The Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai has denied politicizing the Armed Forces of Liberia, AFL. Minister Samukai said the Liberian military is not a political organization and does not act on the whims of a political party.
He told the Voice of America Friday, 25 March “there is no politician, including myself, who can try to politicize the Armed Forces of Liberia.” He said the Liberian military is ready to take over national security when UNMIL’s term ends.
“The Armed Forces of Liberia is a professional entity” whose members, he said, are “completely nonpolitical, nonpartisan in the execution of their duty. So we are prepared to carry on the duties, to protect the sovereignty of the country.”
According to the VOA, Mr. Samukai has been accused of supporting the candidacy of Vice President Joseph Boakai, who, like him, comes from the country’s Lofa County. “The constitution provides that each and every Liberian citizen has a right to vote his or her choice,” he emphasized. “… And if my choice is going to be the vice president, yes, it is my choice to vote for him as I want. However, my choice should not interfere with the professional function of the Armed Forces of Liberia.”
He also told a local radio station in Monrovia that Liberians should not elect people who make claims they cannot substantiate, in apparent reference to businessman-turned politician Simeon Freeman of the Movement for Progressive Change or MPC who had alleged that the Government was in possession of list of 10 personalities, including himself for elimination.
When police subsequently called in Mr. Freemen for questioning in connection with the claim, he fled into hiding since February and is yet to appear in public. But critics say Samukai, being Minister of Defense, should not make statements that could make opposition politicians feel in insecure.
“I strongly disagree with Minister Samukai’s statement just made, because Minister Samukai was the same person that was caught on tape around here gossiping Madam President and he still remains the Minister of National Defense, so why will Minister Samukai be telling Liberian people who to give state power”, a caller contended.
When asked about his recent involvement in political activities in Lofa County with pro-Vice President Joseph Boakai’s movement, he denied going to Lofa for campaign purpose, but rather to visit family members.
“I go to Lofa County almost all the time because there where I come from. I spent most of my time in Sanniquellie, Nimba County; there where my mother lived and I even go to Sinoe County; my wife is from there, so can we say it’s because of political activities I go to these Counties? People should fine something to do than say things they don’t have evidence on,” he responded.
The Defense boss also noted that critics have also claimed that fifty percent of the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia has left the force, questioning how possible could that be, and terming the allegation as baseless.
He said to the contrary, many improvements have been made over the yearsin the AFL and there are more to be done in the wake of UNMIL’s handover of security to Liberian security forces in June.
Recently a consortium of political parties and civil society groups rallied to urge an extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) after its mandate ends in June. The groups said they don’t trust the Liberian security during the 2017 election.
An executive of main opposition party,Congress for Democratic Change or CDC, told VOA it wants UNMIL’s continued presence to safeguard “democratic governance and free and fair elections in 2017.”
MulbahMorlue, the party’s vice chairman for operations and mobilization, said some political groups did not trust the Liberian security to be impartial during the elections.VOA with additional reporting by Ben P. Wesee and Edited by Jonathan Browne