Liberia’s defense minister said the military is ready to take over responsibility for the nation’s security after the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) mandate ends this June.
Brownie Samukai said the more than 2,000 strong Liberia military has been undergoing training in preparation for the UNMIL drawdown.
“From our side, we believe that the roles and responsibilities that we have are easily executable because we have been doing the preparedness a little over a year and a half," Samukai said.
"We are to the point where all of our forces, all of the 2,000-plus personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia have been going through different kinds of training, different kinds of operations, different kinds of scenarios exercises, including our participation in the UN Mission. So, we are very confident in the capability of the Armed Forces of Liberia,” he said.
Samukai said the military graduated about 154 additional personnel last week after they completed their advanced individual training to prepare the army for the different roles and responsibilities it will play as a result of the drawdown of UNMIL.
But on Monday, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara vowed that he will ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to extend UNMIL’s mandate beyond 2016 until after Liberia’s 2017 elections are concluded.
Ouattara made the revelation at the conclusion of a three-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting between Liberia and Ivory Coast held in the town of Guiglo.
Defense Minister Samukai said the Ivorian leader was speaking in political context that the presence of the international community would lend credibility to the results of Liberia’s 2017 presidential election.
'Pivotal' transition process
“One needs to understand that the presence of the international community during an electoral period is very pivotal to the transition process from one administration to the other, and I think it is within that context in which he was speaking," he said.
Samukai denied that the trust factor in the presence of the international community implies that the Liberian military is incapable of maintaining the nation’s security on its own.
“The military has no influential part to play in the electoral process," he said. "The military simply has unique capabilities in terms of logistics and transportation and the facilitation of individuals from point A to point B.
"The military cannot and will not be able to influence the outcome or the process of the election that will be held in 2017. So, the preparedness of the military is simply to suggest its capacity to manage the security situation, come 2017 along the border and the frontiers of our country,” Samukai said.
In that respect, the defense minister said the military is already playing a more positive role through its contribution to the reconstruction of the country.
$100 million to take over
It’s been suggested that about $100 million would be needed to get the Liberian security sector ready to take over from UNMIL, which was established in September 2003 to monitor a cease-fire agreement in Liberia, following the resignation of President Charles Taylor and the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War.
Samukai said the amount is based upon the three- to five-year capacity-building, resource mobilization that is needed.
“That is what the government is doing now. The government has already made available $10 million to support the preparation of the Liberian security forces, including the military heading toward 2017,” he said.
Samukai said the government has made available an additional $5 million to support the Armed Forces of Liberia and other security agencies in their preparedness for the 2017 elections, and also to prepare for other exigencies, including the issue of terrorism and other unforeseen developments, including natural disasters.