The Minister of Defense Brownie J. Samukai has injected a new leash of life into the raging debate over the future of Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), when he gave the assurance during the Ministry of Information regular press briefing that the AFL is sufficiently being prepared to fill the security gap that will be created after the eventual withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
This is a pronouncement that cannot be taken for granted. He reiterated that with the robust support of the international community several countries are helping the AFL to cope with the challenges of a modern army. They include the government of the United States, which is taking a lead role in modernizing the AFL as a professional army.
Besides the training opportunities afforded to AFL personnel, out of the tax-payers money the United States has donated over four million US dollars in logistics including the provision of arms and ammunition to build the capacity of the Liberia army. Several soldiers of the AFL are currently beneficiaries of U.S government scholarships to pursue training courses ranging from the Bachelors to the Masters degree levels in various American universities.
The AFL capacity building spree has also taken various dimensions as Liberian soldiers are undergoing training in some of the best military academies in West Africa, such as the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna. Ghana's prestigious Defense academy as well as the Horton Military academy in Sierra Leone are other institutions in which AFL soldiers are undergoing training. There is also the U.S supported AFRICOM training program, which is another important segment of U.S. assistance to the AFL that cannot be under-rated.
What is a matter of concern to many however is that a lot remains to be done to ensure that military barracks and housing for the AFL are constructed all over the Country. It is a disturbing news that some army personnel are leaving the AFL to seek greener pastures in other professions.
This gives the impression that all is not well within the army. It is imperative that the Ministry of Defense should take the necessary steps to ensure that problems of the backwardness of soldiers are corrected. Apart of recruitment on the basis of merit, there should also be recruitment that ensures regional and ethnic balance to avoid one regional and few ethnic domination at the expense of the others.
We applaud the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for current efforts underway to improve the living conditions and professional capability of the AFL. The AFL's shining performance to contain the rebellion in the Ivory Coast from overflowing into Liberia is a clear example that building the capacity of the AFL is on track.