Liberia: Boakai to Appoint Special Prosecutor

To authenticate the actual cause of what is being considered a mutiny by soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia through their wives, the Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, President Joseph Nyumah Boakai Sr. has set up an inquiry committee to probe the recent incident.

For the first time since the restructuring of the new Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) after the 14-year civil conflict, an official ceremony marking the 67th anniversary of the AFL was canceled due to what has been described as a "mutiny," staged by wives of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The AFL Commander-In-Chief told citizens since the eruption of the protest he has been in contact with Liberia's strategic partners including the United States and other regional stakeholders.

But the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, President Joseph Nyumah Boakai later ordered roadblocks be cleared, while agreeing to hold talks with the protesters about pay and conditions of service for Liberia's soldiers, appointing a special independent investigator to probe Monday's disruption of Armed Forces Day.

This latest fracas involving the national army of Liberia comes hard on the heels of growing instability in the West African sub-region triggered by military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, neighboring Guinea and Niger. Next door in Sierra Leone, there was an eruption of violence reportedly emanating from within the ranks of the country's military which was later described as a coup attempt, claiming the lives of many and wounding of other civilians.

In a radio and television address to the nation late Monday evening, President Boakai said, "I have appointed a special independent investigator to probe into these grievances and report to me within two weeks. We have also activated the Board of Inquiry to look into the case of several soldiers who were discharged from the AFL for various serious crimes but were said to be undeservedly pardoned and reinstated."

Before Monday's rift in the new military/defense structure, the AFL had enjoyed a towering image among Liberia's security apparatus, with most local and international surveys rating them high. And the new AFL has become widely known and admired for being a "Force for Good."

The disarmament, demobilization, and deactivation of the 100,000 combatants (including the old AFL and Rebel forces) began in 2003 in Liberia under the Accra- Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), thus beginning the building of a new Liberian army. The recruitment was aimed at building a 2,000-strong post-war army.

Liberia's traditional friend, the United States took the lead in training and funding the restructuring of the new AFL, taking the responsibility to subcontract DynCorp and PA&E in 2005, two private American firms that work in coordination with the US military personnel.

In his late Monday evening statement, the Liberian leader vowed, "We must never tolerate indiscipline and breakdown of order in the Armed Forces of Liberia. The reconstituted AFL has won the praises and admiration of the entire country for its professionalism and has become a source of national pride for all of us. We cannot afford to indulge in anything that will dampen the morale of our soldiers and generate doubt and suspicion. On the other hand, our government will ensure that our military is well looked after. We should always Think Liberia, love Liberia, and Build Liberia."

Earlier on Monday, February 12, 20234, some elements of the army were said to have put their spouses in front staging protests at barracks and blocking major roads in the country. Some position wood in their hands as guns sitting on vehicles during the hours of protest with one of the demands being the removal of the newly appointed Minister of National Defense, Retired Major Gen. Prince C. Johnson, III who was until recently AFL Chief of Staff.

Rtd. General Johnson thereafter wrote his letter of resignation to the new Liberian Commander-In-Chief who later on Monday accepted the resignation of his new Defense Minister who was only confirmed by the Liberian Senate last Friday.

Although he quickly accepted the Defense Minister's resignation, the AFL Commander-In-Chief described Gen. Johnson as a true soldier and a patriot in his address to the nation.

"As a true soldier and a patriot, Retired Major General Johnson, III, of his own volition, informed us that he would step aside if he were the obstacle to save the AFL and preserve peace and tranquility in the country. Retired Major General Johnson, III, accordingly tendered his resignation to me earlier today. I have accepted the resignation and thanked the General for his sacrificial services, loyalty, and commitment to our country. Meanwhile, I have appointed Brigadier General Geraldine George as Acting Minister of National Defense," President Boakai noted.

Rtd. Brigadier Gen. Geraldine George, who was confirmed at the weekend by the Senate as Deputy Defense Minister for Operations, has now been appointed acting Minister of Defense, President Boakai disclosed in his address to the nation.

About a week ago, Retired Major General Johnson III handed over his authority to the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Colonel Davidson F. Forleh.

Background to Monday's Armed Forces Day protest and disruptions

According to the Commander-In-Chief, agitation by some dissatisfied AFL soldiers began to come to the attention of his three-week-old Unity Party government ahead of the Armed Forces Day abortive official celebration.

President Boakai began his address to the nation by giving a backdrop to Monday's disturbances by women believed to be spouses of AFL soldiers and some elements in Monrovia and other parts of the country.

"On Sunday, February 11, I received in audience wives of some members of the Armed Forces of Liberia who had come to express their concerns on several issues. These issues included poor living conditions, high tuition fees for their children, lack of adequate medical care, and low salaries, among others. The women stated their most important demand was the removal of Retired Major General Prince C. Johnson, III, as Minister of Defense.

"They said their husbands had told them that unless General Johnson was removed there would be no Armed Forces Day celebration. We made it clear to the women that the Government would look into their grievances regarding all the issues, but that General Johnson had been confirmed by the Senate and appointed by me as Minister of Defense. We were hence not prepared to discuss his issue.

"Meanwhile, we received throughout the day and night information that some of the Armed Forces wives and their husbands had initiated protest actions across the country by blocking major roadways and highways. Others had engaged in agitations in barracks around the country. To prevent violence and preserve lives and properties, we ordered that the Armed Forces Day celebrations for today be reduced to a low-key program. We have since held consultations with our strategic partner, the United States, and other regional stakeholders on the situation," President Boakai said in his address to the nation.

At the same time, President Boakai has said that some of the grievances raised by wives of AFL soldiers were problems his government has inherited from the past CDC government and "affect all sectors" of the Liberian nation.

"The issues raised by the Armed Forces wives affect all sectors of our population throughout the country. We inherited these problems as we have been in office for barely 21 days only. The problems take on graver connotations when it comes to the military. The men and women in arms put their lives on the line to defend and protect us. We must be extra sensitive to their plight. The Army is our collective national pride, and we must preserve its dignity. I have therefore appointed a special independent investigator to probe into these grievances and report to me within two weeks. We have also activated the Board of Inquiry to look into the case of several soldiers who were discharged from the AFL for various serious crimes but were said to be undeservedly pardoned and reinstated," President Boakai told the nation Monday evening.

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