The chair of the senate committee on national security Senator Steve Zargo of Lofa County says Liberia does not have any external security threat but the country faces series of internal security threats which need to be adequately addressed.
He made the observation Wednesday, 2 October during a one-day Security Sector Reform dialogue organized by the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation held in the Auditorium of the University of Liberia under the Theme: “Strengthening Coordination for Operational Efficiency of Core Security Institutions in Liberia.
The dialogue brought together Liberia’s security institutions such as the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), National Security Agency (NSA), Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) and Mr. Samuel F. Dakana, Coordinator/Office of the National Security Advisor, among others.
Serving as one of the lead presenters at the forum, Senator Zargo notes that the country’s first code in terms of internal security is the Liberia National Police (LNP) which absence from the security reform dialogue raises serious concerns.He recalls that the Liberian Senate on several occasions invited the Ministry of Justice to seek clarifications on national security issues such as the recent fire outbreak that left 28 Muslim students dead at an Islamic School in Bassa Town, Paynesville City but the ministry failed to appear before the body.
Senator Zargo outlines some of the internal security threats as unemployment, health, education, economic hardship, and lack of job security, among others that need urgent attention by the relevant security institutions in the country.
The Liberian lawmaker continues that what is important is for the national security apparatus to properly coordinate its operations rather than operate separately which creates serious security lapses internally.
He wonders whether the Government of Liberia is serious about providing internal security for the citizenry when a key instrument such as the Liberia Security Reform Act still languishes in the corridor of the Legislature, which raises more questions than answers about national security strategy and plans.
Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Deputy Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Geraldine J. George, says the AFL is not a riot control force to face internal security but rather the Liberia National Police.
She stresses the national army is responsible for external security threats, adding the army can only get involve with internal security threat when the police is overwhelmed or can no longer handle such threat that arises in the country.
Gen. George discloses the army is coordinating its activities with her counterparts of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast by sharing sensitive security information that threatens one another, saying the AFL will shortly commence border patrol along with her counterparts from the three countries aimed at preventing anything that threatens their collective peace and stability.
The President of the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LINLEA) Cecil B. Griffiths says he was shock that the police crime statistics shows that murder tops armed robbery cases when in fact, people were being robbed daily here, though victims were not reporting to the police.
He calls for more emphasis to be placed on human security by providing the necessary information and coordination with community residents, who are the first instant of any criminal situation, suggesting that the government should begin to empower community watch forum for effective security information dissemination.
Another presenter, Mr. Eric N. Freeman of the National Security Agency (NSA) calls for a well organized and coordinated security information sharing among various state security institutions.
He says there is lack of mutual respect among security institutions, calling for an open corridor among security institutions in terms of information sharing on crimes and violence.
Earlier, the Director of the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation, T. Debey Sayndee, in welcome remarks and an overview of the institute operations stressed the need for more focus to be placed on the development of human security which will definitely enhance the work of national security actors on any prevailing security situation that arises.
He says it is unfair for security officers especially, the Police to purchase uniform and logistics for themselves, which makes it difficult, if not impossible to effectively perform their constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and properties in the country.
Director Sayndee specifically references an LNP officer assigned in Salala District, Bong County, who disclosed how he personally bought uniform for himself and used motorbike to enable him effectively execute police operations, which is unfair.The dialogue was moderated by Dr. Thomas Jaye of the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation. By Emmanuel Mondaye–Editing by Jonathan Browne