Military And Security Reforms In Post-War Liberia


Presented By: B. J. Samukai, Jr.
At The All Liberian National Conference
April 15, 2005
Columbia, Maryland, USA


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 18, 2005

Liberia is bleeding from the horrors of its contemporary history, and the blood of all victims must go in vain. The cumulative experiences of our people during the past half of century have brought into unquestionable disrepute, our nation’s military and security institutions. These institutions had the constitutional mandate to remain professional, protect lives and property and safe guard the State.

Unfortunately, our military and security institutions became brutal instruments of human rights violation, and state sponsored acts of terrorism. Command leadership became tribalized, factionalized, and their actions politically driven. Their composition became unprofessional. During the last fifteen years of our conflict, the leadership of our military and security institutions acquiesced to the formation and support of warring factions, and by their actions became party to the conflict.

Thus, delineation of responsibility for the failures of our military and security institutions will have to be wholesome and across the broader spectrum, given the overwhelming evidence available

The recognition of failures by these institutions, and the demand for reforms, began earlier on with initiatives from the Inter Faith Mediation Committee in 1990. Since then, all peace agreements and successive transitional arrangements, including the 2003 CPA Agreement, have undoubtedly demanded, the need for military and security reforms.

Military and security sectors reform in our country must be the cardinal follow-on step in creating not only domestic stability, but also regional tranquility. Credible reforms along with democratic good governance will create conditions for domestic harmony, and regional conflict prevention. The ongoing DDRR program by itself is not sufficient to ensure peace, stability, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

In a World Bank discussion paper on case studies in war to peace transition, published in June 1996, Mr. Keavin Cleaver, Director of the Technical Department of the Africa Department of the World Bank Africa Region said and I quote: “The transition from war to peace is a complete process marked by the need to stabilize the economy, demilitarize the country, reintegrate dislocated population, protect the most vulnerable war victims, especially disabled, women, children, and reestablish civil society and good governance”. This line of critical thinking suggests that our nation’s transition from war to peace should not be a stop-gapped solution, neither a quick fix remedy. Our nation’s transition to peace must be led by persons with established credible reputation, trustworthy of constitutional responsibility. Equally so, our military and security institutions should consist of the best educated and well trained. Our military and security institutions must exemplify constitutional spirit of the rule of law and its application thereof.

We should utilize the experiences and lessons learned from Ethiopia, Uganda, Namibia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone and other countries. Each country had different legacy of origin and problems: Victory for the Ethiopian Military left them with tens of thousands of combatants to demobilize; this situation differed from the economic hardship experienced by the Ugandan Government after defeating opposing forces and the socio-economic costs that followed; whereas Namibia had a negotiated settlement and UN sponsorship, which led to withdrawal of foreign forces, but initially experienced difficulties due to lack of programs to effectively handle issues of rehabilitation and reintegration of war veterans; and Sierra Leone disarmament and demobilization program created the impression of “cash for guns”, instead of an institutional arrangement, which later included training, counseling, medical referral and other services after disarmament and demobilization. Costa Rica chose to do away with its military and established a civilian led security force with ample capability.

Despite these differentials, these countries had a common denominator centered on the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants, and creating credible programs for rehabilitation and reintegration into civil society. It created the environment for military and security reforms, and in some instances constitutional reforms. It allowed for civilian control of the military and security forces. These programs had medium and longer term objectives. We must learn from these lessons, and design strategies for ensuing that our reformed military and security institutions will never be used as brutal instruments of violence against our people, and that the rule of law shall always prevail.

In the case of Liberia, according to the United Nations, at the end of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program, nearly 101,485 individuals had participated. About 22% of these were women, and nearly 10% were child soldiers. Interestingly, about 1,541 combatants, reportedly from the AFL Schiefflin caseload did not demobilized for obvious reasons.

The initial shortcomings of the DDRR program did not deter the United Nations in carrying out its mandate, though there are still major short falls in the Rehabilitation process, and economic reintegration is still an uphill battle. Demobilization itself has not been fully achieved, and demilitarization of our institutions, cities and towns has also not been achieved.

However, we take comfort in recognizing that the United Nations has begun the restructuring process of our security institutions. Restructuring of the Liberian National Police, or should I say the Liberia Police Service is underway. After nearly nine months of intensive classroom training and field experience, the first group of newly trained officers, numbering 100 recently completed training and have been deployed in Monrovia. This number represents about 3.5% of the total number of 3,500 that are to be trained by the end of 2006. UN CIVPOL has also indicated that they expect to train about 1,500 Police personnel come elections 2005. However, those trained are just 7% of the total expected before elections.

The irony of this restructuring process is, there seem to have emerged a parallel composition within the present structure of the Liberian Police: Police personnel who are not part of the restructuring process, but are carrying badges, and those being trained as part of the restructuring process and are cared-for by UN CIVPOL. At one point in time, a major public relations disaster was adverted at the last minute when disgruntled Senior Police Officers wrote a dissenting document against UN CIVPOL for being sidelined, and because parallel command structure had emerged in the Police since the restructuring process began. The CPA Government has not yet produced a credible solution for those who will not be included in the final tally of the restructured Liberia Police Service.

