our military. Through its various units, UNMIL has consistently helped build AFL capacity in tactical and technical areas of specialization aligned with our national strategic interest. Your Excellency, Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to Liberia, we applaud your credible leadership and support.

We also welcome to Liberia the new UNMIL Force Commander, Major General Leonard Muriuki NGONDI of Kenya. Your presence is held in high regards. I am confident the AR will continue receiving the same cooperation and support under your leadership.

To our foreign dignitaries and guests, some of whom have travelled longer distances, we appreciate your esteemed presence. Your groundwork has helped shape the men and women we see before us today into a professional outfit through rigorous training, monitoring and other pertinent strategic contributions.

We have come a long way since 2006 when we began our security sector reform process. That reform process has seen transformations in the operations and administration of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Liberia Notional Police (LNP), Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) among others. Our security sector reform process has entered a new phase as security agencies and pertinent government ministries work alongside UNMIL towards a smooth transition of security responsibilities back to our security institutions, UNMIL's transition is an inevitable step towards Liberia's growth and self sustainabiiity. It should be viewed as a benchmark on our country's road to transformation.

The recently dedicated Justice and Peace hub in Gbarnga will serve to strengthen public confidence and organizational readiness for the LN BIN, Fire Service, Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitations, among others. We congratulate our law enforcement agencies for responding decisively to our national call to duty. Thanks to our partners for their continued support.

In addition to the tangible support to the AFL by our partners, let me recognize the pillar of strength of our Armed Forces, our military families. As families of military personnel this too is your day as you steadily play a vital role in encouraging our troops and boosting their morale for them to strive for excellence.

During the recently held annual Armed Forces Affiliation Day, I interacted with many families of our military personnel. I observed their high spirits. Your encouragement is invaluable to the services being rendered. We are delighted to have you.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Armed Forces of Liberia has reached a critical stage in its development. A stage that is faced with challenges beyond our borders but whose consequences could have enormous impact on the democracy and peace

We enjoy today. It is a stage with uncertainties, unfolding realities, and asymmetrical foes that we must be prepared to face. Our economic reality, and the potential for growth expansion, creates a unique dimension that could positively impact the level of financial reinforcement needed to sustain the AFL as it continues to develop.

The AFL Coast Guard actions of deterrence against transnational crimes in our territorial waters are also cost recovery operations that can increase returns to our national treasury. The level of potential investments with successful off shore drillings will bring the required future dividend, under the umbrella of a credible, efficient, and responsive Coast Guard. We thank the U.S. Government for supporting our Coast Guard. We are proud that several Coast Guard personnel have benefited from training in the U.S., including a recent graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia.

Therefore, among competing priorities for limited resources, it is our fervent intention to stay the course in building the tactical and technical capabilities of the AFL as a potential source of economic growth. There is no turning back.

Our lead partner in the restructuring of the AFL, the United States of America has demonstrated their commitment through financial, technical, and logistical resources. While this support is viewed within the context of our enduring historical relationship, we must continue our own preparations to take on this responsibility to maintain a competitive and qualitative edge for the Armed Forces.

I offer personal appreciation to those U.S. Military Personnel serving under OPERATION ONWARD LIBERTY. Your dedicated contributions are most appreciated. It is our hope that Major Gen. Hooper of U.S. AFRICOM will convey to Gen. Ham to continue this strategic partnership; one which has mutual benefits for our two countries. Keep up the good work you have started so we may all share in the achievement of a mission capable AFL.

We want to also recognize the People's Republic of China for their support to the AFL. The Chinese Government recently confirmed the shipment of an assortment of construction equipment for the AFL Engineering Company worth nearly US$4.5million dollars. This technical assistance will enhance the capabilities of our Engineering Company to undertake strategic interventions in repairing our roads and bridges especially during difficult periods.

Closer to home, Nigeria remains the lead ECOWAS country that continues to stand by Liberia in the mentoring of the AFL. A corp of Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) from the Nigerian Military are presently serving alongside the AFL, providing leadership guidance. AFL personnel ore currently attending the prestigious Nigeria Defense Academy in Kaduna where two personnel of the AFL graduated late last year. Nine additional AFL Personnel are expected to graduate from this Academy during the course of this year. Two of these Nine AFL Cadets will graduate as Air Force Officers. What a pride for our Armed Forces!

We also thank officers and NCOs from other ECOWAS countries for their sacrifice and service to our country. Our appreciation has been demonstrated today by the Decoration of two Officers one from Nigeria and another from Ghana for their services. Their services are now part of the historical restoration of the pride and professionalism of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

We also want to thank Great Britain, Rwanda, Ghana and Sierra Leone for partnering with Liberia in providing mentorship and training opportunities for the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Fellow Liberians, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as we prepare for the full Liberianization of the command structure of the AFL, nearly one fifth of the AFL force structure has undergone training abroad. These training include basic training, proficiency development, advanced courses, tactical and operational drills and strategic fields of specialization. Several others have completed their graduate degrees, while others are in the process of completing their studies.

Legal Jurisprudence has been established with the support of U.S. AFRICOM. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has been adopted to ensure due process for each and every personnel in the AFL. A Liberian has been appointed Director of Legal Affairs section in the AFL, supported by several AFL personnel who have been trained as Legal Aides under the UCMJ. Additional AFL personnel are attending the Lewis Arthur Grimes School of Law. These persons will form the nucleus of the future Court Martial and Appeal Board.

