New foreign minister expresses confidence in national security following UNMIL drawdown

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Liberia’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Her Excellency Marjon V. Kamara, says she is confident that Liberia can provide security and maintain peace after the inevitable departure of UNMIL. “I believe sincerely that we can and, indeed, we must,”she said.

She, however, warned that the security of the state and the maintenance of peace in the post-UNMIL era will not and should not rest with the military alone.

Reflecting on history, she said, sustainable security and continuing stability in this country will be defined more by the efforts all Liberians make - as a government and as a people - in addressing national challenges such as youth unemployment, reducing inequalities in income and opportunities, reconciliation and national healing, decentralizing social and security services, improving the quality of education and maintaining the enabling environment for investment.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, Minister Kamara made these assertions Thursday, February 11, 2016, when she served as the Keynote Speaker at Liberia’s 59th Armed Forces Day celebrations, which were held at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.

Foreign Minister Kamara reminded Liberians that the transition of UNMIL puts Liberia at a crossroads. “We are being closely watched by the international community, to see if the years of reform and investments in democratic processes, including security sector reform will indeed yield sustainable peace. Our partners have high expectations of us.”

She indicated that cooperation and coordination between military and civil law institutions are key in the post-UNMIL environment; noting that the military can be useful in multidimensional ways in that environment.

The Foreign noted that some Liberians do not believe that Liberians have the ability to secure ourselves. We must make our people understand–even if it means communicating in our local dialects –that there will remain a reduced UNMIL presence of military personnel and civilian police beyond June 30. However, securityresponsibilities once performed by UNMIL will now be solely in the hands of state security.

While reflecting on the military in the past, the Minister said today’s AFL has evolved to become the most educated in the nation’s history with specialized skills in many disciplines.

“Our men and women in uniform reflect high quality and standards, integrity, loyalty and commitment not to any particular ethnic group but to the nation. They are being trained not only in national defense but also in strategic institution building and civic responsibilities,” she told the audience.

She stated that the military has also moved beyond its traditional role to be more civil and has become true to its mandate, as enshrined in the National Defense Act of 2008, in building a respectable track record for supporting civil authority. “The Health Department of the Ministry and the Medical Command of the Armed Forces have been providing medical examinations, treatment and HIV/AIDS counseling as part of their outreach to communities,” she said.

She thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, for her able and farsighted leadership and direction of the country and for the orientation of the nation’s security architecture, which began when she served as Chairperson of the Governance Reform Commission.

Ambassador Kamara praised the military’s Engineering Company collaborating with the Ministry of Public Works in rehabilitating community and feeder roads across the country, and was very instrumental in restoring roads in Sinoe, making it easier for people to commute to the 2015 Independence Day Celebrations that convened in Sinoe and Grand Kru Counties.

Among other things, the Foreign Minister said that she is particularly impressed by the progress that the military has made in integrating women. “I understand that seven female officers and seventy-three enlisted women currently serve in the military, and that the Ministry of National Defense desires to reach a goal of twenty percent female enlistment.”

Minister Kamara urged the Defense Ministry and the AFL to attain this target, which will contribute to the national objective of gender mainstreaming.

“We congratulate the Armed Forces of Liberia for all of these exemplary works and the continuing dedication to helping breach capacity gaps and render assistance where it is needed. In the presence of UNMIL, the military has demonstrated that, in addition to its statutory responsibility to defend the territorial integrity of the state, it can provide effective support to civil authority. We expect them to do no less in the post UNMIL environment,” she added.

The Foreign Minister reminded Liberians that they should not lose sight of the fact that the military is a part of the broader security architecture of the country that encompasses the police, immigration and other agencies. She asked these security agencies to collaborate under a well-coordinated framework to build synergies for the protection of Liberians within safe and secure borders.

Ambassador Kamara also called on Liberians to envisage a post-UNMIL environment with a strong, well-trained, equipped and people-friendly national police force, decentralized and deployed throughout the length and breadth of this country.

Following her speech, she was conferred upon with the nation’s Distinguished Service Order (DSO), by the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Speaking earlier, the Minister of National Defense, Hon. J. Brownie Samukai, reported to the Commander-In-Chief that he has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the People’s Republic of China, which for the last two years, has donated over US$7M worth or equipment, including 22 military trucks and two motor graders, donated this year to the AFL.

Hon. Samukai further reported that the US Government also donated two boats for use for the Liberian Coast Guard and has agreed to give the Liberian army 17 tactical military vehicles along with spare parts, worth US$3 million.

For her part, President Johnson Sirleaf, CIC of AFL, delivering her Armed Forces Day address, praised Foreign Minister Kamara that as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, she alleviated Liberia’s international profile and promoted a tangible reengagement of the AFL with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

The Liberian leader thanked a number of individuals, including US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, for their contributions to the AFL. She said Secretary Thomas played an essential role in supporting the existence of the Brigade Preparatory School. The school was renamed to the Linda Thomas Greenfield Preparatory School.

Also along with Ambassador Kamara, President Johnson Sirleaf conferred upon several distinguished personalities, including former Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia, H.E. Chigozie Obi-Nnadozie.