Wednesday, June 18, 2008

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Addresses the AFL

{From left: Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Major General Abdurrahman the Command Officer in Charge. Pictured on the far right is Deputy Minister of National Defense for Operations Dionysus Sebwe.}

Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks, Liberia, May 23rd, 2008:

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf paid her first official visit to the newly reformed Armed Forces of Liberia when she spoke to the entire army early on the morning of May 23rd, 2008 at Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks outside Monrovia. She came to address the troops for the first time. Although the visit came more than two years into her term in office, this was the opportune moment. The army just recently increased in size from 1,124 to 1,634 soldiers. She spoke to over a thousand of those soldiers. During her talk to the soldiers she stressed the pride all Liberians feel towards the new soldiers and the sacrifices they have made for their nation. She also took the opportunity to express her personal interest in ongoing renovations to the barracks and ways to improve soldiers’ lot in life. President Johnson-Sirleaf promised to work with the United States to continue training the AFL to ensure they have the necessary tools to do their job.

It was a long anticipated and awaited visit that in the end came on rather short notice. The AFL received notification just two days before the visit. We went through a few different plans as to where to assemble the troops for the visit. Ultimately the band stand adjacent to the dining facility was the site chosen. Troops were all abuzz that Friday morning as her motorcade drew near. After her brief address she took three questions from the soldiers. One could easily see the respect and awe the new Army has for its democratically elected Commander in Chief in the eyes of the nervous soldiers who asked her questions that morning. Given the checkered past of the its predecessor, this new AFL seems to be on firm footing early in its development with respect to its role under civilian leadership. The three soldiers asked thoughtful questions about pay, living conditions and other opportunities for troops. It was a very exciting visit for all concerned.

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