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Editorial: The Nigerian Troops Are Necessary

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Recent pronouncement made by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to bring in some Nigerian troops to beef up security ahead of the general and presidential elections here has been greeted with mixed responses characterized by condemnation, denial, and outright support.

While some Liberians, including National Union for Democratic Progress  or NUDP Standard Bearer Prince Johnson are of the view that the Nigerians are coming to exclusively provide security for the President and her governing Unity Party at the disadvantage of opposition politicians; yet still, others, including Grand Cape Mount County Senior Senator Abel Massaley think the troops are necessary, pointing to the fact that the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Liberia already have a defense pact that binds both countries to cooperate in ensuring their common stability. However, amidst the controversy, news of politically motivated violence had stared us in the face with victims narrowly escaping death.

We support wholeheartedly the need for a regional intervention in Liberia now, especially as this country stands at the crossroads ahead of a critical electoral process. It is totally myopic for anyone to think that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would have gone to Nigeria to ask for security assistance without the knowledge of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. UNMIL is right here on the ground when the newly trained Armed Forces of Liberia is being headed by a Nigerian Army General as Chief of Staff.

God for bide, but if there were to be an outbreak of violence in the country at any moment, obviously the first victims will be ordinary Liberians, not the President, her immediate family members or officials of government.

Doesn’t it therefore, make enough sense for the President, who is Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, to take all necessary steps now to avoid any unforeseen violence that could revert the gains achieved in the past five years that have paved the way to go to elections? A stitch in time, it is said, saves nine. Or better still, prevention is better than cure. Good leadership is about being farsighted to see dangers ahead and act responsibly before things go offhand, and this is exactly what the President has done.

But most importantly, critics of the President’s good intention ought to realize that the international community, particularly the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS, has a stake in the stability of Liberia. While the United Nations and friendly governments have provided money to sustain the peace here, ECOWAS sacrificed both lives and resources to get this country to where it is today.

Hence, even if President Sirleaf did not approach Nigeria, which is the power broker in West Africa, the regional body will not sat supinely to allow Liberia to degenerate into chaos again because it has a vested interest – the peace of Liberia is tied to the peace and stability of the entire sub-region.

That is why ECOWAS has announced plan to send to Liberia 150 observers to monitor the elections throughout the country. Additionally, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Victor Gbeho, has also disclosed plan to send a former Force Commander of the regional military force ECOMOG, besides two former Heads of State retired General Abdusalami Abubarka of Nigeria and ex-President John Kufuor of Ghana  here to enhance security for the elections.

Interestingly, however, the NUDP Standard Bearer Senator Prince Johnson, who is vehemently opposed to the coming of security personnel from Nigeria, owes his survival from our 14-year-old brutal civil war to troops from Nigeria. Johnson, then leader of the disbanded rebel group Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia or INPFL, was rescued from his enclave Caldwell base by ECOMOG and taken to Nigeria where he sought refuge for more than ten years before he returned home in 2004 and subsequently contested for a senatorial seat.

Even his former mental Charles Taylor, who led the NPFL rebel invasion of the country on December 24, 1989, was also rescued by Nigeria when he had nowhere else to go as the combined forces of LURD and MODEL encircled Monrovia in 2003. In short, the Nigerians have no special friend or enemy in Liberia as Johnson tries to portray, but the survival of all Liberians and our beloved country.

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