Monrovia — The Armed Forces of Liberia, having broken down along factional lines as a result of the Liberia civil conflict, is now put in gear - ready for service to the people. The AFL, like other security sectors of the country, was demobilized and disbanded; leaving the nation to start anew with the reconstruction of a new army based on the mandate of the Comprehensive Peace Accord crafted in Ghana. The rebuilding of the army left the Liberian armed structure in the hands of a Nigerian Major General, Suraj Alao Abdurrahman, as the Command Officer-In-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) for seven unbroken years. Now that a Liberian leadership of the army is named during the Armed Forces Day Celebration yesterday, the question that lingers is whether the new AFL can stand up to the task? For the Outgoing Commanding Officer In Charge, the foundation on which the new AFL is built upon is ‘best international practice reflective of a modern army that is weighted on the aspirations of the people of Liberia and the international community. The ANALYST's Associated Editor Bill K. Jarkloh followed the occasion and reports.
It was as early as 0925 after the oration of the guest speaker, Former Interim President Amos Sawyers that the Commander In Chief of the Armed forces of Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was called to the platform to perform the commissioning ceremonies; as she mounted the podium, Lt. Col. Daniel Ziankhan was called to the stage to take his oath of office as the first Chief of Staff of the AFL.
Energetically swinging his arms as he approached the stage; the cheering background momentarily became calm and apprehensively awaited a new day when the Liberian army would be put under a Liberian command after the leadership of the Nigeria general. Then finally- CIC, President Sirleaf started to administer the oath of office to the youngster whose credentials were attractively being read by radio commentators to Listeners.
Repeating after the President, Col. Ziankhan, who was later decorated a Brigadier General, took the oath: “I, Daniel Ziankhan, do solemnly swear that I will support, uphold, protect and defend the Constitution, bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic, and will faithfully, conscientiously and impartially discharge the duties and functions of the office of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia to the best of my ability so help me God.”
The blurring or the Executive horn took over the Grand Stand at the Barclay Training Center where the ceremonies were performed accompanied with a lousy applause of a decorated audience and beautifully dressed and attentive columns of service personnel of military and paramilitary institutions.
Brigadier General Ziankhan, a graduate of the University of Liberia with a Bachelor Business Administration degree was trained with several graduate diplomas in this military career; he attended a military college in the USA where he obtained a Masters Degree in military tactics and science. As his credentials were being read by the Master of Ceremony, the applause intensified with cheers and shouts across the floor. General Ziankhan was immediately seated by the CIC as the first Liberia sitting into that seat for the first time since 2003, while the Nigerian Major General Abdurrahman equally gave way.
Besides General Ziankhan's commissioning, other two Liberians that were commissioned to the leadership of the AFL were Col. Eric Dennis, an ROTC instructor of the University of Liberia with two Master Degrees as Deputy Chief of Staff and Col. Prince C. Johnson as Commander of the 23rd Brigade, a job usually referred to in Liberia as the Commanding General of the Army.
Immediately after the commissioning of the Chief of Staff, the Minister of National Defense swiftly whispered to the MC, who immediately called on the Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia for an investiture whereby General Abdurrahman was admitted to the Order of Africa Redemption, the highest order of honor in Liberia, for his dedicated services to the AFL during its restructuring. The Nigeria general was admitted to the Order of Africa Redemption as Grand Commander.
Then power started to Change hand; the beautifully colored navy blue AFL flag with the seal of the AFL in its center was hoisted down, folded and given to General Abdurrahman as his gift, while a second one was hoisted up to signal that a new leadership takeover the command structure of the army.
Besides, the honoring of ‘Distinguished Service Order Recipients´ took place during the occasion. Citations were read and personalities were honored. Those honored were former Interim President Dr. Amos C.
Sawyer - Chairman of the Governance Commission; Col. David M. Thomson - Officer In Charge of Operations of Onward Liberty in Liberia, Lt. Col Henry Joyson - UK Military and Security Sector Reform Advisor to Liberia, Lt. Col. Adams Guni Audu - former brigade commander of the 23rd Infantry Brigade (AFL), Col. Abdulsalam Abubakar - Military Assistant to the COIC/AFL and Major General Jehu J. Brandy (Retired) - former Deputy Chief of Staff. They were honored for their invaluable contributions to the country and its army.
