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Liberia’s Defense Minister Denies Politicizing Military

FILE - United Nations peacekeepers patrol Monrovia streets during Liberia's last presidential election runoff, Nov. 8, 2011. Some groups want to extend the current peacekeeping mission through the 2017 elections.

Liberia Defense Minister Brownie Samukai has denied politicizing the country’s military.

Samukai has been accused of supporting the candidacy of Vice President Joseph Boakai, who, like him, comes from the country's Lofa County.

"The constitution provides that each and every Liberian citizen has a right to vote his or her choice," Samukai told VOA. "... And if my choice is going to be the vice president, yes, it is my choice to vote for him as I want. However, my choice should not interfere with the professional function of the Armed Forces of Liberia."

A consortium of political parties and civil society groups rallied earlier this month to urge an extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) after its mandate ends in June. The groups said they don’t trust the Liberian security during the 2017 election.

An official for Liberia’s main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, told VOA it wants UNMIL's continued presence to safeguard "democratic governance and free and fair elections in 2017."

Mulbah Morlue, the party’s vice chairman for operations and mobilization, said some political groups did not trust the Liberian security to be impartial during the elections.

But Samukai said the Liberian military is not a political organization and does not act on the whims of a political party.

Samukai insisted “there is no politician, including myself, who can try to politicize the Armed Forces of Liberia.”

He said the Liberian military is ready to take over national security when UNMIL’s term ends.

"The Armed Forces of Liberia is a professional entity” whose members, he said, are “completely nonpolitical, nonpartisan in the execution of their duty. So we are prepared to carry on the duties, to protect the sovereignty of the nation.”