12 February 2013

Liberia: U.S. Govt Blamed - for Soldiers' Plight

Defense Minister Brownie Samukai has blamed the United Stated (US) government for the "congestions and sufferings" of men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) at various barracks, including the Edward Beyan Kesselly Military barracks on the Roberts International Airports (RIA) highways.

"The barrack that you are in currently; the Edward Biyan Kesselly barrack, was built for each soldier having an apartment. It was built so that each of you can be able to live there with your family.

"In 2006, a United States sponsored Company called Dyncorp, in spite of our advice, in spite of the insistence of the government, went and partitioned your rooms and your apartments that

put you,(two and three of you soldiers) into one room. We didn't have the fund, they had the funds. Today they come and tell you that we put you two and three into one room. I want to tell you, we did not." Minister Samukai told a military gathering at an indoor program that formed part of the celebration of the Armed Forces Day at the City Hall last week.

"When we talk about accommodation, knowing fully well the constraints, when we talked about Camp Tubman, they chose not to renovate camp Tubman. We had to ask another partner to help us renovate Camp Tubman, because we did that, they said they will never go to camp Tubman," he disclosed.

He also told the gathering that when the government decided to provide the soldiers with a dry ration as part of their benefits for their services to the country, the US government opposed the decision saying that the government should instead give each soldier US$15 or US$10 in replacement of the ration.

"We said No! It is the government of Liberia's money, so we chose to give you a dry ration, a bag of rice every month because, that is what we are capable of affording.

"It is unfair for them to accuse us today! They started this process and we are now trying to correct that situation," he averred.

Several soldiers at the EBK barracks and other deployment areas around the country are said to be living in "deplorable conditions."

The latest development came when some reports blamed the Defence Ministry officials including Minister Samukai for the woes and sufferings of the soldiers majority of whom have reportedly left the army as a result of the "unbearable situation."

But in an apparent angry tone, Minister Samukai made a maiden revelation to the soldiers that most of the decisions that were taken which led to their current state of affairs were accepted by them due to the government' inability to fund the projects.

"Secondly, I want to make it very clear that there were many decisions that were taken from the beginning which we did not want to accept but we had to, under the circumstances because we didn't have the means," he said.

He noted that at Camp Ware, another barracks, the US government spent US$16 million to buy "peak farm houses despite another advice by them to use the money for the construction of more barracks for the soldiers."

"They spent US$16 million at Camp Ware, when we told them to take that money and use it to build the barracks. They took US$16 million (and) they bought peak farm houses. Today they are seating here and blaming us for not having a place for you to stay, for not having a place for you and your family to stay. I have to bring that to your attention because I find it very interesting that today it is the Minister of defence who is responsible for that.

"That today, [it] is the Minister of Defence who made those choices; it wasn't the government of Liberia. When we decided to make sure that we can provide the things that we are providing for you, we were very realistic. When we were taking over, we said we didn't have the money to provide 24-hour electricity, we didn't lie to you. We told you we could do ten hours, eight hours when the money is available, and that was all that we could do," he said.

Minister Samukai also revealed that when the US government was approached for the construction of the Camp Tubman Barracks, they declined.

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