12 February 2013

Liberia: Who Messes Up Soldiers?

The Armed Forces Day pre-celebration speech by Defence Minister Brownie Samukai left many wondering who actually disorganized the soldiers.

Addressing the soldiers at the Monrovia City Hall before the climax of the celebrations, he said the AFL was left completely disorganized by the US hired trainers with trained and skilful men and women of the nation's defence force placed in areas that they were unskilled.

"They (US Government) took some of you (soldiers) from the engineering unit and sent you to the infantry unit. They took some of you and sent you to a different unit. We came back trying to correct that," he told the military gathering during an indoor event that formed part of the commemoration of the Armed Forces Day.

It can be recalled that several soldiers at the EBK Barracks and other deployment areas around the country have been complaining of living in a "very poor and deplorable conditions."

Some reports even blamed the Defence Ministry officials including Minister Samukai for the woes and sufferings of the soldiers, majority of whom are said to have left the army as a result of "unbearable" conditions.

Following the end of Liberia's brutal civil crisis in 2003, the government in consultation with the international community disbanded the AFL for the purposes of restructuring the army.

But unable to champion the recruitment and train the soldiers in an atmosphere of a shattered economy exacerbated by the war, the US government intervened to train the new men and women of the AFL to take up the challenge of defending their country against eventualities.

However, at the military gathering which attracted several other individuals including civil society organization and members of the international community, Minister Samukai appeared to have vented his anger at the US government for what he called the "pains and suffering" of the soldiers in the country.

He told the soldiers that the US had left them in disarray. "Today they tell you that we are trying to confuse (the Army). We did not! We are now trying to correct that."

"That's why you see some of your colleagues who are engineers; we are trying to bring them back (to the engineering unit). It is unfair for them to accuse us today when they started the process and we are now trying to correct the situation," he clarified.

The Defence Minister also blamed the US government for the congestion of the soldiers at various barracks including the Edward Biyan Kesselly (EBK) on the RIA highway.

"The barrack that you are in currently; the Edward Beyan 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 [including your wife and children.

"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 (US government) come and tell you that we put you; two and three into one room, I wanna tell you we did not!" Minister Samukai said.

However, the US government, through its embassy in Monrovia has not yet reacted to Minister Samukai's claims.

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