15 February 2013

Liberia: Rare and Unprecedented, but Welcomed

As it is rare for Liberian government officials to resign over zealous adherent to certain principles or policy differences, so is for many of them to admit readily and shoulder blame for any faux pas committed on their part.

But Defense Minister Brownie Samukai this week made the "honourable" admission when he honestly expressed responsibility for the plight of the Armed Forces of Liberia, AFL at the Edward Beyan Kesselly Military Barracks in Camp Schiefflin.

"I take full responsibility of the plight of the army," the Minister declared in an exclusive interview shortly after this newspaper published a story captioned: " Who Messes Up Soldiers?"

The paper quoted the minister blaming the American government for leaving the Armed Forces of Liberia completely disorganized with trained and skilled men and women of the military placed in areas where they possessed no skills.

"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 explained to AFL soldiers at a recent program.

However, after realizing his apparent slip of tongue, the Defense Minister expressed personal responsibility for what he says is happening to AFL soldiers--inadequate living quarters and unsatisfactory rations, amongst others.

Without revealing reasons, if any,  prompting the slip of tongue, Minister Samukai praised the U.S. government for supporting the AFL since their training commenced in 2006.

His landmark U-turn, despite suspicious any arms twisting from Uncle Sam or other quarters, is noteworthy and should be accepted by our soldiers and civilians as being "rare and honorable" in the ranks of Liberian officials.

Saying: "We fully support the US Government's intervention in the training of our soldiers; they have done well and they need to continue" puts our bilateral relations on a firmer keel.

In an editorial last year, we appreciated the President's concerns on Pitfalls of Multiple Security Trainers, but deferred that to be seen as reality emerges as UNMIL peacekeepers finally depart in 2015.

Almost a decade after the Blue Helmets arrived as anarchy reigned in the country, fears of their departure lingered because of what many fear to be a security vacuum.

President Sirleaf's belated concern about the multiple training masters placed in charge of reforming and training the country's police is a standing case in point. From America, Europe, Asia, etc., they stormed here with different blueprints for a single police force.

It seems to us that grabbing and distributing the dollar was the preeminent objective, not a uniformed force.

Experts are of no shortage within the UN, and the experts came here with different answers to serious problems.

But it is disheartening the President and her national security team earlier failed to insist on quality training and adequate facilities for service personnel.

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