Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai has disclosed that the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) is undergoing what he calls pre-deployment training, ahead of its pending peacekeeping mission in war battered Mali. Since last year, Mali has been engulfed with raging gun battle at the hands of mixed gunmen since rebels in that country reinforced with weapons seized from Libya following the 2011 fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime.
Separatist rebels, who initially launched the Mali onslaught, have since been sidelined by the Islamist alliance of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and home-grown Malian groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA. Recently, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf disclosed that the Government of Liberia(GOL) would contribute troops to the African-led International Support Mission In Mali (AFISMA).
The Liberian leader at the time averred that the GoL's decision to send Liberian peacekeeping troops to Mali was due to what she called showing solidarity to the people of that West African country, and to also show appreciation to Mali and all other countries and peoples who helped Liberia during its conflict years. Already, members of the 53rd Legislature comprising both houses of Representatives and Senate have endorsed President Johnson-Sirleaf's request to send at least a platoon of Liberian soldiers to Mali.
Howbeit, Defense Minister Samukai speaking last Wednesday in a telephone interview on the populous local radio talk show, the Truth Breakfast Show (TBS), simulcast on Truth FM radio and Real TV, indicated that with or without money to fund the Liberian troops in Mali, soldiers of the AFL are going ahead with preparation.
He intoned that the current pre-deployment training the Liberian soldiers are undergoing is intended to get the AFL prepared before the troops' departure by the end of March 2013.
He expressed optimism that before the AFL departs the shores of Liberia, issues surrounding the needed funding to take the Liberian troops to Mali would be settled, adding that: "By the time we are ready to get out of here before the end of March, I am sure all of the factors that are required to get us moving will get in place."
Meanwhile, the last time Liberia contributed troops towards any peacekeeping initiative was in the 1960s, in the Congo.