President Sirleaf Pays Homage to former AFL Command Officer-in-Charge, Maj. Gen. Abdurrahman; Attorney Woods Calls for Rebranding and Reshaping the Armed Forces of Liberia

Wednesday, 11th February 2015
Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, President Sirleaf delivers her Armed Forces Day Message at the Barclay Training Center on Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, President Sirleaf delivers her Armed Forces Day Message at the Barclay Training Center on Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Photo Credit: James M.Garresen / Executive Mansion

Monrovia, Liberia - The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has said that the former AFL Command Officer-in-Charge and Head of the ECOWAS Advisory Team of the AFL, Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman brought professionalism, credibility and regimentation in the restructuring of the AFL and his leadership laid the foundation for the building of a vibrant AFL with gallantry and utmost loyalty and his legacy remains in the professional conduct of the AFL.

 

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, made the comments when she paid homage to the late Nigerian seconded to the AFL during programs marking the 58th Armed Forces Day celebration at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. The Day was celebrated under the theme: “Enhancing the Capabilities of the Armed Forces of Liberia to Conduct Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief Operations.”

 

Major General Abdurrahman served the AFL from June 2007 to February 2014.

 

Speaking about this year’s Armed Forces Day theme, President Sirleaf said it reflects the harnessing of the nation’s resources to bring about development to our nation. She stressed that it also addresses the robust efforts by the AFL in its supportive role to the Government and other civil authorities in responding to the current health crisis. “More importantly, it captures the status, spirit and vision of the men and women in arms in utilizing their professional capabilities and resources in supporting the country’s reconstruction agenda.”

 

She thanked Attorney Woods, no stranger to the country’s national agenda, for his remarkable speech and promised that the Ministry of Defense will act on a number of his recommendations, recognizing his good judgment and recommendations made to enhance the security sector of the country.

 

“His credibility and longstanding commitment to the struggle for human rights and democratic change has imbued his love for country in general and love for humanity in particular,” she pointed out; adding that his knowledge as a human rights advocate gives another perspective to the political dialogue that seeks an advancement of the tenets of democracy.

 

Touching on the fight against the Ebola virus disease, President Sirleaf said significant progress has been made in the fight, but urged all Liberians to remain vigilant to ensure that the virus is completely eradicated. She noted the profound sacrifices made and partnerships built with the AFL during this period of the country’s national crisis, and reiterated her appeal for additional support in strengthening the capacity of the AFL. “Such support will enable the AFL to contribute more meaningfully to our post Ebola challenges,” she said, adding, “We have to prepare our military to undertake new tasks other than war and support civil authorities in dealing with other emergencies.”

 

She thanked the AFL Engineering Company, US Military Engineers, and the Ministry of Public Works for their collaborative efforts in road rehabilitation work across the country. She asked the US Ambassador to convey thanks and appreciation to the US Government for its continuous financial and logistical support as well as its tactical and technical assistance to the AFL, and in particular for its initial support, setup, and subsequent training of the Engineering Company of the AFL.

 

The AFL Commander-in-Chief also thanked the People’s Republic of China through its Ambassador for providing the present fleet of engineering equipment and the follow-up 24 weeks of training provided jointly to the Engineering Company of the AFL and engineers from the Ministry of Public Works. She also thanked the People’s Liberation Army for the generous grant for the use of the AFL.

 

Speaking earlier, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said the professional development and capacity building of the AFL remains on track. He noted that during the past year, the AFL under the leadership of Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Daniel Ziankahn, the AFL conducted its first vetting and recruitment process for new entrants into the AFL and was done only by Liberians. They successfully trained and graduated its first recruit class of bonafide members and at the moment the AFL Training Command has returned to its original base at the Tubman Military Academy, and is better prepared and ready to carry out further recruit training.  

 

Minister Samukai further said that the AFL completed its first one year tour of duty with the United Nations Multidimensional Support Mission to Mali (MINUSMA), and the second rotation is due in June 2015. He furthered that the AFL Engineering Company also undertook several tasks in helping to rehabilitate roads in Gbarnga, Bong County and Barnersville Kebbah Road, Montserrado County; and the AFL Engineering Company in collaboration with the US Military Engineers also constructed four Ebola Treatment Units n Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa and Rivercess Counties.

