Military

Back to the Table of Contents

Manpower

The national literacy rate that was about 24 percent. It was thus impractical for the armed forces to require literacy in English as a prerequisite for enlistment, but the AFL did require-in addition to good health and an age of at least 16 years-that recruits demonstrate verbal proficiency iii English. A variety of English dialects were spoken in Liberia, however, and it frequently was the case that soldiers who passed the English-speaking requirement had been brought up to speak one dialect of English and were unable to comprehend a soldier speaking another. The educational shortcomings of Liberian troops hampered their ability to communicate with one another as well as their ability to operate and maintain modern weapons and equipment.

No statistics were available that portrayed the ethnic composition of the AFL in 1984 or earlier. The AFL (and the former LFF) had long reflected the stratification of the society: officer ranks were dominated by Americo- Liberians, while the enlisted ranks were composed of Liberians of tribal origin. This composition changed gradually in the 1960s and 1970s, and by the time of the coup, the officer corps could no longer be considered an exclusive preserve of Americo-Liberians. Few if any Americo-Liberians, however, served at enlisted levels before the 1980 coup. Among the indigenous ethnic groups, it has been widely reported that the Loma-whose members had participated in the LFF and in the militia before that?were the most numerous in the AFL. Doe's group, the Krahn, had been prominent in the coup and on the original PRC, but they were not overrepresented in the AFL as a whole. Overall, the AFL appeared to maintain a balance among the indigenous ethnic groups, and ethnic conflict among them was not thought to be a problem.

The personnel and the recruiting standards of the officer corps were completely changed after the coup. Before 1980 there had been no standard procedure for choosing AFL officers, but the military made an attempt to maintain relatively high educational standards. During the 1960s and 1970s, most officers were college graduates or were working on degrees while they served in the AFL. Qualified candidates could join the AFL as officers or be promoted from noncommissioned officer (NCO) ranks. The Army Student Training Program, similar in principle to the Reserve Officer Training Corps in the United States, prepared students for military careers at the University of Liberia, the Booker Washington Institute, and other schools.

The officer corps was completely overhauled after the enlisted men's coup. Many long-serving officers were retired or otherwise ousted from the AFL at the same time large numbers of enlisted men were promoted to officer grades. It was estimated that approximately 300 of the nearly 500 officers in the AFL in mid?1984 had been promoted from the enlisted ranks since the coup. Some of the enlisted men who became officers after the coup turned out to be excellent leaders. One of them, a poorly educated former NCO, was, according to observers, doing a splendid job as commander of the Second Infantry Battalion. Others, however, were incompetent and were appointed for political reasons or simply because circumstances put them in the right place at the right time.

By 1984 the officer selection process had been somewhat regularized. All officers continued to be appointed from the NCO ranks based on their performance as soldiers. Potential officers in 1984 were evaluated on the basis of demonstrated leadership as well as their level of education. By this time, the ability to read and write English was strictly required for a candidate to become a commissioned officer.

About 150 women served in the AFL in 1984. A Women's Auxiliary Corps (WAC) unit had been established in 1975 and was placed under the command of a master sergeant. The WAC unit was to administer the housekeeping function of its members as well as to supervise their training as nurses, secretaries, and administrative assistants. In the early 1980s, however, the budget of the WAC was cut, and most of its personnel were reportedly transferred to separate commands.

There was no formal reserve connected to the armed forces in 1984, although the militia had served in that role before it was disbanded in 1980. By law every able-bodied male between the ages of 16 and 45 years was to serve in the militia. This stricture was not enforced, however, and by the early 1970s the militia reported a strength of only some 4, 000 poorly trained and ill-equipped men. In its later years, members of the militia met only quarterly for sparsely attended drill practice. By the time it was disbanded, the militia was considered to be completely ineffective as a military force.

Back to the Table of Contents



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list