In Liberia during past regimes the relationship between civilian populate and Armed forces has been very tense. As result of that difficult relationship, civilians have always been afraid of their army.
After the more than a decade civil war, the entire AFL was dissolved to create a new one in a manner to reflect professionalism and dedication to the nation. During the Independence Day celebration in Sanniquellie recently, the new AFL demonstrated that quality so far expected from them.
During a visit at the newly constructed Nimba Community College where a battalion of the new AFL was based for the Independence Day, what could be described as a first time in life was displayed. Several curious Nimba County children apparently attracted by the well dressed soldiers of the AFL decided to get close to their army.
“We saw them and we decided to get close to them but our parents say if we go they will beat us. Me, my mother told me that the soldiers were bad people, so I should not go near them. So, we were standing far from them. But one of them came near, we started running away. He told us not to be afraid. We came and they are very good people. I am not afraid of them.” Eric Quee, 9 years old child, told New Dawn.
Samson Young, 8 years old, is another child we met playing with soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Though he was referring to the soldiers as army men, he said he was not afraid because they are very friendly. “They are our friend, that’s the reason why we are around them. I like the way they look, and the way they talk to us. They play with us, we ask them question they answer us, I like them.” Samson said.
Samson was given 5.00 LD and some food items, good gesture from a generous soldier of the new Armed Forces of Liberia. He happily ran shouting “Mama, Mama,… I get gift from the army men.” His mother who had very anxious until now, tan to her child with a big smile on the face. “I was afraid because of what has been occurring in the pas. We were used to military people beating kids, killing kids, burning villages and you name it. So I advised my son not to go near. But now, I am convinced that this army is indeed different from what we have been seeing in this country.” The mother said.
“This is a new era. We are cognizant of what happened in the pass, so we are doing everything we can to gain the confidence of our people because even during war if you don’t have the confidence of the population you cannot succeed. I saw these kids reluctantly coming to us. I new they wanted to test us if we will reacting in the manner they were told, so I decided to show them that we are not what they think we are.” The AFL personnel who prefers to keep the anonymity, told New Dawn.
Under the command of their most superior officer, the soldiers of the new AFL invited children from the community to play with them. Soldiers of the AFL even shared their meal wit the kids who were seen in a very happy and relaxed mood. Some of the parents joined the celebration, a sign that they are no longer taking the AFL to be a Bookoo Man.
“My dear, we had all reasons to be afraid of the army because we in Nimba in particular are used to being flogged, killed, torture and brutalized by the army. I am convinced that it is different now.” Patrick Paye, parent of one of the kids told New Dawn.