 

He said the AFL collaborated with the joint security in deploying in seven counties during the height of the Ebola epidemic, and participated in efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola virus disease. However, he noted with regret that during the deployment of the AFL in West Point to support quarantining, a very unfortunate incident occurred in which a young Liberian, Shaki Kamara was shot in the leg, and subsequently bled to death. “We apologize for this loss,” Minister Samukai said and informed the Commander-in-Chief that upon her orders they have taken the necessary After Action Review, and instituted punitive measures to avoid reoccurrence.

 

However, with all the progress, the Defense Minister highlighted a number of challenges facing the AFL. He named inadequate housing for its military personnel and their eligible dependents; educational facilities grossly inadequate to accommodate the increasing enrollment of eligible dependents of military personnel. He blamed it on inadequate funding. “The rehabilitation and reconstruction of Todee housing facilities and Camp Ware residential areas are still on slow pace due to inadequate funding,” he stressed.

 

He appealed for additional financial support to continue and complete the Todee housing project in order to decongest the military barracks, as well as provide additional educational classrooms for eligible dependents of military personnel.

 

Delivering this year’s Keynote Address, former Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods called for more financial and moral support and the cooperation between military and civilian leaders to ensure a new professionalized Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) that will enable them to contribute to the nation building process.

 

“This means that we should invest in building the capacity of our men and women in arms as professionalization does not only mean that our men and women in arms conduct themselves according to the existing military doctrine and the command structure, it also means developing their abilities, their minds so that they too can actively participate in the reconstruction of our country,” Mr. Woods said.

 

Mr. Woods, who is the former founding National Director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Liberia, said there was a need for our men and women in arms to be trained as medical doctors, nurses, engineers, policy analysts, teachers amongst other professions as a nation cannot have abled-bodied men and women waste away while it continues to make claim that it is without skilled personnel.

 

“They must be provided better conditions of service, to live and to work in dignity like others. They must be given benefits and assurances when they retire from public life and service,” urging government to ensure that housing, salaries and other conditions of work be addressed as a matter of urgency as Liberians depend on these men and women for security. 

 

He suggested that military barracks be transformed into citadels of learning and excellence. “Those who enter our army must, as a matter of urgency, be assured that by the time their military service to the nation is ended, they can be deployed into other professions and contribute to the nation building process,” adding that it is not sufficient that our men and women in arms are only trained to fight wars but are trained as well to improve the living conditions of their fellow Liberians.

 

Speaking further, Mr. Woods called on the new AFL to increase local interaction with various communities as a way to seek redemption and reconciliation with citizens especially with those who reside in the West Point community.

Since the shooting of little Shaki Kamara and another minor at the height of the Ebola crisis, relations with the AFL and the West Point community have been strained.

 

However, speaking at the occasion, Mr. Woods, a human rights lawyer and activist for social justice, said it was not possible to resurrect young Shaki Kamara and other victims or pay reparations but stressed that his proposal can inspire hope and accrue some trust dividends through a renewed relationship with the community.

 

“The AFL must return to West Point, this time armed with shovels, diggers, pens, paper and engage in community waste management and sanitation programs, clean up exercises, adult literacy, sporting activities and other initiatives aimed at restoring the broken relationship,” he urged; warning though that this was not the substitute for punitive measures and justice but an attempt to reconcile and restore confidence and mutual trust. He availed himself to facilitate the process.

He stressed that civil-military relations are very important and should be revived and the best vehicle for this revival and renewal is our army. “Civil-military relations should be guided and characterized by winning hearts and minds not brute force and intimidation,” he warned, adding that their legacy lies fear of brutality and a history of extortion and intimidation.

 

He urged them to invest in rebranding and reshaping their new image, improve their communication and interaction with the people, adding, “Your attitude, your sense of power and authority must be radically altered to rebuild trust and restore confidence.”

 

During the ceremony several personalities were decorated with Distinguished Service Orders of the Armed Forces of Liberia. They included: the Keynote Speaker and Founder and Legal Consultant of the Liberia Law Society, Attorney-at-Law Samuel Kofi Woods; the Head of Mission, Africa Union Support o Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Major General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta; Mentor and Liaison Officer between the AFL and the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), Lieutenant Colonel Kennedy Chukwuemeka Okoro; Mentor and Liaison between the AFL and the Ghana Armed Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Abubakri Sadique Mohammed, and the Armed Forces of Liberia.

 

Others were the Adjutant General and Director of Military and Veterans Affairs for the State of Michigan, Major General Gregory Vadnais; Commander of the Joint Task Force, Operation United Assistance (JTF-OUA), Major General Gary Volesky and Major General Darryl A. Williams. Maj. Gen. Volesky received the medals on behalf of his colleagues.