MONROVIA – The Minister-designate of the Ministry of National Defense Prince Johnson has vowed to collaborate with the National Security Council (NSC), paramilitary groups and international partners to prevent the spread of Sahel terrorism and creeping threats to Liberia and its citizens.
By Obediah Johnson
Mr. Johnson observed that the proliferation of militancy within political parties in Liberia poses a threat to the nation and as such, it should claim the attention of all stakeholders in the country.
According to him, the high rate of unemployment and poverty remain the greatest threats in the society.
He made these comments when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Security, National Defense, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs held at the Chambers of the Liberian Senate on Thursday, February 8.
Mr. Johnson stated that the spread of fake news are other issues that must be looked at critically.
He, however, recalled that as part of efforts to reduce economic burdens on the citizens due to bad road connectivity, the AFL constructed approximately 300km of roads across the country.
He said the Ministry of Public Works over the years failed to station earth moving equipment for the maintenance of roads in the south-eastern parts for the stay of AFL soldiers in those areas as part of efforts to help reduce the high rate of poverty.
Mr. Johnson further bragged that despite the happenings in Liberia and the region, he managed to ensure that the AFL remains a non-political institution while serving as its Chief of Staff.
He assured of advising President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to maintain the integrity of the army.
He said as a former member of the Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff of ECOWAS, he managed to establish a network with his colleagues in the region.
“Currently we do have a memorandum of understanding on how can we partner with our neighboring countries to prevent the spread of terrorism and threats. We have been successful on the military side in almost all of our missions.”
Mr. Johnson stressed that working with international partners, especially in the United States, France and the United Kingdom also remains paramount.
Speaking further, he called on the government to focus and elevate the welfare of soldiers of the AFL, including the increment of salaries.
He disclosed that many barracks of the army were renovated under the past administration, but more needs to be done to dignify the army.
Mr. Johnson further called for consistent recruitment of citizens into the army, but with the construction or extension of additional annexes within the existing barracks.
He put the cost for the construction of new barracks to accommodate the soldiers and their families at about US$35m.
He promised to also work with the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL to ensure the retirement and pensioning of soldiers.
Mr. Johnson observed that these challenges confronting the Ministry of National Defense, especially the AFL cannot be addressed in the midst of inadequate budgetary support.
“The Ministry of National Defense is unique; it’s not like any other ministries. I say this in the context that other ministries, the minister most often is concerned about the issue of salaries for his employees. For the Ministry of National Defense or the AFL, it doesn’t limit us there. We have to be concern about where the soldiers sleep, where the families live, medication, infrastructure, power generation and a whole lot.”
Also speaking Deputy Defense Minister-designate for operations Geraldine George underscored the significance of customizing the uniform of soldiers of the AFL.
According to her, the current uniform being used by the AFL can be easily duplicated and worn by others in the society.
She recommended that instead of purchasing the army uniform from China, government, through the National Legislature, should see reason to provide more budgetary support for tailors within the army to produce their own uniform.