The Ministry of Defense has clarified that the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has not conducted secret training for militias, warning that information of this kind spread by a representative can scare away investors and also affect job creations.
Deputy Defense Minister for Administration Mr. Olandrus Dickson told a training session with defense correspondents Monday, 10 December that the U.S. and other partners were fully aware that the AFL was training Executive Protection Service officers at the military facility and ECOWAS advisors helped with the training.
“The military was training EPS [Executive Protection Service] personnel …, and that was not the first time and some members of the National Legislature were there at some of these graduations, they were there and they spoke,” he says.
Minister Dickson says maybe people think they’re doing this against the government due to political reasons, but he warns that it is the ordinary people that suffer.
“Our people been through a lot in this country, right, we can’t afford to give them other problem,” he says, and cautions that when wrong information is put out, it has the propensity to cause chaos.
Deputy Minister Dickson recalls how a lawmaker from the House of Representatives said in a recent claim that the AFL was training “militias secretly,” but they have already addressed the Legislature and provided information to counter the claim.
According to Minister Dickson, Liberia is still fragile and it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure the security of the state, which includes journalists as critical partners.
“So that partnership is not a partnership of choice that we have to build, it’s a partnership that we have to build despite you, whether you like me or you don’t like me; whether I don’t like your newspaper or I like your newspaper, it’s a partnership we have to build for the sake of our people and our country,” he says.
Minister Dickson argues that Liberia has “one of the most professional military right now on the African continent,” particularly referencing the army’s human resource capability.
According to him, AFL Generals, Operational Commanders, and Counter Terrorism Specialists go to the same schools that the U.S. Generals and others go to for advanced training, adding that the AFL’s Engineering Command is building roads, personnel earning law degrees, and a professional Coast Guard is built.
Closing a defense correspondents training session on Tuesday, 11 December, Minister Dickson expressed hope that the discussions with the media will provide value for the relationship going forward.
Due to the unique character of the Defense Ministry and the AFL, he states that information sharing is of a much guided nature. However, he assures the Ministry and the Army’s accessibility to the media on their operations.
Minister Dickson indicates that there will be time when they will engage the media to the extent that they will understand why a particular information cannot be released at the moment when the media want it.
“But generally, we can assure you that the Ministry of Defense Family and the AFL will do everything we can to ensure that we provide you all the information necessary so that you properly inform our people,” he explains.
Minister Dickson concludes that the mandate of the Defense Ministry is to ensure as civilian overseer that the Commander-in-Chief has a “ready, robust and capable military at all times to execute national policies to ensure the safety of this country and its people.”
On day two of the training, Captain Thomas Bombo, Attorney-at-Law and Deputy Judge Advocate General at the Military made presentation on the legal operations of the Army and how cases involving its officers are dealt with.
The Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Mr. Daniel Nynkonah describes the interaction between the media and the defense family as essential and in the interest of the country.
He encourages his colleagues at the training that the kind of journalism that they must do must project Liberia’s side of the globe, and to also specialize in their profession.
By Winston W. Parley