Armed Forces Day Orator tells security forces
By Lincoln G. Peters
Liberia: The former Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde O. Ajisomo says security agencies and personnel are an integral part of the electoral process in any country therefore, it is crucial that security personnel involved in electoral duties, whether police or the armed forces discharge their duties with a high sense of responsibility and professionalism to ensure a seamless, transparent, credible and violence-free electoral process.
Delivering the keynote address during the 65th Armed Forces Day celebration in Monrovia, Liberia on Friday, February 11, 2022, Amb. Ajisomo said the Year 2022, precedes 2023, which will be critical in terms of preparation for Liberia’s 2023 Presidential and General Elections, noting that electoral violence and malpractices have been identified as the bane of democracy in Africa.
He commends the Armed Forces of Liberia for submitting themselves to civilian control, in compliance with the Liberian constitution and regional normative principles, adding that civilian control of the armed forces is a primary requirement for a stable democracy, which is mutually beneficial to the military and the nation at large.
“In the spirit of Professor Samuel Philips Huntington, a famous American Political Scientist, I implore the Government of Liberia to invest in training and professionalizing the Armed Forces in order to optimize their professionalism and service to the nation. While placing this charge on our security agencies, I also wish to beseech the Government to provide the Armed Forces and other security agencies with the required support for optimum performance. This will involve the provision of the enabling policy framework, training, logistics and finance” Amb. Ajisomo urges.
The former ECOWAS envoy to Liberia also used the opportunity to charge the Armed Forces of Liberia and other security agencies to leverage on the 2022 Training Year to train and prepare adequately for the 2023 Elections, stressing that members of the Armed Forces must be familiar with dos and don’ts of rules of engagement during elections, and consolidate on their cooperation with the Liberia National Police, Liberia Immigration Service, Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, Liberia National Fire Service, the National Security Agency and other security agencies in the country.
“I wish to humbly encourage the President to ensure the sustainability of these laudable projects and also put in place more social welfare programs for the Armed Forces veterans. It is now 16 years since the New Armed Forces came on board and this is the right time for the Government to begin implementing comprehensive policies for retirement benefits for the personnel as well as a befitting Pension Scheme. As we head towards election year in 2023, I urge the political class to place Liberia FIRST, especially by working for national and collective interests of the Liberian people instead of personal, party, ethnic or sectional interests”, Amb. Ajisomo continues.
According to him, election has become a major trigger or driver of unrest and political instability, including toppling of elected governments through military coups.
He says apart from the weaknesses of democratic institutions in Africa, the electoral system is also fragile and subject to ceaseless attacks by the political class.
“Democracy is a process and one of its critical pillars is the conduct of credible elections which avails the electorate the unfettered freedom to choose political leaders that will deliver good governance. The only way electoral violence and rigging can be prevented is through purposeful planning and preparation, coordination and cooperation amongst all stakeholders, including security agencies which play a key role in electoral security, including the protection of the votes and electoral materials.”
The former regional envoy recalls that experience from recent Senatorial By-Elections in some counties in Liberia could be indicative of an evolving trend, and therefore, underscores the need to prepare adequately towards averting untoward consequences during the forthcoming President and General Elections.
Mr. Ajisomo cautions that if electoral violence must be prevented, response to crises must be prompt and proactive because the only way to ensure timeliness is through interagency cooperation, mutual trust and understanding of each other’s capabilities and roles, as well as speedy deployment, amongst others.
He adds that other necessities may include competence of the military and security forces, availability of necessary logistics and neutrality of the security forces, noting that some ECOWAS member states have established Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) as a deliberative platform for consultation, coordination and harmonization of election security in their countries.
The facilitator of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) says the ICCES Committee works closely with the Election Management Bodies and serves as an advisory organ for the efficient management and effective deployment of personnel and resources to ensure peaceful and violence-free elections.
Amb. Ajisomo: “Election is a vector or fundamental right that pollinates the enjoyment of two cardinal human rights – the ‘right to vote and the ‘right to be voted for’. In the spirit of mutual and reinforcing collaboration, the Armed Forces of Liberia has a role to play alongside other security agencies in Liberia to ensure that Liberians enjoy their human rights relating to and in the context of elections, including the right to freedom from discrimination, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of opinion, right to freedom of peaceful assembly, right to freedom of association, right to freedom of movement, freedom from fear and intimidation among other rights.”
Consequently, he emphasizes that it is imperative for every security agency in Liberia, including the Armed Forces of Liberia to collaborate with the Electoral Commission or NEC and to support a human rights-based electoral climate that would further consolidate peace and development in Liberia.
Accordingly, Amb. Ajisomo says there should be independent, non-discriminatory and transparent mechanisms in place to ensure accountability for electoral malpractices and aggrieved candidates should be able to avail such mechanisms to ventilate or articulate within the parameters of the law, their electoral grievances, without hindrance.
“Let me at this juncture commend the Armed Forces of Liberia for being apolitical in previous elections, and I wish to encourage them to sustain this neutrality. The military and other security forces must continue to be extremely apolitical in order to create a conducive environment for a transparent electoral process. Political stability is the priority of every nation, including older democracies like the United States of America, which the Republic of Liberia and Africa as a whole hold in high esteem. America is a reference point today because of the stability and continuity of its democracy, in spite of the challenges that confronted its recent Presidential elections, which illustrates that democracy, as I mentioned earlier is a process and not a destination”, Amb. Ajisomo adds.
The 56th Armed Forces Day celebration was graced by Commander-In-Chief, President George Manneh Weah, senior officials of the Liberian government, international partners, members of the Diplomatic Code and foreign guests, among others.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/latvia-army-fosters-bilateral-relationship-with-afl/ Editing by Jonathan Browne