Damage control, as Defense Minister clarifies leaked audio on Army Chief of Staff
By Lewis S. Teh
Defense Minister Daniel Ziankan has clarified leaked audio circulating on social media here involving the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Maj./General Prince C. Johnson strongly criticized the Minister of Finance, Planning and Development Samuel D. Tweah for a 20 percent in soldiers’ salary.
In the leaked audio, a rather furious Maj./General Johnson is heard criticizing the cut and condemning the Finance Minister’s decision, which he notes, poses serious threat to Liberian troops serving on a peacekeeping mission in Mali where they face issues of rental and other obligations.
Defense Minister Ziankan explains that the Chief of Staff of the AFL was addressing soldiers currently on U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali via zone, noting that Maj./Gen. Johnson’s statement means no harm to the Finance boss, and he (Gen. Johnson) has apologized, without stating by what means.
“I spoke with both the Minister and the Chief of Staff; I can tell you the Chief of Staff could have said that to the Minister himself if they were to meet, but he’s out of the country and so, I have spoken with the two of them and things are under control”, Minister Ziankan, himself a former Chief of State of the AFL, says here in an apparent effort to calm the storm.
He made the clarification on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, while addressing a wide range of security issues during a live interview on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia.
However, the Defense boss notes that it was unfortunate that someone secretly recorded the Chief of Staff especially, where he was briefing soldiers and responding to their concerns about challenges they are encountering in Mali.
He maintains that Maj./Gen. Johnson regretted referring to Finance Minister Tweah in the manner and form he did, adding “Myself here, at times can disagree with the minister on key things, but the way the recording got in the public it shouldn’t have been. But I have spoken to the minister and this shouldn’t be an issue; what is paramount now is the repatriation of our troops; these are things we are focusing on, instead of talking about recording.”
He narrates those issues about the 20 percent deduction raised in the leaked recording by the Chief of Staff started far back as 2013 when the AFL was part of the African Peace Mission, after which the troops were later recapped into the United Nations Peace Mission.
He details that at that time, the AFL had a platoon of soldiers only serving peacekeeping missions, but now it has been increased to a battalion command force.
According to him, while serving as Chief of Staff along with then-Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, it was decided that Liberia had just returned from war and the government had many challenges on hand, so it could not fully shoulder the responsibilities of the troops in Mali, so as it is done in most countries, they deducted a portion of soldiers’ money to be used for operation.
“Take, for example, soldiers will need passport to travel to Mali and the government at the time wasn’t responsible, until this President decided that it should be the full responsibility of the government to providing passport and not the soldiers themselves”, something, he says, they welcome and extol President Weah for.
Minister Ziankan continues that from 2013 to present, it is that 20 percent deduction the AFL has been using for pre-deployment, noting that soldiers won’t just board a plane to travel to Mali, adding that before doing so, they have to go through deployment training, which has to do with the operations that will be carried out, including language and culture, among others that normally take two to three months and it is that same operational money that is used to take care of them.
He says upon soldiers’ return from peacekeeping mission, they will have post-deployment training, which is basically for rehabilitation as a result of gun firing sounds from the mission area and then de-mobilized for two to three weeks and that’s how the 20 percent is used. Editing by Jonathan Browne