By James Butty
Washington, DC, 01 March 2006 - Liberia's new defense minister of defense, Brownie Samukai, has been speaking about what the new armed forces will look like. Samukai, who was named to the post by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, faces the task of reorganizing Liberia's army, which was factionalized during the 14-year civil war. The re-organization comes as neighboring Ivory Coast is embroiled in its own civil war, which has been threatening to spread across the border.
Mr. Samukai spoke with English to Africa reporter James Butty about his priorities in reorganizing the Liberian Armed Forces. "My priorities will be in line with the responsibilities given me by the commander-in-chief, her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to make sure that we are able to complete the retirement of the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) programming and complete whatever salary arrears that are owing those AFL soldiers who have now been retired. And at the same time work along with the US Office of Defense Corporation here in Monrovia for the beginning of the recruitment exercise of future members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
One of the causes of the Liberian civil war was that the AFL did not represent all segments of the society. But Samukai says that will change. "The commander-in-chief has mandated and we have therefore advised that the Office of Defense Corporation will ensure that the recruitment is taken throughout the country to make sure that our people feel a part of the new military. To add to that, we will want to make sure that our future officers have the requisite qualification and training. The minimal standard to be an officer, you have to be a college graduate."
Samukai says Liberia needs a credible army not only for internal security, but also to guide against crisis brewing in neighboring countries such as Ivory Coast.