The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Deputy Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Prince Johnson III, has described the just ended Chiefs of Defense Conference as a great learning experience for Liberia.
The 2017 Chiefs of Defense Conference, which brought together about 100 countries, held under the theme: Meeting the Challenges, took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York from July 6 – 8, 2017.
Brigadier-General Johnson, III and AFL Chief of Operations – Headquarters, Colonel Daniel Holman represented Liberia.
The conference also included the participation of military representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the Force Commanders of the UN peacekeeping missions in Mali (MINUSMA), Central African Republic (MINUSCA), South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
According to a dispatch from Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the conference, among other things, discussed issues surrounding the rapid deployment of troops, training, soldiers’ conduct, discipline and the need to increase the number of female peacekeepers which is placed at approximately six percent.
Liberia is currently contributing a company strength of 75 peacekeepers, including eight female personnel, to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) following its service as a platoon under the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
“We went under AFISMA serving as a platoon with Nigeria and Togo in June, 2013. AFISMA was transformed to MINUSMA and as of February, 2017, Liberia has company strength of 75 personnel operating independently,” the deputy chief of staff explained.
Deputy chief of staff Johnson, III said experiences shared by other contributors especially Uganda, who has an all-female platoon in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will help Liberia, who recently rejoined the peacekeeping efforts after nearly 60 years, to strengthen its peacekeeping capacity.
He added that on the margins of the conference, he used the time to negotiate on behalf of Liberia, securing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Nations that details the number and types of military personnel as well as equipment and logistical services that will be provided by the country’s armed forces.
The AFL deputy chief of staff asserted that it is a standard procedure that every contributing country including Liberia funds the deployment and upkeep of its soldiers including the provision of major logistical support and services and get reimbursed.
“We are not alone. Based on the new regulations of the UN, some changes have been done. Other countries are also negotiating their MOU. The UN has two agreements – the “dry lease” and “wet lease.”
Liberia’s deployment is under a “wet lease” agreement where we go independent and take care of our troops and then the UN reimburses us,” he explained, adding further, that when the MoU is completed, it will state how Liberia will be reimbursed for major equipment, maintenance, troop deployment and welfare, among others.
At the same time, Brigadier-General Johnson disclosed that more AFL personnel are eager to serve peacekeeping missions in accordance with the quest of the AFL Commander-in-Chief, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to give back; but cannot now, due to the terms of the negotiated MoU.
“The motivation is high; the soldiers are eager; we are hopeful that after the signing of the MoU, we will be requesting an increment to a full company size of 150 peacekeepers. The military is about service and the soldiers are ready to serve. It’s just that our MOU gives us a set number,” he noted.
Brigadier-General Johnson, III, on behalf of his colleague, thanked Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Lewis Garseedah Brown II and staff for all the support during the MoU negotiation process.