Brig.-Gen. Prince Johnson: “Militarizing Of Youths By Ruling And Opposition Political Parties Poses Threat to Liberia’s Security”
MONROVIA – The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Brigadier General, Prince C. Johnson, has disclosed that the high level of coordination and cooperation among security actors in the Mano River Union (MRU) region makes it difficult for any group to rage war or any external form of insurrection in Liberia, but the militarizing of young people by both the ruling and opposition political parties remain a threat to the country’s peace and stability.
General Johnson pointed out that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between MRU countries, particularly Sierra Leone and Guinea, to subvert acts which have the proclivity to destabilize the region.
He maintained that it remains impossible for anyone to rage insurrection in Liberia from outside without passing through any of the neighboring countries, and as such, the strong cooperation subsisting between authorities of the various security agencies, especially the military makes it impossible for any arm conflict to be launched in the country.
He made these comments recently when he addressed citizens at the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) on Carey Street in Monrovia.
“What we are doing when it comes to those areas in the MRU; we are looking at cooperation. We have signed a MOU. We have Nigerians, Sierra Leones and Ivoirians in our headquarters as liaisons. So, if I hear anything ongoing on their side, I call the Liaison. That’s the kind of relationship that we have built”.
“It’s not possible for anybody to bring war in this country without the support of one of those neighboring countries because; we will always need an exit route, and a route for logistical support. So with the cooperation that I see now, I think you will fly in (to bring war in Liberia)”.
General Johnson clarified that his assertions do not in any way imply that anything cannot happened or Liberia is safe from threats of insecurity.
“I am not saying that we are 100% safe; no. but we can have isolated cases maybe people can be radicalized. But the best way we can secure our borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea is the collaboration between the two countries”.
General Johnson further sounded a warning against the militarizing of young people in both the ruling and some opposition political parties in Liberia.
“What we should worry about is the issue of these young people that some politicians try to militarize. We saw that during the elections. You saw the way both opposition and the ruling party people were dressing. You are not military man and you are wearing boots and put beret on your head. You have to change the style of using brigade”.
He continued: “We got to be careful with the names we are giving these young people because; those names are always associated with radical moves. We say militant brigade or military wing? What do you call militant brigade? Are you an army man or soldier?”
According to him, these young people do not understand the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and as such, they should not allow themselves to be radicalized by politicians, because these political parties do not have any structure to discipline or penalize anyone who goes against their policies.
General Johnson observed that some politicians most often spend lot of finances on these militarized young people in a bid to control the expectations of the election results.
“We are sounding this as a caveat; that look, you can find other names. But please avoid the issue of militarizing young people. We have an institution that supposed to do that. And this is a serious issue that we need to discuss”.
He said despite the limited support, the AFL is position “strategically” to combat against any external or internal threats.
Monitoring Burkinabes In Grand Gedeh
For some times now, there have been reports of the illegal entry of Burkinabes in parts of Grand Gedeh County.
According to the report, these Burkinabes have entered into Liberia in huge number, and are engaged into farming activities.
But General Johnson pointed out that though the AFL is monitoring the situation, there are procedures involved in getting soldiers in Grand Gedeh to act.
“The county authorities need to address that through the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Justice will in turn inform the National Security Council looking at the threat that is involved on the expansion of the Burkinabe farmers. With that, they can inform the Minister of Defense. We cannot just jump up and say, let’s go”.
“They are seeing this just like the issue of farming, but they are not looking at the future prospects of these guys coming. We are working and monitoring the situation. But for now, the local authorities need to approach that issue”.
We will get you
Speaking further, General Johnson warned that the AFL will not relent to go after anyone who intends to jeopardize the peace and stability of the country.
He noted that though some individuals (who he did not name) continue to engage into anti-peace acts or make threatening comments, the AFL will not hesitate to move in if the police fail.
“I hear people in this town talking and talking. Trust me, I don’t see anybody in this town that can with stand the AFL; whether you are former rebel general. The day we see you in the streets with weapon; we just saw a lot of threats during this gone senatorial election. The police should be able to handle it but, if the police will have to call the AFL, we will come after you. This is not a threat”.
“If you say you want bring war here; when we come outside for you, we will get you”.
Lack of recruitment
Meanwhile, General Johnson, has alarmed over the lack of homes to accommodate more soldiers into the Armed Forces of Liberia.
He attributed the delay in the recruitment of new men and women into the army to the lack of more homes to accommodate them and their respective family members.
He disclosed that despite the efforts applied by the United Nations, United States government and others to rehabilitate the various barracks of the army, the AFL remains unprepared to recruit.
General Johnson expressed the hope that the current situation will be addressed through budgetary allotment in the next fiscal budget.
He added that authorities of the AFL have put in place a framework intended to mitigate these challenges with its meager budgetary allotment.
He disclosed that the AFL will recruit and train in a short period of time medical doctors and others above the constitutional age level of 35 to provide healthcare delivery at the newly constructed 14 Military Hospital.
Meanwhile, General Johnson has vowed to be bold in executing his tasks and responsibilities without fear or favor by telling his bosses, including the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President George Manneh Weah, the risks and benefits associated with decisions or actions that will be taken on matters surrounding the security of the state.
General Johnson commended President Weah for not interfering or influencing decisions made by authorities of the AFL on security issues.
He added that mistakes that made in the past where the army was used to go against perceived critics of the government will not be repeated under his stewardship.
“Government at the time was using the military to perform the functions of our para-military duties. The 1980 University of Liberia students’ protest; they went for the military even though the police was there and you know what happened. Post Stockade used to be a prison compound that used to host politicians or civilians. Every time they arraigned politicians, they took them to Post Stockade”.
“But for now, I cannot arrest any civilian. If I arrest you, I should turn you over to the police. I can’t take you to my barracks to confine you. It’s illegal. Those were mistakes that were made by former governments and we do not want to do the same. The police have not requested support for petty crimes; even if the police request support, we will have to analyze the advantages and disadvantages. We do not want to misuse the military for those kinds of things that will create havoc and we will go backward”.