Foreign Minister: Liberia can secure itself after UN leaves

Foreign Minister Kamara (right) receives the Distinguished Service Order from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at Armed Forces Day program

Foreign Minister Kamara (right) receives the Distinguished Service Order from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at Armed Forces Day program

Liberia’s new Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara says she is confident that Liberia can provide security and maintain peace after the inevitable departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

“I believe sincerely that we can and, indeed, we must,” she said during programs marking the West African nation’s Armed Forces Day Thursday.

She, however, warned that the security of the state and the maintenance of peace in the post-UNMIL era will not and should not rest with the military alone.

Reflecting on history, Minister Kamara said sustainable security and continuing stability in the country will be defined more by the efforts all Liberians make – as a government and as a people – in addressing national challenges such as youth unemployment, reducing inequalities in income and opportunities, reconciliation and national healing, decentralizing social and security services, improving the quality of education and maintaining the enabling environment for investment.

Foreign Minister Kamara reminded Liberians that the transition of UNMIL puts Liberia at a crossroads.

“We are being closely watched by the international community, to see if the years of reform and investments in democratic processes, including security sector reform will indeed yield sustainable peace.  Our partners have high expectations of us,” she noted.

She indicated that cooperation and coordination between military and civil law institutions are key in the post-UNMIL environment, noting that the military can be useful in multidimensional ways in that environment.

The foreign minister noted that some Liberians do not believe that Liberians have the ability to secure ourselves and stressed that Liberians must understand that that there will remain a reduced UNMIL presence of military personnel and civilian police beyond June 30. However, security responsibilities once performed by UNMIL will now be solely in the hands of Liberian security officers. 

While reflecting on the military in the past, the minister said the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) today has evolved to become the most educated in the nation’s history with specialized skills in many disciplines.

“Our men and women in uniform reflect high quality and standards, integrity, loyalty and commitment not to any particular ethnic group but to the nation.  They are being trained not only in national defense but also in strategic institution building and civic responsibilities,” she told the audience.

She stated that the military has also moved beyond its traditional role to be more civil and has become true to its mandate, as enshrined in the National Defense Act of 2008, in building a respectable track record for supporting civil authority. 

“The Health Department of the Ministry and the Medical Command of the Armed Forces have been providing medical examinations, treatment and HIV/AIDS counseling as part of their outreach to communities,” she said.

Among other things, the Foreign Minister said that she is particularly impressed by the progress that the military has made in integrating women.

“I understand that seven female officers and seventy-three enlisted women currently serve in the military, and that the Ministry of National Defense desires to reach a goal of twenty percent female enlistment.”

Minister Kamara urged the Defense Ministry and the AFL to attain this target, which will contribute to the national objective of gender mainstreaming.   

“We congratulate the Armed Forces of Liberia for all of these exemplary works and the continuing dedication to helping breach capacity gaps and render assistance where it is needed.  In the presence of UNMIL, the military has demonstrated that, in addition to its statutory responsibility to defend the territorial integrity of the state, it can provide effective support to civil authority. We expect them to do no less in the post UNMIL environment,” she added.

The foreign minister reminded Liberians that they should not lose sight of the fact that the military is a part of the broader security architecture of the country that encompasses the police, immigration and other agencies. She asked these security agencies to collaborate under a well-coordinated framework to build synergies for the protection of Liberians within safe and secure borders. 

Minister Kamara also called on Liberians to envisage a post-UNMIL environment with a strong, well-trained, equipped and people-friendly national police force, decentralized and deployed throughout the length and breadth of this country.

 David K.B. Akoi