New Democrat (Monrovia)

12 February 2013

Liberia: Compulsory Army Training Proposed

In a move to enhance adequate readiness and capability of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the orator on National Armed Forces Day yesterday recommended the drafting of an act by the Ministry of National Defense to establish compulsory military training for all able-bodied Liberian men.

Speaking at the Barclay Training Center during outdoor programs marking the 56th Anniversary celebration of the AFL, President Sirleaf's Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Ambassador George underscored the necessity for the country to follow that trajectory especially in the reconstruction of a new Liberia where the army shoulders a crucial role.

He suggested the enactment of legislation for compulsory military training for all able-bodied citizens to spend one year at the E.B. Kesselley military camp in Schiefflin to qualify for military service.

Amb. Wallace also recommended for the Ministry of Defense to establish a military museum at Camp Kesselley Barracks to keep and reserve military appetite and the important materials and hardware including uniforms and arms, depicting the Armed Forces of Liberia ranging from its establishment to achievements.

All able-bodied Liberian males 18-45 underwent compulsory informal military training including quarterly militia drills and ROTC classes at high schools and tertiary institutions preceding the 1980 coup d'état to serve backup of the AFL.

Mr. Wallace recommended that more military personnel be trained to beef up the numeral strength of the AFL from the present 2,000 to 7,500 in order to meet its growing challenges.

In order to face the new wave of threats engendered by terrorism, trade in drugs and illicit substances, trade in small arms, and light weapons and other illicit activities by non-state actors, he suggested that "government considers creating a navy and an air force to defend our long coastline, and airspace, respectively. An air force will serve as a deterrent, while the navy would defend our coast lines against illegal imposters on our territorial waters," Amb. Wallace explained.

The keynote speaker cautioned officers and men and women in arms to be public protectors and defenders in line with the statute that created the Liberian army.

"Your role is to defend our national cause within and outside of our boundaries," the veteran Liberian diplomat cautioned the soldiers.

In order to maintain total peace and stability in Liberia, he admonished the nation never again to revert to violence in resolving any differences.

There have been persistent media reports suggesting enlisted men of the army were engaged in AWOL for greener pastures.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, asserted that the AFL would be fully active and running in the next few years.

"Our security sector reform process has entered into a new phase. We've been closely working with UNMIL and our international partners in order to ensure a smooth transition of security responsibilities back to our security institutions. The Armed Forces of Liberia has reached a critical stage in its development. It is a stage of uncertainty and reality that we must be prepared to face on a daily basis," she told the nation yesterday at BTC.

She stressed that both economic reality and features for growth expansion create unique opportunity that will positively impact the lives of Liberians as well as sustaining the AFL.

The history of the Liberian army can be traced to 1908, where it was known as the Liberia Frontier Force before it metamorphosed to the Armed Forces of Liberia in 1962 through legislative enactment.

But the AFL became embroiled with factions in the civil war spanning 1989-2003.

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