Defense Minister Samukai: Liberia Is a Good Example of Security Sector Transformation

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 06/28/2012

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Efforts to foster political, social, and economic progress must be underpinned by a robust security sector, Liberian Defense Minister Brownie Samukai told 70 African security sector leaders on June 26, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia.

Speaking at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Senior Leaders Seminar, Samukai outlined plans to have his nation’s security forces and institutions fully operational by 2014.

“By 2014, we will have a [Liberian] general, a [Liberian] Chief of staff with adequate training and experience,” he said. The United States and other members of the international community have helped to rebuild a new Armed Forces of Liberia. The nation’s civil war ended in 2003, and the previous armed forces were fully demobilized as part of the peace agreement. The United Nations has provided national security and military leadership during the creation of the new armed forces.

Samukai said Liberia has followed a plan for a comprehensive development of its security sector, both military and police. Also, the size of the military and police forces are such that Liberia must be able to sustain them with its own resources in a foreseeable future. For example, about 2,000 personnel are in the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The defense minister acknowledged that the nation’s security sector — still recovering from the 1999-2003 civil war – continues to face major challenges, such as the issue of loyalty among those who did not pass the vetting process for the new Armed Forces of Liberia after serving as soldiers during the civil war.

“Veterans [of the civil war] that are not integrated in the army are a concern, but nor a threat,” Samukai said.

Liberia has planned detailed steps for the transition from the United Nations to national responsibility for maintaining security, Samukai said. The transition plan thus far has been successfully implemented, he said, because it has the support of the Liberian people and because it has been approved by the international community, especially the United States, which provides funds and trainers for the new armed forces.

Samukai said training is very important for security sector leaders, and must be a continuing process. He also said Liberia’s situation still remains somewhat fragile, and gaps remain in the development process. These problems notwithstanding, Liberia security sector transformation can provide a number of lessons for other African countries, he said.

The two-week Senior Leaders Seminar, scheduled from June 18-29, provided a forum for senior-level military officers and civilian officials from Africa, the United States, and Europe, as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, to review and analyze the evolving African security environment and to discuss strategies for addressing challenges and enhancing Africa’s security.

Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, gave the keynote address at the opening ceremony. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety II, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Affairs, and General Carter F. Ham, Commander–U.S. Africa Command, also spoke to seminar participants.

Article by Serge Yondou, communications specialist for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.