The highly anticipated National Defense Strategy is to be released soon. This strategy will outline the strategic imperatives for the Armed Forces of Liberia. It will consider our basic principles of human security, an environment of openness, quality of growth, regional and international peace and security, and an Armed Forces that is subject and accountable to civilian authority. Upon completion of our National Defense Strategy, work on the National Military Strategy is expected to commence shortly thereafter as the architectural design for the Military Table and Organization and Equipment (MTO&E) for the AFL. This strategy will answer the question about the future size of our Armed Forces.

We are one year away from declaring the Armed Forces of Liberia fully operational and appointing a Liberian to serve as Chief of Staff. I am pleased to announce that we are still on course. The process of vetting, training, and mentoring personnel is ongoing.

In the coming months, I will be announcing the appointment of a cadre of Officers, indicating my intentions and preparedness for Liberian leadership in the AFL. Those to be retired will be given their due benefits in keeping with provisions of the National Defense Act of 2008. It is possible that their services might be needed in other areas of public trust, including the Foreign Service.

To demonstrate the preparedness of the AFL, I recently authorized the participation of one of our Senior AFL Officers to the United Nations Supervision Mission to Syria. He has since returned and continues to serve with distinction. Likewise, I recently approved the nomination and secondment of a Senior AFL Officer to serve at the ECOWAS Mission Planning and Management Cell in Abuja, Nigeria where he will serve an initial period of one year.

Fellow Liberians, in solidarity with ECOWAS decision on Mali, and the authorization of the United Nations Security Council for an African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), I have ordered that an Infantry Platoon of the Armed Forces be ready to participate in the AFISMA Mission to Mali. We thank the honorable members of our legislature for supporting this decision for the AFL to participate in such a historic mission. ECOWAS has agreed that this AFL Platoon will be imbedded with one of the Troop Contributing Countries, specifically a Nigerian Battalion. We thank the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their willingness to support Liberia's contribution to the AFISMA Mission. This will be the third time in our military relations that Nigeria has accepted to have the AFL imbedded in one of their battalions.

These activities and operations by the AFL are milestones towards our goal of a ready, willing and capable AFL. My fellow Liberians, serving your country as a member of the Armed Forces is a professional career; a worthy and patriotic duty. I encourage our young Liberians to join this national service when the appropriate time comes.

We remain mindful of the immense challenges relative to the welfare of our soldiers and their families. Calculated and swift measures are being undertaken to improve their current conditions. The health facility at the EBK Barracks has been expanded to meet the medical needs of military families. The completion of other facilities on the Coast Guard Bose, Camp Tubman and Camp Ware, is to ensure military personnel have access to improved and responsive healthcare.

I want to assure our men and women in service that better remains a high priority of this administration. Renovations of additional housing units has commenced at Camp Ware to alleviate the overcrowding at the EBK Barracks. Approximately $2.4 million dollars has been appropriated in our current National Budget for the rehabilitation and construction of apartments and facilities at Camp Todee. At present, USD$1 million dollars has been provided to the Ministry of National Defense to begin this project. If is expected that once construction has begun, the remaining balance of USD$ 1 .4million dollars will be provided to complete the first phase of this project. The AFL Engineering Company, with international assistance, will undertake this project including the rehabilitation of several bridges leading to the Camp within the Todee district.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, at this time, I ask you to kindly join me in extending congratulations to our noble recipients of the 2013 Armed Forces of Liberia DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER AWARDS - Ambassador George D. Wallace, Jr. of Liberia, Colonel Samuel Kofi Adorkor of Ghana and Colonel Waidi Shiabu of Nigeria.

You may recall that military relation between the United States and Liberia goes as far back as our diplomatic relationship. This military relationship was formalized in 1956 at the some time when Ambassador George Wallace joined the Foreign Service, then called the Department of State. Ambassador Wallace's services at the then Department of State, played an irreplaceable liaising role in ensuring a smooth relationship between our then Department of War and the United States Department of Defense. We say to Ambassador Wallace, thanks for your Service to country and people.

Colonel Adorkor of Ghana and Colonel Shiabu of Nigeria served the AFL distinctly and credibly since their deployment in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Their transformative impact on the restructuring of the AFL is seen in the qualify of out puf of our young men and women who are serving today. Thank you for your service to our country.

Behind the success of the Armed Forces of Liberia are individuals, whose focus and exemplary leadership credentials, have given us cause to celebrate and appreciate the evolution of a credible and respected Armed Forces of Liberia; Our own Minister of National Defense, Honorable Brownie B. Samukal, Jr. and his corps of officials. Minister Samukai, keep up the excellent work. He is assisted by Command Officer-In-Charge, Major General Suraj Abdurrahmari, under whose guidance and mentorship the Armed Forces of Liberia is maturing into a dependable and professional army. General, thanks for your exemplary leadership.

Lastly, to the members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, I want to thank you for your discipline and dedication to duty. You exemplified your tactical and technical competencies and leadership qualities in 'Operation Restore Hope', in the border areas of Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties, as part of a joint security force to protect our territorial integrity, and restore public confidence in your capabilities. As your Commander-In-Chief, I am proud of your service and sacrifice. I, therefore, charge you in the same spirit, to discharge your duties with valor unpretending as we prepare to deploy to Mali.

Keep the Lone Star hoisted forever.

Happy 56th Armed Forces Day.

May the Almighty God bless our land and its people.

I THANK YOU!

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