The restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) kicked off last week at Camp Schiefflin outside Monrovia. The US government-funded exercise is being supervised by DynCorp International, a firm contracted by the United States Defense Department. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is responsible for providing perimeter security and the Liberian National Police, closely monitored by the UNMIL Civilian Police, will control traffic in the area and respond to security breaches if required.
The two-phase demobilization process, expected to last for 49 days, will demobilize over 13, 000 documented former AFL personnel. The on-going first phase is targeting more than 9,000 "war recruits" who joined the AFL after the 1989 civil unrest, while the second phase will retire over 4,000 persons referred to as "regular AFL personnel," i.e., those who joined the army prior to 1989.
The National Transitional Government of Liberia has provided the funds for the buy-out benefit which is dependent upon rank but averaging approximately US$ 540 per person.
Speaking to journalists following his visit to the demobilization site last Saturday, UNMIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Owonibi urged Liberians to appreciate the efforts being made by the international community to restructure the Armed Forces of Liberia. "As far as I am concerned, I think the on-going process is excellent," the Force Commander said.
He praised the good conduct of the AFL soldiers and urged other members of the AFL to take advantage of the demobilization exercise. Gen. Owonibi said the exercise marked the beginning of building a responsible and credible army that would defend the people at all times.
Also speaking to journalists, the Defense and Army Attaché at the United States Embassy in Liberia, Major Ryan McMullen, stated that his Government greatly appreciates the partnership with UNMIL in this restructuring process. "The process is on-going. We have processed the entire caseload for the day. We have estimated that it will take 49 days and if today is any indication of the schedule, I think we will complete on time," Major McMullen said.
He praised members of the AFL for the level of discipline since the start of the process.
As of Saturday 2 July, 236 "war recruits" from the Air Reconnaissance Unit and the 1st Infantry Battalion have been processed since the start of demobilization. At the expiration of the second phase, a vetting board will be set up to begin the recruitment process of a 2,000-strong, well trained and well equipped army. The new army's first battalion is expected to be ready in January 2006.