15 February 2013

Liberia Defends Mission for Mali

The Liberian Government has defended its position to join rank with the international community for peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said Liberia's participation in the Malian mission is intended to acquired experience and exposure for the future. He said when this is done; it would create the opportunities for the country to participate in peacekeeping operations in the future.

Samukai made these assertions during a one day policy dialogue dubbed: LIBERIA IN PEACEKEEPING: "Risks and Opportunities," organized Thursday by the Governance Commission in Monrovia.

"Liberia has been a benefactor of international effort for peacekeeping in the 1990s, but that did not heed Liberians the needed results when the conflict continued," he pointed out.

He said the decision to go to Mali was not a choice, saying "Unless we go and help to stop the militants' threat, we could find ourselves in danger." With this, Samukai said Liberia cannot sit back and look at Mali to be in ruin by international terrorists which prompted the decision to participate in the peace mission.

However, he was quick to acknowledge constraints of the restructured Armed Forces of Liberia, including limited strength (small-in-size), lack of equipment and experience, amongst others.

"Mali's conflict is not reconstruction. For this reason, Liberia is sending infantry instead of engineers and medics to participate," he added. The Defense Minister said Liberia's ability is on a tactical level. "We cannot operate on our won but will be embedded within a bigger country, which is Nigeria."

He disclosed that training and vetting of soldiers for the mission is ongoing in a barrack in Careysburg District, Montserrado County, adding that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has budgeted US$ 1 billion for the mission.

"Notwithstanding, every country has to foot its own troops bill for the first 90 (3 months) days. As such, Liberia is sending a platoon of 45 to 50 men on rotational bases," said Samukai.

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