Liberia: Election Steering Group Raises Eyebrows on AFL Chief of Staff’s Protest Caveat

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MONROVIA – The Armed Forces of Liberia’s Chief of Staff’s caveat against protest, according to some key civil society actors concerned about the 2023 elections is a form of military interference with civil matters and instills fear in citizens.

Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson, III, on Tuesday warned that the military will not tolerate any form of disturbance to the country’s peace.


By: Lennart Dodoo


“If you decide to take the law into your own hands (disregarding the rule of law), regardless of your current or past status or affiliation, and if the LNP can’t control your actions and/or is overwhelmed, we will execute our constitutional duties,” he stated in a Facebook post.

The army chief’s statement is reliant on Chapter 2, Section 2.3 (E) of the 2008 New Defense Act. It states:

“The duties of the AFL in peacetime shall include support to the national law enforcement agencies when such support is requested and is approved by the President. Such support shall include the exchange of information, personnel training, and mobilization and deployment of security contingents. At no time during peacetime, however, shall the AFL engage in law enforcement within Liberia, such function being the prerogative of the Liberia National Police and other law enforcement agencies. Notwithstanding, the Military Police of the AFL may, on request of the Ministry of Justice made to the Ministry of National Defense, and approved by the President of Liberia, aid these law enforcement agencies as determined by prevailing situations. The AFL shall intervene only as a last resort when the threat exceeds the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to respond.”

According to Maj. Gen. Johnson, his caveat came because of receiving multiple inciting text messages from people at home and abroad, asking him to use the military to unseat Pres. Weah, especially now that he’s out of the country. He disclosed that these messages from Liberians in the United States and in Liberia.

He, however, noted that the army will not revert to what happened in 1980 when men enlisted in the army overthrew an elected government. He assured Liberians that this would not happen under this leadership. 

“We allow democracy to prevail and that should be through the ballot box, or we use the Constitution through the courts. The Army will not revert to what happened in 1980. That will not happen under this leadership,” he said. 

CSOs Differ

However, the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) sees the army chief’s caveat as one that shows military interference with civil matters.

“It is the view of the ECC that this caveat has the potential to close the civil space for political participation months leading to the conduct of general elections in 2023 which require mass gathering and assembling of political parties and independent candidates and their supporters,” the ECC stated, “The statement is completely out of order and a form of the military interfering in civil matters by instilling fear and intimidation of citizens who wish to exercise their Constitutional rights to assemble as guaranteed by Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution.”

The ECC recalled that there are instances in Liberia’s history where the military was wrongly used, and the consequences were devastating resulting in the dissolving of the Armed Forces of Liberia through the Accra Peace Accord.

It is the view of the ECC that this caveat has the potential to close the civil space for political participation months leading to the conduct of general elections in 2023 which require mass gathering and assembling of political parties and independent candidates and their supporters

– Election Steering Committee

The ECC admonished the AFL to refrain from issuing caveats on public order and internal security matters as such could undermine civilian-military relationships. They also called on the AFL to express its concerns about internal peace and security through the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Justice.

The ECC also called for all security agencies in the country to be perceived as neutral and non-partisan.

The ECC: “At no time during peacetime shall the AFL engage in law enforcement within Liberia, such function being the prerogative of the Liberian National Police. The AFL is responsible to respond to external threats and aggression and if it must interfere in internal peace and security matters, there must be an official request from the civilian authorities approved by the President of Liberia to help restore order (Section 2.3 e of the 2008 Defense Act). At the same time, the AFL shall intervene only as a last resort, when the threat exceeds the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to respond.”

The ECC asserted that the LNP officers were equally trained to and should be given the chance to perform their statutory mandate by protecting internal peace and security.

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