Ministry of Defense
The Ministry of Defense is responsible for all military activities, including the Liberian National Guard, the Coast Guard and the Army Aviation Unit. The contemporary restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia began from the Banjul Peace Conference in 1990. Initial efforts were led by Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly, former Minister of National Defense. Dr. Kesselly’s vision was for a professionally trained, geographic represented and well disciplined civic-oriented military, whose mission is constitutionally defined and led.
The budget request for 2013 totalled $15,762.466. Defense Minister, J. Brownie Samukai has called for the allocation of more resources to the security sector of Liberia in the midst of the withdrawal plan by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Speaking recently at an interactive forum organized by the Governance Commission (GC) on the "End of UNMIL and the Creation of a viable Liberian Security System: What Has Been Done So Far? What needs to be done;, When and How?" Minister Samukai said as Liberia prepares for the inevitable transition of UNMIL, Government needs to be strategic, deliberate and realistic in the quality of investment in the Security and Defense Sectors.
The Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said in order for the Army to meet its challenge of transition, it must be augmented in strength to meet a reasonable number by 2014. In preparation for this eventual changeover from foreign security guidance to a full Liberian-managed security, President Sirleaf has named a committee headed by the Minister of Defense while the Ministers of Justice, Finance, Internal Affairs; the Police and Immigration and Naturalization are members. Speaking at the 55th Armed Forces Day Celebrations at the Barclay Training Center on February 11, 2012, the Commander-In-Chief said the transition is on track and mandated the Minister of Defense to begin the recruitment exercises in the next few months; an effort which will also be bringing the Coast Guard to a company size with support from international partners as together they make the AFL self sufficient.
Since 2006 the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Liberia has been Brownie Jeffrey Samukai, Jr., "an astute personality" [according to his official biography] with over thirty years of combined working experiences as administrator, military strategist, national security expert, lead strategist on Security Sector Reform/ Defense Sector Reform in a post-conflict environment. Honorable Samukai has proven innovative skills in dealing with insurgency and armed related violence, progressive international experience in managing large-scale human dilemma within a refugee environment, and he is a skilled negotiator with proven analytical skills. He holds a Master of Science in Applied Economics (Fulbright Scholarship), The American University, Washington, DC, 1990, and Bachelor of Science in Economics, 1984, University of Liberia.
All indications are that Samukai had been nothing but a faithful servant in the Sirleaf government. However, he often returns to his home area of Lofa County, presumably to build his base, and has used his position as Chair of the Security Pillar (an inter-ministerial committee that includes donors with a mandate to devise Liberia's security strategy) in an effort to become Liberia's primary security official. While it is true that he probably had the most experience in security in the cabinet, his overreaching sometimes caused friction. Samukai had been loyal to President Sirleaf, but also has connections with other former members of Dr. Amos Sawyer's Interim Government of National Unity (1990-1994), when Samukai headed the paramilitary Black Berets. Former Black Berets are sprinkled throughout the security sector, and other members of government still hold Samukai in high esteem for his efforts to protect the Sawyer government. Samukai is also related to Vice President Joseph Boakai, both of whom are from Lofa County.
In general, Chinese assistance to Liberia tends to be well-publicized one-off contributions of goods, technical assistance, infrastructure, and exchanges, rather than sustained donor engagement in strengthening specific institutions or sectors. Since 2003, China has provided peacekeepers to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and currently has approximately 528 troops in Liberia, primarily engineering units dedicated to providing support for military projects and infrastructure improvement. The Chinese Government provided computers to the Ministry of Defense and, in 2006, pledged approximately US $600,000 in logistical support to the Ministry of Defense in the form of computers, generators, radios, and vehicles. China also offered assistance in the future rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). The Chinese gave computers to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and provided 20 motorbikes (without spare MONROVIA 00000289 002.2 OF 002 parts) to the Liberia National Police. In September 2006, 25 Liberian Special Security Service (SSS) agents traveled to China for 4 months of training.
Liberia Defense Minister Brownie Samukai denied politicizing the country’s military. Samukai was 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," Samukai told VOA 24 March 2016. "... 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."
Samukai said the Liberian military is not a political organization and does not act on the whims of a political party. Samukai insisted “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 nation.”
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|