The Liberian legislature has given its approval, in principle, to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s decision to send troops to Mali.
Sirleaf sent a letter Thursday to the legislative body informing them of her commitment to send a platoon of Liberian soldiers to help in the ongoing regional peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Some have expressed concern that Liberia, which still has a U.N. peacekeeping presence, is not prepared to undertake such a role.
But, Senator John Ballout said sending troops to Mali would signal Liberia’s re-entry into international politics, peacekeeping and diplomacy.
He said the legislature has summoned the ministers of defense, finance, and justice to appear next week to clarify the financial and security implications.
“The opinion of the Senate is inclined toward supporting the president’s commitment. Nevertheless, the Senate has to make certain clarifications. For example, what are, if any, the budgetary implications? What is the nature of the conflict? How does it impact our country? And, why is it that we should get involved? That type of information we thought to get by citing the finance, justice and defense ministers next week to face plenary and answer these questions,” he said.
Ballout said Mali, like many other West African countries, has been part of a West African and UN peacekeeping effort that helped bring peace to Liberia after nearly 14 years of civil war.
“They have, in one way or the other, contributed to the peace we enjoy today. So, we owe it to not only Mali but the international community, through their collective decision, to help a country in need,” Ballout said.
He said Sirleaf sent a letter to the Senate informing them that the international community is ready to provide logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Ballout said Liberia’s troop commitment will be more symbolic than substantive because the number of troops Sirleaf is requesting would be no more than a platoon.
“I think this marks our re-entry into global international peacekeeping, diplomacy and politics. This is also good because it shows the kind of solidarity that West African countries need to show toward each other. And Liberia is proud to be ready to contribute her troops,” Ballout said.
He said those who say Liberia is not in a position to contribute to an international peacekeeping should remember that Mali once stood by Liberia in its time of need.
“We, as Liberians, have the clear understanding of the syndrome that people might describe as ‘being there, done that.’ We know what it means to be waiting for help and hoping that someone would respond. We know what it means to have a population vulnerable to the threat of soldiers moving with bombs and guns. So, for those who have those concerns, our peace is not threatened by sending 40 to 50 soldiers to Mali,” Ballout said.