The delivery of the honors was climax by a moment of fun, when a very young proxy of aging Major General Jehu J. Brandy (Retired) - former Deputy Chief of Staff stepped forward to receive the insignia and decoration of the retired general. An elderly man was certainly expected in keeping with the citation but surprisingly an youngster was seen thereby creating apprehension amongst the audience and soldiers, not until the MC announced, “His grandson came to represent him,” an outburst of laughter resulted with a lousy moment of cheers after which the program proceeded.
Following the investiture and other ceremonies, General Abdurrahman mounted the podium saying, “…the ceremony have signaled that this of course described the journey to this point, being that we are building various parts of the armed forces of Liberia, in terms of institutional and personal capacity and at the same time undertaking the various tasks enshrined in the Constitution expected of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
“The various strike engineers as represented by the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Operation -01 Liberty mentors from the U. S., the ECOWAS Officers, the UK mentors and the Ministry of Defense Officials struggled to keep the airplane airborne no matter the weather situation - favorable or unfavorable,” General Abdurrahman said in his statement at the ceremony.
He said one guiding principle that kept the international efforts focused was the best international practice and the desire to bring forth a modern army that is reflective of the aspiration of the people of Liberia and the international community. The articulate general further noted that military is an organization that is meant to provide for the development of a country and therefore has a wide spectrum; to have this achieved is either through war or through civil works, adding that such is the army that is built in Liberia today.
He then commended “the good and loving people of Liberia” for the hospitality accorded him during his tenure of office; he also thanked the government and its international partners including the ECOWAS, the United States and the UK for the level of support given him while he served as Commanding Officer-In-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia, not leaving alone his darling wife he referred to as his Chief Executive Officer.
Remarking at the occasion, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai reminded the Commander-In-Chief and President of Liberia that eight years ago, Liberia turned back to the days of mayhem and embarked on the path of recovery, reconciliation and reconstruction with a mandate given the Ministry of National Defense and partners to ensure that the new Armed Forces of Liberia becomes a “Force for Good”.
The Defense Minister said after eight years of grueling, mental, physical and enduring training, “I am proud to report, Madam President and Commander In Chief, that our new military is ready to carry out its mission.”
Minister Samukai indicated that since 2006, his ministry and partners began to lay the foundation for an all infantry based armed forces AFL, saying that under the watchful eyes and command Major General Abdurrahman of Nigeria, the formation of the 234rd Infantry Brigade was successively launched.
According to the present Table of Organization and Equipment of the AFL, Samukai indicated that Liberia now has two infantry battalions, a service support company and a military police company; “We also have a Logistics Command and an Engineering Company that is being positioned to grow into a full-fledged engineering battalion,”
He explained that that besides a small but highly trained Liberian Coast Guard that has conducted and participated in several successful operations at sea and rivers areas, the AFL has its own training command based in Camp Todee, capable of carrying out basic and other tactical training, a base where he noted 140 new recruits are presently positioned in training.
As for the Commander in Chief, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she observed in recognition of the immense sacrifices and dedication of the gallant men and women in the Armed Forces of Liberia. On this Day, we take time to celebrate, appreciate and honor all of those who have served this nation with distinction and humility, which marked Liberia's 57th Armed Forces Day
Congratulating the partners who have made the building of the army possible, President Sirrleaf also indicated that this year's theme of the Armed Forces Day, “Enhancing the Capabilities of the AFL to Meet Contemporary Challenges,” underscores the need for our Armed Forces to be robustly trained, disciplined and equipped to carry on their mission.
“ I have faith and confidence in your ability to carry on this mission. I have faith, as evidenced by your successful execution of the mission to our southeastern and northeastern borders during Operation Restore Hope I, II, and III. Today we look to the future with optimism that our restructured military will continue their professional development within the context of our overall defense strategy,” President Sirleaf said.
She said true to her commitment last year that a Liberian would take command of the Armed Forces, with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate, she has just appointed Brigadier General Daniel Dee Ziankhan, whom she considered outstanding Officer with quality leadership potential, as the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
“He is an Airborne Qualified Officer and a recent graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College, with a Master's Degree in Military Science and Strategy. He replaces Major General Suraj A. Abdurrahman who served diligently as the Command Officer-in-Charge during the past seven years,” the President said.
She praised General Abdurrahman's leadership and commitment to the transformation of our Armed Forces was truly exemplary, saying that he is a brilliant Officer with impeccable credentials and track record of excellence. She also remembered the late Major General Lucas Yusuf, also of Nigeria, who started the journey with the AFL in its restructuring, indicating that the late Nigerian general's support to the Liberian vision of building a professional military was immense.