On the other hand, the United States Government has taken the lead initiative in completing a study for security sector reform in Liberia, including restructuring of the Liberian Military. This restructuring exercise calls for a new military, recruited under a transparent screening process, trained by a private US Security Firm, credible command structure established, and facilities refurbished. The US sponsored Security Sector Reform (SSR) program envisage that: “The AFL restructuring program is fundamental to securing peace and security in Liberia…., and that the new military must be rededicated to upholding the constitution of Liberia…”. It is my understanding that this document is on the desk of Chairman’s Bryant for review and implementation.

Already, some Officials of the Ministry of Defense are voicing concern and opposition to different aspects of the restructuring process: Some object to the number of persons to be demobilized, others object to the timing and pace of the process, and others are keen on the amount of payments to receive. Others do not want to leave because the military is their shield of influence. Others are demanding that restructuring should take place before elections, which are about 6 months away. All of these objections are coming from persons who were part of warring factions, and seek to see a shallow restructuring process. Others could be anticipating personal financial reward from the restructuring process. These officials want to dictate the terms, condition and pace of the demobilization and restructuring process.

The CPA Government has now chosen to dish out cash to the leadership of those to be disarmed. It is our understanding that the Transitional Government is in the process of providing about USD$3,000,000.00 to authorities at the Ministry of National Defense as part payment to the AFL for their restructuring. This is complete hogwash. The Bryant Government must not take the restructuring process as a joke. To directly give money to Officials at the Defense Ministry would be a tragedy, and will not auger well for producing a professional military.

It would be a calamity to reorganize our military and security institutions on the basis of existing structures, personnel, and what was envisaged under a stable political and security environment. The constitutional rationale under which the military was to benefit, including retirement and pension benefits did not anticipate the brutal nature of men in arms, neither did it foresee that personnel from our military and security institutions would be involved in atrocities, as well as creating and supporting warring factions, and violating their constitutional responsibilities. The burden of proof herein rests with our military and security organizations.

The military cannot and should not be allowed to restructure itself. The Ministry of Defense leadership is composed of warring factions, and therefore should not be trusted in this national endeavor. This is a non-starter and must be stopped in its track and rejected. We should not allow warring factions to dictate the terms and methodology of reorganizing our military and security institutions. This will be a recurrent disaster. Therefore, we propose:

1) That those elements, whose action forms a credible threat of igniting another round of hostilities, must never form part of our reorganized military and security institutions.
2) That effective and unblemished civilian control is firmly established in our military and security institutions.
3) These institutions should never be used as instruments of violence against its people.
4) All personnel in our reformed military and security institutions are effectively trained, meeting international standards of their professions, not limited to human rights and constitutional law, rule of law and due process, and the cardinal linkage of our criminal justice system.

A broad based process of recruitment must be opened for all and not only for the convenience of people in Monrovia. The United Nations and handlers of the process must decentralize the process of recruitment, and expand the opportunities for testing of candidates in other parts of the country. If there is no capacity in those counties, then we must build capacities for the process to be extended there.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Liberians: We wish make the following suggestions for consideration in the reformation, reorganization and restructuring of our military and security institutions. My emphasis is not on the methodology for restructuring since this has already been contracted by those who are providing the funds; rather it is on the methodology of demobilizing and eliminating any undue influence in the present composition of our military and security institutions.

· PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATIONS: All Para-military organizations created and were or are operational in public corporations, including those security units in the National Port Authority, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Liberia Telecommunications Corporation must be disbanded immediately. All Para-military units established by logging and mining companies, specifically those security units in LIMINCO, Oriental Timber Corporation/Company, Royal Timber Company, Exotic Tropical Timber Enterprise {ETTE}, Akkari Timber Industry, among others, must be immediately disbanded. Logging Companies have been linked to armed smuggling for the NPP Government., and these companies were allowed to deploy Para-military units in their area of operations.

· JOINT SECURITY: The existing Joint Security bureaucratic structure has also operated as a ruthless paramilitary bureaucracy for over two decades. It should be immediately abolished. Normal Police and Security institutions should be allowed to carry out their functions.

· MILITARY AND SECURITY INSTITUTIONS: The following options should be applied to the Armed Forces of Liberia and security institutions as methodology for demobilization and severance. These options will provide the atmosphere for an exit that will not be characterized as a disgrace neither as a reward to anyone. A dignified exit is also a healing process for transition. A base year of 2003 has been established as the minimum period of acceptance. These options are not a rewrite of benefits established under Liberian laws. There should be no ‘Golden Handshake’ payment. This would be a historical catastrophe for the deaths of the tens of thousands who were killed and the thousands who suffered in the hands of belligerent forces. The process must not be seen to be rewarding any individual nor institution, evidently involved in brutalizing the population they were sworn to protect.

· We must establish a credible database on the socio-economic status of our military and security institutions as a necessary process for the success of this exercise. We must establish an understanding of the dexterities of all personnel. We should identify various economic actors, institutions and opportunities for referral; we should ensure no stigmatization of those within the tunnel of this process; and we should sincerely deliver on agreed upon packages of demobilization once implementation begins, to avoid a security backlash.

