During Armed Forces Day celebration in Liberia, law enforcement agencies including the Liberia National Police, Bureau of immigration and Naturalization, National Fire Service, Monrovia City Police and other supporting security agencies are described as Paramilitary units.
For so long this nomenclature continue to be ascribed or affixed to law enforcement agencies mainly the Liberia National Police. Arguably, describing law enforcement agencies as paramilitary may have derived from the legislation of Armed Forces Day that provides drill and ceremonies coupled with displaying weapons by the Armed Forces of Liberia and law enforcement agencies legally carrying firearms. It also derived from commonalities that include rifle, battle dress uniform and chain of command that to some extent shared by the military and law enforcement agencies mainly the Liberia National Police.
This way of seeing law enforcement agencies as Paramilitary has cautiously prompted the argument in this article intended for drawing your conclusion after careful reading.
Let’s begin the argument by firstly glancing at the meaning of Paramilitary. According to research, a paramilitary is a militarized or semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, and which is not included as part of a state’s formal armed forces.
In order to be clearer, it is important that we look at the highlights that embody the definition. Besides the hierarchical organizational structure, has Brigade, Regiment or Battalion. By virtue of the statute, military training is designed to equip soldiers with all of the necessary skills, knowledge, tactics, strategies, discipline etc. intended for combat operation on land and sea for the sole purpose defeating enemy, to seize, occupy, and defend land areas. Added to this include humanitarian operation and at a given time assist civil authorities.
In terms of subculture, research revealed that the military emphasizes discipline and hierarchy, prioritizes the group over the individual, and uses specific rituals and symbols to convey important meanings and transitions. In fact the conduct of discipline is arguably more rigid as compare to the LNP, BIN, DEA. For example, officers are prohibited from marrying to enlisted in the Armed Forces of Liberia. For this to happen, either the officer or the enlisted must resign or leave the AFL. The Uniform Court of Military Justice (UCMJ) is another essential embodiment of the military subculture. It provides redress or remedy for the rules of engagement.
Let’s look at paramilitary. Considering the key highlights explained, for any unit or organization to be categorized as paramilitary, it must by statute, training, organization structure and function similar to that of the military. For example; In Francophone Countries such as Guinea, Bene, Togo, France, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, etc.
Gendarmeries are considered paramilitary. In principle, is a military force charged with police duties among civilian populations. Arguably, they are front line border officers that act as border patrol forces, defending and patrolling the land frontiers, antiterrorism, VIP escort missions, hostage situations and special military operations in war times. In addition, they are trained to deal with armed groups and with all types of violence.
Premised upon the explanation of Gendarmeries in this article, one may want to argue that the existence of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Police Support Unit (PSU) carrying rifle and dressed in battle dress uniform (BDU) equates the LNP to paramilitary.
The reliance on the commonalities such as hostage situation, VIP escort, antiterrorism as the crutch to validate the argument that the LNP and even BIN that legally patrol and protect Liberian borders are paramilitary deserves to be viewed with serious skepticism. This is because, the statutory mandate of the LNP, BIN that clearly spelled out the functions is too aloof from the military.
Granted the ERU as an elite unit of the LNP is trained to perform rescue of hostage, combat armed robbers (armed group) as last resort, borders patrol, escort high profile criminals to prisons. However, it is not an autonomous organization with paramilitary duties sanctioned by law. In other words, it can be argued that a paramilitary agency must exist independently as auxiliary to the military.
Another fact used as a strong crutch to invalidate the perception that the LNP is paramilitary is the nature of training. Unlike the military, the LNP training is expertly designed so as to equip officers with the knowledge, skills, agility, strategies and tactics for combating crimes that threatens law and order.
In summary, it will be considered a fundamental defect to perceive the Liberia National Police and other law enforcement agencies as paramilitary based upon the commonalities arguably shared by the military and LNP. Until we can by statute have a unit or organization performing similar tasks like the military, law enforcement agencies are not paramilitary.
About the Author
Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operations from the Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana.
Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders, The Dark side of Majority Rule In Africa, The Culture of Silence; an unguaranteed grip for prolonged regime in Africa ) can be accessed online at google search and also www.academia.edu.org