The Future of Liberia's National Security

Presented By Mathu H. Gibson

The Perspective

August 1, 2001

Editor's Note: The Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) Town Hall meeting on "Settling the Liberia Palaver" held this past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, was not only spirited but provocative. The views expressed by the myriad of speakers made interesting food for thought which also point to the difficult road ahead in "searching for a new vision" in a post-Taylor era. Mr. Mathu Gibson Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic & Strong, better known as the Contemporary Opposition, whose founder and president is T. Q. Harris, argues that Liberia needs a strong national security structure to guarantee its stability. Mr. Gibson says the Contemp UPS has a plan to develop the Liberian military into a professional force. A few years ago, Mr. Harris and some ULAA officials called for the establishment of a government-in-exile as an alternative to the Interim Government. When that did not materialize, Mr. Harris tavelled to Monrovia in 1997 and ran first as a presidential candidate and then joined Dr. Harry Moniba, former vice president of Samuel K. Doe, as his running-mate. Mr. Harris and his group (the Contemp UPS) continue to insist that President Taylor must resign. The full text of Mr. Gibson's presentation follows below:

The future of Liberia's National Security will flourish, prosper and command regional and International respect in post-Taylor Liberia.

Today, the entire Liberian National Security apparatus is in total disarray due to several factors among which are:

o Lack of Leadership and Gross Incompetence

o The absence of standardized, internationally recognized training

o Lack of discipline within and amongst the ranks

o Extremely low morale

o Ethnic polarization

o Inadequate salaries and non-existent personnel benefits

o High illiteracy

These and other factors, couple with the continuous chaos the Taylor regime has heaped upon the society, have created a sub-standard brigade of rag-tag thugs, rebel-minded individuals operating as Liberia's National Security Forces.

National Security is the life-blood of all stable nations, which is extremely important for any nation that wishes to excel in the current geo-political structure of the new world order. A nation's political, social and economic conditions directly affect its National Security in the context of domestic and international affairs. Therefore, the Contemporees United Patriotic & Strong envisage a Ministry of National Security as a critical policy-making arm of the government of Liberia in the post-Taylor era.

It is the intrinsic duty of government, especially in a democracy, to ensure that the safety and security of all citizens and guests is of the highest priority under all circumstances. A duly constituted government is obligated to remove all barriers and obstacles that pose danger and, or infringe upon the people's freedoms and liberties. It shall protect and defend the citizens, the territorial borders, waters, air space etc.-from enemies foreign and domestic.

In earlier times, Liberia could confidently boast of an above-average National Security Force among the nations within its category. Clearly, our National Security structure was ranked high among the best in Africa. However, years of internecine struggle, coupled with the massive destruction caused by the seven-year war have decimated the Liberian National Security apparatus.

While the picture I have just painted may seem gloomy, which it is, there's still hope for creating a dignified, professional National Security structure in Liberia. The Liberian Contemp UPS has in its reconstruction plan a system for protecting our national interest based on regional analytical assessment and global defining factors. Our approach to improving the National Security will provide a modern, mechanized, well-trained and highly equipped, proactive Force that will be sensitive to individual human and civil rights and keenly aware of the impact of external forces on domestic operations.

The Contemp UPS' programs shall include an aggressive support for regional peace and security tempered by realistic caution. It shall strengthen and enhance Liberia's military alliances and cooperation with other nations whose objectives, policies and interests are common to ours, particularly the ECOWAS member states, the United States, Israel, to name a few.

We shall encourage the establishment of non-aggression treaties with our neighbors, as well as fostering closer cooperation in the areas of Intelligence gathering and sharing, with regular consultation on vital security matters. Other areas of key concern for mutual cooperation shall include: countering terrorism and drug-trafficking, apprehension and prosecution of environmental terrorist, organized crime, the interdiction and detection of weapons and other violations of national, regional and international laws.

In conclusion, I am here as a representative of the Honorable T. Q. Harris, General Chairman of the Liberian Contemporee United Patriotic & Strong. I hope to allay your fears and rebuild your confidence, as it relates to the future structure of the National Security apparatus of Liberia. Please understand that I speak on this subject not as a textbook theorist, rather, as an expert in these matters. I have more then twenty-five years of training and experience in the fields of Intelligence, Security, special weapons and tactical warfare.

Two and a half decades ago, as a young man, I became a member of the Armed Forces of Liberia. I started at the rank of private and advanced to the rank of sergeant. I served as an infantryman and later as a military police desk-sergeant. Yes, I was one of those whom Liberians chose to call a "NOCO." But despite the insults and the hardships one encounters while trying to survive on a salary of 5.00 U.S. dollars per month as a recruit, rinsing to $23.00 as a Private and $55.00 at the rank of Sergeant, I have absolutely no regrets serving my country as a soldier. I learned a great deal from the military. One of the most valuable lessons I learned while in the Army was that the so-called ethnic-divide is unrealistic. It merely exists because politicians, scholars, community leaders and even at times members of the clergy employ this divisive tactic for their own benefit. However, the Liberian military taught us unity, brotherhood and how to be one people irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds. It was in the military that I first heard a Krahn Soldier refer to a Gio Soldier as "My LOE-DEE", which implies a strong fraternal bond.

Regrettably, Some Liberian politicians seeking to promote and elevate their own selfish interest slowly undermined the bond of unity that existed within the Military, hence leading to the ultimate disintegration of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Even then, they did not succeed in attaining high offices through these devious schemes. Many of these politicians are now calling for the total disbandment of the Liberian army, arguing that Liberia needs only a police force for its protection. This lack of vision and awareness on the part of these misguided individuals must be the reason why Liberians have no confidence in their leadership ability.

However, I am pleased to say that the Contemp UPS takes a more responsible position when it comes to the Liberian military. We advocate the rebuilding of a well-trained army, based on the high standards of the U.S. and other professional armies. We also recognize the Armed Forces of Liberia as the Constitutional army of the nation.

Liberians can expect to face great danger as we begin to profit from and enjoy our nation's wealth and the fruits of our labor in the post Taylor era. Hence, the demands that shall be placed on our National Security forces in the future will be high. We must, therefore, be prepared to adequately defend the population, while projecting the positive image of the new Liberia and its new leaders.

With the right leaders in charge and the proper training and incentives provided for our men and women in arms, Liberians as well as our guests will enjoy the safety and security only a first rate National Security apparatus can provide. In post-Taylor Liberia, those responsible for defending our nation and protecting the citizens will strictly adhere to the dictates of the Liberian Constitution. They shall also apply the rule of law without bias, observe and respect all applicable International laws, and subordinate themselves at all times to the duly elected civilian authorities.

Thank you for listening.

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