30 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia or AFL have been dismissed for Absence Without Leave or AWOL. The action was taken by the high command of the AFL, in collaboration with authorities of the Ministry of National Defense in Monrovia.
The AFL, which is an autonomous agency of government, under the Defense Ministry, took the decision last December after a consideration infection reduction in the deadly Ebola virus. The Chief of Staff of the AFL, General Daniel Zangar and Defense Minister Brownie Samukai reportedly dismissed the soldiers on grounds that they abandoned the Edward Binyan Kesselley Barracks on the Roberts International Airport Highway during the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Prior to the departure of the soldiers from the Barracks for their various homes, seven of them died of the virus.
Apparently, for fear of their lives, the other soldiers left without excuse and later sought refuge in their respective communities.
Confiding in this paper, one of the disrobed soldiers accused Minister Samukai and senior officers in charge of reneging on the provision of safety gears for soldiers, especially for those at the various entry points of the Barracks, leaving the premises very vulnerable to anyone carrying the virus at the time.
“Things only improved when the United States Government sent its troops to help combat the virus – it was when our chiefs decided to buy buckets and materials to combat the deadly virus. Yet and still, they expected us to stay in the barracks for what?” the soldier told this paper, further noting: “interestingly, nobody ever stays away from work for more than ten days- that’s false and misleading. It is just hiding behind AWOL.”
According to a highly placed source, the EBKB was gradually becoming empty due to the bad working relations the Defense Minister continues to exhibit since the restructuring of the army under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
According to the information, the AFL and Defense Ministry have refused to pay off the dismissed soldiers for reasons best known to both institutions.
“There are benefits we supposed to receive in case the government is firing us; that part of the agreement was signed with the government, through the Defense Ministry, but at present, Minister Samukai has not said anything to us and at the same time, he warned that none of us should ever be seen around the vicinity of the barracks and Ministry of Defense,” the source said.
However, the dismissed soldiers are seeking redress, through engagements with the National Security Advisor to the President, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh and heads of both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate Committees on Defense.
Meanwhile, when the Assistant Minister for Public Affairs, David Dahn, was contacted via mobile phone, he promised to make a follow-up before commenting. Despite series of telephone calls as follow-ups by this paper, Minister Dahn mobile phone rang endlessly a response up to press time.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor