Liberia: Aggrieved Armed Forces of Liberia's Disbanded Soldiers Request U.S.$52.9 Million Arrears

Monrovia — A group of former soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia are demanding their salary arrears in the tune of US$52,920,000 covering a 14-year period.

The group, under the banner 'the Unconstitutionally Disbanded Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), made the request through a communication to the House of Representatives read in open plenary on Tuesday.

In the communication addressed to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, the Executive Committee of the group revealed that prior to the dissolution of the AFL in 2005 in line with the Accra Peace Accord, they were left out of the pension scheme.

The decision by the government to group them as E-90 soldiers of the AFL and leave them out of the pension scheme, the group claimed, was in violation of the veterans Act Section 1.3 subsection 1.3.2.

The Act defines veteran as any person who serves the AFL for a period of five years and above and who was and will be honorably retired or discharged by the Government of Liberia and satisfied by the Ministry of National Defense (MOD).

Because they were not discharged, the group argued that they are still regular soldiers and are entitled to their monthly salaries.

Despite their claim, the group said they are only concerned about their salary arrears for the period of 14 years.

On how they derived at the US$52,920,000, the group explained that because soldiers that were retired by the Ministry of National Defense are currently receiving US$420 yearly (US$35 per month), then each of the E-90 member should be entitled to US$5,880 (US$420 multiplies by 14 years). The annual total of US$5,880 multiplies by the 9,000 E-10 members will be equivalent to US$52,920,000.

"As Liberians, we are appealing to the Government of Liberia to retired us honorably and be certified by the Ministry of National Defense to place us on the pension payroll like other Liberians who have served government and are now on payroll," the group urged.

Writing further, the group called on the government through the House to settle their benefits that will cover their fallen colleagues and their widows. The group said when this is done, the plights of the disbanded soldiers and the aggrieved widows will be settled.

"This will cover all the widows and the problem of the disbanded soldiers of the Armed Forces Liberia will end for all of us to enjoy the peace we have."

Responding to FrontPage Africa's enquiries on how why they were grouped as E-90, the head of the disbanded soldiers, Captain Jerry Kollie said the government, in 2005 grouped them as soldiers that were enlisted in 1989, trained and sent to fight the Charles Taylor-led rebel group-the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

Speaking further, Kollie said the E-90 stands for soldiers that were enlisted into the Armed Forces of Liberia in 1990. These group of soldiers, according to him were not retired and pensioned by the government as it did to the others. Because they were not retired, Kollie argued that they consider themselves active soldiers and should be paid.

The decision to engage the legislature, he added is the last resort as they have run out of patience in their quest to get their just benefits.

Meanwhile, the group's communication was forwarded to Plenary by the Chairman on the Committee on National Defense, Rep. Jimmy Smith (District #2, Montserrado County. Following the reading and brief discussion of the communication, plenary voted in favor of a motion mandating its Committees on Ways, Means and Finance, National Defense and Judiciary to review the communication and report within one week.

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