Monrovia- Officials of the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) have responded angrily to the Chief of Staff of the Liberian Armed Forces Major’s comments. The institution has asked General Prince Charles Johnson to withdraw his statement and immediately apologize to Liberians.
At a news conference on December 7, 2022, in Monrovia, the Committee’s chairperson, Cllr. Osccar Bloh, said the statement was totally inappropriate and that it was an example of the military meddling in civil affairs by intimidating and instilling fear in the hearts of people who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to assemble, which is protected by Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution.
The ECC Boss referred to the 1979 Rice Riot, in which President Samuel K. Doe divided the military along ethnic lines and used it against the people; this had consequences. He also mentioned President Taylor’s organization of the military into a terrorist group to harass, instill fear and intimidation in the community, and prevent peaceful gatherings of citizens; both of these actions had consequences.
According to Cllr. Bloh, these were undemocratic tactics that resulted in a factionalized and unprofessional military behavior that was branded as regime security, which diminished public trust and faith in the institution’s ability to provide security for residents.
The AFL has acquired the respect and trust of the public, which is laudable, he said, noting that the United States government has heavily invested in the military. Both financial and technological resources were used in the reform process to rebrand the military. He asserted that the AFL’s role is to respond to threats and aggression from the outside, and that in order for it to intervene in domestic peace and security concerns, there must be a formal request from civilian authorities and approval from the president of the Republic of Liberia ( section 2.3 e of the 2008 Defense act).
However, the AFL will only step in as a last resort when the threat is too great for the law enforcement agencies to handle. He argued that because the Liberian National Police underwent reform, the AFL ought to permit the LNP to carry out its constitutional duty of preserving internal peace and security.
He emphasized that Liberians had a drawback. The AFL should conduct itself in a way that will lessen the possibility of being viewed as a regime military rather than a national army, based on past military experience. Cllr. Bloh advised the AFL to avoid issuing warnings on internal security and public order issues because they have a tendency to undermine civilian-military relations.
“As we prepare for the conduct of the general and presidential elections in 2023, all security agencies must be seen as neutral and non-partisan. The government of needs to provide resources to the joint security for the development of an electoral security strategy to inform its operational plan protect all actors during the electoral process.”