The Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced here over the weekend plan by her administration to deploy Liberian troops to Mali. She made the disclosure after attending an extraordinary meeting on the Malian crisis in the Ivorian capital Abidjan.
However, the President seems to have made the commitment without the involvement of the Liberian Legislature as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Intelligence, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, has noted that the Senate has no knowledge of the plan to send troops to Mali.
Speaking with this paper via mobile phone on Monday, Senator Johnson said: “Madam President took the introverted decision that will affect our troops in the next years to come. By law or precedence, the President should have given us the full detail of how the troops will be taken care of; their logistics and wellbeing as soldiers. You are aware that that terrain is a combat zone, meaning the Liberian people should be very much abreast about their sons, husbands, fathers and so forth of their safety.”
Although we are yet to establish the constitutional provision on the President deploying troops abroad, but Chapter IX of the Constitution of Liberia under Emergency Powers Article 85 states: “The President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, may order any portion of the Armed Forces into a state of combat readiness in defense of the Republic, before or after the declaration of a state of emergency, as may be warranted by the situation.”
Some may rightly argue that the crisis in Mali has no direct security threat to Liberia, but as a member of the sub-regional body ECOWAS, we are under obligation to be concerned because we share a common geographical region on the continent.
We are not against identifying with our neighbors when their house is on fire because when our own civil war raged in the 1990s, they came to our rescue. However, the manner in which we go about it as a government is very important because the welfare of our troops should be of paramount interest, particularly when deploying them in a hostile environment.
As Senator Johnson stressed, and we agreed, detail about their well being and the welfare of their families while they are away should be addressed adequately, leaving no room for contention before they depart Liberia. Although the President did disclose plan to deploy only a platoon in Mali, but experiences from past conflict zones have shown that soldiers returning home from mission abroad whether they were engaged in combat or not, developed psychological problems that have devastating consequences.
We do not wish for such experiences to occur in Liberia, but we think it is important that both the Executive and Legislature reach a common understanding on how our boys are being sent on peacekeeping mission abroad so that they can uphold and defend the image of the Republic. It would be a disgrace for our soldiers to be languishing somewhere in the desert of Mali, crying from hunger and lack of support.
We therefore call on the Commander-In-Chief to act within the confines of the Constitution in sending our troops to Mali to make sure the properly represent the government and people of the Republic of Liberia.