2017 prelude: Ellen pounces on Armah Jallah
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued a strong warning to her political foes over the weekend, suggesting that she will not sit back idle in 2017, while they (politicians) misrepresent the facts of her regime which ends in less than two years.
The president in an unprecedented mood reacted sharply to comments attributed to Senate Pro-tempt Armah Jallah, which tend to incite some ex-servicemen, saying his comments are intolerable, and has the propensity to spur violence.
Pro-tempt Jallah is said to have questioned the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia – AFL while suggesting that the government erred or violated both the laws of Liberia and the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord thereby calling on government to provide compensation to both former members of the AFL and their “widows” in the amount of US2 million and more.
“I totally reject, challenge and disagree with Pro-tempore Jallah’s assertion,” Mrs. Sirleaf was quoted to have said in a statement reacting to Pro-tempt Jallah. “We need to remind ourselves, that in these particularly critical times when our country is going through a development focused period, approaching the transition of UNMIL, and looking forward to the holding of free, fair and transparent democratic elections in 2017, it is incomprehensible and intolerable that key actors in this administration would seek to vent out venom in the midst of the progress we have all made together,” she added The president said if Pro-temp Jallah honestly believes that the Government of Liberia still has issues to settle with regards to the restructuring of the AFL, “it was only but proper and expedient to initiate an intra-governmental discussion on the matter rather initiating a politically inclined statement at the detriment of the peace and security of the country. We certainly cannot proceed along this path”!
President Sirleaf then went on to catalogue the facts to debunk claims of violations purportedly linked to the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord or ACPA regarding the restructuring of the AFL. She explained that the ACPA called for the restructuring of the AFL with a new command structure. This according to her led the government and the international community proceeded with the process, during which all members of the AFL then were qualified and encouraged to re-apply along with all other Liberians who had interest in becoming members of the restructured AFL. The Liberia leader said several members of the former AFL embraced the process and reapplied, among them, very senior officers including the current Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Dennis -as the rest of them opted for severance benefits.
President Sirleaf reminded Pro-Temp Jallah the CPA culminated into a threefold phase-out transition periods in our national history; thus leading to the setting up of an Transitional Government, the process of disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration and the conduct of free, fair and democratic elections. All of these processes including the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia were effectively, carried out she noted.
Worth noting, President Sirleaf intimated that during the restructuring exercise, the Government of Liberia under her leadership paid the amount $USD 14, 344,000.00 to some 13, 770 former personnel of the AFL as Severance benefits; LD $ 96,000,000 paid to an additional 10,800 Enlisted personnel as salary arrears from previous governments; additional 48,000,000.00 paid to 2,970 Officers also as salary arrears, totaling LD $144,000,000; An additional $ LD 170,822,463.37 was paid to regular personnel of the AFL as Pension benefits; and $LD 2, 400,000 paid to 400 undocumented personnel. In total, $ LD 317,222,463.37 plus US $14,344,000 was paid to former members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Regarding benefits for AFL Widows, Madam Sirleaf said LD$71,160,000,000.00 in three installments were paid as benefits to 3,573 persons, even though the initial number of 900 beneficiaries swelled as the government begun the payment process. She said an additional 100,000 USD was spent by the government on the widows for capacity building.
Speaking further, President Sirleaf put the Grand total spent on both former personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia and their widows at LD$388,382,463.37 and US$ 14,444,000.00 or US $ 20,708,233.00.
She noted that the restructuring of the AFL was done consistent with the Laws of the Republic of Liberia and the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf therefore called on all well-meaning Liberians that while her administration fully appreciates the over-excitement in anticipation of the 2017 political season, coupled with the competing vested interest of some officials – the government however, strongly cautions public officials, especially senior government officials to disengage from acts, statements or comments that are inimical to the sustenance of peace, unity, security and national development. By Othello B. Garblah