News / Africa

Liberian Takes Charge of Liberia's Army

Jennifer Lazuta
— A Liberian has been made the head of Liberia's army for the first time since civil war ended more than 10 years ago.

On Tuesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Dee Ziankan as chief of staff of the new Armed Forces of Liberia.  

This is the first time a Liberian has taken command of the country’s military since the former army was disbanded in 2003, following more than a decade of civil war.

Associate Professor Dorina Bekoe, who teaches at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said, “This is quite significant for Liberia because up until now, the chief army staff has not been Liberian, in fact it has been Nigerian. That was a point of contention, and so this is a great source of pride, I would say, for the Liberian military in terms of concretely showing how far they have come and what the army represents and who makes up their army.”

Liberian security

The U.N. Mission in Liberia, known as UNMIL, has been in charge of security in the country since August 2003, following a ceasefire that ended Liberia's second civil war. UNMIL began a drawdown of its military presence in 2007, and has been gradually handing responsibility to Liberian security forces.

Bekoe said the army was party to the civil war, but today is generally well-liked and respected. She said the country has come a long way in 10 years.

Atlantic Council Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham said new chief of staff Ziankan faces several challenges. “One is [that] the size of the Liberian military is relatively modest compared to neighboring states.  So when you look at the security [situation], Liberia, although the West Africa region is certainly much more peaceful today than in the '90s, it’s still not yet the safest neighborhood in world.  And the question is going to be, and we will never know until the moment comes, whether it is sufficient for the security needs of Liberia.”

Pham said another challenge will be maintaining and building the capacity of the army once the international community is no longer providing training, equipment and support. He said Ziankan also must ensure the army preserves its newfound legitimacy by remaining professional and apolitical.

Optimism prevails

Pham said a lack of reform in other sectors of society, such as the government, presents another problem. “It is never good when you are talking about nation-building or state-building that either the civilian leadership gets too far ahead of the military or the military actually gets too far ahead. It puts things out of balance," he said. "So I think while the reform of the military went well, I think the broader reform of government and governance in Liberia is something that really still remains to be tackled.”

Many Liberians say they are optimistic. Monrovia radio technician Allen Tamba said appointing a Liberian as the head of the army is a step in the right direction.

"I think it is a good thing... I have no doubt that he will perform. This is the time for Liberians to take ownership of the army," said Tamba. "It will be challenging because we are a post-war nation, but if we put our nation first in all that we do, we will make it. I have no doubt in the ability of our army."

In her comments Tuesday, President Sirleaf challenged Ziankan to maintain the order and discipline of a professional military in his new role as army chief.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid