The Armed Forces of Liberia is the national army of the Republic of Liberia. It was established as a militia by an act of Legislature in 1908 and retitled in 1956. I was born in the AFL military barracks, the Barclay Training Center (BTC), two years earlier.
I attended the Barracks Union School as a kindergarten student in the BTC under the tutorship of Mrs. Margaret Koffa and Mrs. Anna Whisnant as Principal. Therefore, I am an army brat and I lived with soldiers all my life.
My adopted father, General Wilmot Debrick Stubblefield, Sr., was Aide de camp to President Tubman, and two of my uncles were Generals in the Armed Forces of Liberia as well: General George Solah Wiles, Sr., and General Joseph Boima Barclay, Sr., both of whom were professional soldiers that sacrificed their lives for their country and fellow countrymen and women.
Uncle Boima was Minister of Defence and lost his life when he accompanied President Doe at the ECOMOG base at the Free Port of Monrovia in 1990.
Therefore, it was a shame when those who perpetrated heinous crimes against Liberians branded the AFL as “Doe Soldiers” during the rebel incursion that subsequently destroyed the fabric of the Liberian society.
The Armed Forces of Liberia is one of the best institutions that we have ever established as a nation and people on the continent of Africa. It is also one of the best trained armies on the continent of Africa. U.S. military personnel generally trained them.
In the 1960s, Liberia contributed troops toward the peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations in the Congos and the AFL emerged as the best and brought us great pride.
Up to the time of the military coup in 1980, the AFL defended and protected our borders and kept us safe. Back in the day they were called “Nokos” but they did not mind the joke.
They performed their constitutional duties with diligence until perpetrators and their western cohorts and supporters branded them as “Doe Soldiers” to derail the morale of the AFL, disband them, to institute rebel regimes led by those who funded the mayhem and atrocities and now got Liberians in a dilemma.
Today, as Liberians around the world celebrate Armed Forces Day, I want to salute a gallant soldier and gentleman, General John Hezekiah Bowen. He played a pivotal role in Liberian history during the heat of the Liberian Civil War.
He and the gallant men and women kept the fort when the various warring factions fought to overrun the sovereignty of Liberia and capture the Executive Mansion, the seat of the Liberian government.
Despite the tremendous supports that Charles Taylor's NPFL, Prince Johnson's INPFL, and Alhaji Kromah's ULIMO K received from foreign governments and sometimes the ECOMOG high command, the rebels were unable to militarily defeat the remnants of the Armed Forces of Liberia that were hoard in the Barclay Training Center (BTC) and the Executive Mansion grounds due to their military and tactical competence.
The rationale behind the AFL resisting the rebels taking over the Executive Mansion was not because they were "Doe Soldiers" as the western news outlets, and Liberian rebel warlords and perpetrators misled the world to thinking; but rather, it was because as the legitimate army of Liberia and constituted by an act of Legislature, it was their constitutional duty to protect and defend the sovereignty of Liberia.
Also, the AFL was not a "warring faction" as was erroneously circulated by the BBC, VOA, the American government that released Charles Taylor to unleash atrocities and mayhem unto the Liberian people that led to the deaths of over quarter millions of Liberians and foreign nationals.
Therefore, they (the AFL) would not succumb to rebel forces but would surrender the Executive Mansion to whoever the Liberian people elected or that the international community negotiating the peace process in Liberia would recognize to lead the Liberian people.
In this case, the international peace negotiators were the Heads of States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Accordingly, the AFL was invited to attend the Banjul Conference in The Gambia during which the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formulated. Dr. Amos Sawyer was selected to head the Interim Government of Liberia as President, and Bishop Ronald Diggs of the Lutheran Church as Interim Vice President.
It was then that the AFL turned over the keys to the IGNU and allowed Sawyer and subsequent Interim Governments and Councils to operate the affairs of state from the Executive Mansion.
One thing I want to caution all Liberians about is to never turn their backs on those that sacrifice their lives to protect and defend our sovereignty, no matter what the circumstances may be.
The gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia deserve our respect and unwavering support moving forward. We owe the AFL a debt of gratitude for putting their lives on the line.
Today, their widows and fatherless and motherless children have no benefits because those who referred to patriotic and devoted soldiers as "Doe Soldiers", and or that defected to join rebel forces and committed atrocities while wearing AFL uniforms are now Senators, Representatives, and high ranking government officials in Liberia!
Thus, our national borders are porous without brave men and women to protect our borders and/or to defend us because we allowed ourselves to be fooled by the international and foreign press that our gallant soldiers were "Doe Soldiers"!
In closing, I want to make it categorically clear that the AFL does not belong to any Liberian leader but rather, it is the national army duly constituted to defend and protect the sovereignty of Liberia and its citizens and those that reside within the borders of Liberia and their properties.
It is true though that some individuals wearing AFL uniforms committed atrocities during the heat of the Liberian crisis to smear the reputation of the national army but at that time they disguised their identities as a tactic for the rebels to gain international support and consequently gain political and economic power in Liberia.
Today, these individuals who defected from the AFL and joined the NPFL and the financiers of the civil war have resurfaced as politicians. Therefore, they must be charged per the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for:
(1) Dereliction of their solemn duties as sworn soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia:
(2) Deceiving the Liberian people and defaming the reputation of the Armed Forces of Liberia; and
(3) They must be held accountable for the atrocities they committed in contravention of their oath to defend and protect Liberian lives and properties.
The AFL is one of the finest institutions of we have in Liberia, and one of the best trained military armies on the continent of Africa. It is a shame the Armed Forces was humiliated to institute rebel regimes in our beloved Liberia.
Therefore, Liberians must reverse this course of action by creating a war crimes court in Liberia to bring to justice those most responsible for the war and economic crimes that were committed so that genuine rule of law and sustainable peace can be restored in post conflict Liberia.
Long live the tactic soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia and Happy Armed Forces Day to all Liberians around the world!
Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.