Option One: Persons within the Military or the Police who were recruited either in 1971 or prior to 1971 with concurrent years of service up to 2003 but not less than 24 years of service in 2003, should be demobilized without option for future active service as follows:

a) Payment of salary arrears up to date (June 2005)
b) Transportation Allowance to place of return;
c) Non-Transferable Identification Card with Picture of Person; accommodation should be made to also include picture of children.
d) Referral for Training opportunities;
e) Referral for competitive Employment Opportunities;
f) Discharge Papers (without distinction whatsoever)
g) Severance remuneration equivalent to two weeks salary for each year served, payable in Four (4) equal installments at interval of two months after the initial payment, effective July 2005.
h) Out Patient Health Benefits.

OPTION Two: Persons within the Military or the Police who were recruited from 1980 with concurrent years of service up to 2003, but not less than 14 years of service up to 2003, should be demobilized without option of future service:

a) Payment of all salary arrears up to June 2005;
b) Transportation Allowance to place of final return;
c) Non-Transferable Identification Card with picture of Staff; accommodation should be made to also include picture of staff children;
d) Referral for Training opportunities
e) Referral for competitive Employment Opportunities;
f) Discharge Papers (without distinction whatsoever)
g) Severance remuneration equivalent to one week salary for each year served, payable in Four (4) equal installments at interval of two months after the initial payment, effective July 2005.
h) Out Patient Health Benefits.

Option III: Persons within the Military or the Police, who were recruited from 1990 with concurrent years of service up to 2003, should be demobilized as follows:

a) Payment of Salary Arrears up to June 2005;
b) Transportation Allowance to final destination;
c) Non-Transferable Identification Card with Picture of Person; accommodation should be made to also include picture of staff children;
d) Referral for Training Opportunities
e) Referral for Competitive Employment opportunities if they meet established criteria;
f) Out Patient Health Benefits.

These options are derived from an exhaustive understanding of the concerns raised during the past 25 years by military and security personnel, as well as civil society. It also takes into consideration the experiences of countries that have gone through civil conflict and have undertaken major reformation of their military and security institutions. These countries were faced with situations requiring a choice of future peace and stability within a reasonable and practical framework, or continuous discontentment leading to reigniting of civil conflict.

Whichever compromise is accepted, those who are being demobilized should not dictate severance remuneration. Any rationale for constitutional referral for benefits to these military and security institutions must be justified by their actions during the period of service. My conclusion, as evident by the actions of the Armed Forces of Liberia and our security institutions is that, they failed in their constitutional responsibilities. Severance should be unadorned.

· COMPOSITION OF OUR REFORMED MILITARY AND SECURITY FORCES: Our reformed military and security institutions must be within socio-economic limits, and not the major priority for public expenditure. We must establish a balance between our nation’s future military and security needs, and the overwhelming demand for socio-economic development. Basic needs for our people have been neglected far too long. Socio-economic development is a necessary cushion for the reintegration process.

· The name of the Armed Forces of Liberia should be changed, separating our reorganized military from its previous legacy of discredit.

· Our reformed military and security institutions must operate under effective civilian control and their deployment must reflect their constitutional mission: To protect the State against external aggression, and safeguard the territorial integrity of the State.

· We should support their capabilities, both tactical and technical, to ensure effectiveness.

· The Liberian Military for example, should not exceed a Brigade, plus support units, as well as intelligence capability. There must be geographic representation of our diverse ethnic, cultural and social background, and led by the best educated and trained persons. We must not allow proportional representation as a basis for recruitment into our military and security institutions. There should be no militia.

· Leadership of these institutions must be derived on the basis of proven merits. Specific professional training programs must be established for our officer corps, as well as regional and international exposure through bilateral cooperation.

· We must seek to reengage the United States Military Mission in reestablishing the International Military and Educational Training (IMET) Program, not as an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States, but to redevelop the regimented professional composition of Staff. We must also seek to engage ECOWAS Countries, and countries within the African Union, through bilateral arrangements, for educational and training opportunities.

· The Liberian Military should reestablish its Army Student Training Program (ASTP) as a scholarly endeavor for future officers at higher education and training institutions in and out of the country.

· Military barracks should be redeployed away from civilian areas, proportionally deployed within their constitutional mandate. The Barclay Training Center should no longer be used as military barracks.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Liberians: The future of our nation and the generation being neglected needs redirection. Re-direction away from the horrors of our recent past. We must provide that redirection. We must provide that leadership. We must demonstrate the resolve to put it right. We must harness that courage to understand what happened, and prepare the present for the future. We should not allow ourselves to be blackmailed by any segment of our society, simply because they have held unto the leadership of our military and security institutions for too long.

The history of mankind is filled with the destructive potential of its people. Nations have risen from these ugly past to flourish. Ours is a legacy of destruction and contempt in the region and elsewhere. We must rise to the challenge of making our nation and its people proud with hope and dignity.

Fellow Liberians, I am prepared to return home to contribute to this endeavor under a credible political leadership. I thank you.