Among those who have taken serious exception to Senator Jallah’s statement is the Standard Bearer of the National Democratic People’s Party (Party), Dr. Moses Jarbo, who maintains that the comments have the propensity to create another crisis in Liberia.
“I want to respectfully differ with the honorable Pro-Tempore. But where was Senator Jallah when the CPA was crafted and endorsed?” Dr. Jarbo wonders.
As former head of Liberia’s DDRR program representing the government of Liberia from 2003 to 2006, Dr. Jarbo tells Capitol Times that the restructuring of the AFL was done in complete compliance with the international community. “If the government was in violation of the AFL restructuring process, the international community would have raised a red flag long time ago,” says Jarbo.
“As we move closer to the 2017, people would want to score political points at the detriment of the country. We all need to focus our energies and resources on solidifying the gains made over the years instead of making statements that could incite another round of chaos,” he stated emphatically.
Senator Jallah condemned the AFL restructuring process last Wednesday when he met with the leadership of the ex-AFL at his Capitol Building office. Besides lashing at government for violating the CPA, the President Pro-Tempore also called on government to provide compensation to both former members of the AFL and their “widows” in the amount of US$2 million and more.
The Liberian government for its part has not taken Senator Jallah’s statement lying down. According to an Executive Mansion release issued over the weekend, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says recent comments made by Senate Pro-tempore Armah Z. Jallah that the government of Liberia was in violation of the Accra Peace Accord by “restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), are incomprehensible and intolerable especially when key actors government would seek “to vent out venom” in the midst of the progress the country has made over the years.
Senator Jallah’s comments, President Sirleaf averred, suggest that the government violated both the laws of Liberia and the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord.
“We need to remind ourselves, that in these particularly critical times when our country is going through a development focused period, approaching the transition of UNMIL, and looking forward to the holding of free, fair and transparent democratic elections in 2017, it is unfortunate that the Senate Pro-tempore has not taken up time to review the Comprehensive Peace document before making those statements,” President Sirleaf intoned.
She said such comments have the proclivity to reverse the gains made in the maintenance of peace, stressing that Senator Jallah’s outburst is intended to garner unfair political advantage.
“I totally reject, challenge and disagree with Pro-Tempore Jallah’s assertion. If the Pro-tempore honestly believes that the Government of Liberia still has issues to settle with regards to the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia, it was only but proper and expedient to initiate an intra-governmental discussion on the matter rather initiating a politically-inclined statement at the detriment of the peace and security of the country. We certainly cannot proceed along this path,” she added.
President Sirleaf then went on to catalogue the facts to unmask claims of violations purportedly linked to the Accra Peace Accord regarding the restructuring of the AFL.
She explained that the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord called for the restructuring of the AFL with a new command structure. This, according to her, led the government and the international community to proceed with the process, during which all members of the AFL then were decommissioned and encouraged to re-apply along with all other Liberians who had interest in becoming members of the restructured AFL.
The Liberian leader said several members of the former AFL embraced the process and reapplied, among them, very senior officers, including the current Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Dennis. The majority of the AFL opted for severance benefits instead of reapplying.
President Sirleaf reminded Pro-Temp Jallah that the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) culminated into a threefold phase-out transition period in the country’s history, leading to the setting up of a Transitional Government, the process of disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration and the conduct of free, fair and democratic elections. All of these processes, including the restructuring of the AFL, were effectively, carried out, she noted.
Worth noting, President Sirleaf intimated that during the restructuring exercise, the Government of Liberia under her leadership paid the amount US$14, 344,000 to some 13, 770 former AFL personnel as severance benefits; L$ 96,000,000 paid to an additional 10,800 enlisted personnel as salary arrears from previous governments; additional LD48,000,000 paid to 2,970 officers also as salary arrears, totaling L$144,000,000.
An additional L$170,822,463.37 was paid to regular personnel of the AFL as pension benefits; and L$2, 400,000 paid to 400 undocumented personnel.
In total, L$ 317,222,463.37 plus US$14,344,000 was paid to former members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President Sirleaf explained.
Regarding benefits for AFL Widows, Madam Sirleaf said L$71,160,000 in three installments were paid as benefits to 3,573 persons, even though the initial number of 900 beneficiaries swelled as the government begun the payment process.
She said an additional US$100,000 was spent by the government on the widows for capacity building.
Speaking further, President Sirleaf put the grand total spent on both former AFL personnel and their widows at L$388,382,463.37 and US$14,444,000. Both Liberian and United States dollars would accrue to US$20,708,233.
The Liberia Chief Executive said the restructuring of the AFL is consistent with the Laws of the Republic of Liberia and the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf therefore called on all well-meaning Liberians to understand that while her administration fully appreciates the over-excitement in anticipation of the 2017 political season, coupled with the competing vested interests of some officials, the government, however, strongly cautions public officials, especially senior government officials, to disengage from acts, statements or comments that are inimical to the sustenance of peace, unity, security and national development.