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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.