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Monday, July 22, 2024

LIBERIA: CSO COUNCIL LAUDS DEFENSE MINISTER FOR PRECEDENCE – URGES GOV’T TO PROBE SAGA

Date:

Amid the sudden resignation of new Defense Minister Retired Major/General Prince C. Johnson on the heel of continuing step down protest by wives of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has lauded him for the “honorable” decision.

Since his nomination by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and subsequent confirmation by the Liberian Senate as Minister of National Defense, the immediate former Chief of Staff of the Liberian army has come under extreme verbal attack by wives of the AFL.

The AFL wives are claiming that the former army chief misappropriated AFL funds and neglected the welfare of AFL personnel, thus resulting to engage into series of protest actions including the biggest one on Armed Forces Day as they blocked the major roads connecting Montserrdo and Margibi Counties – the Roberts International Airport (RIA) route and the Careysburg-Kakata Highway.

Accordingly, the CSO Council in a statement released under the signature of Chairperson Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, minutes after the resignation of Retired Maj./Gen. Johnson Monday, February 12, 2024, NCSCL lauded the Minister for doing the honorable thing to step down on the heel of pouring tension.

The Council noted that the laudable decision of the defense minister to resign his new position is a new precedence as Liberia strives to the height of democracy.

“The National Civil Society Council of Liberia hereby thanks Retired Major/General Johnson for being so honorable to resign in the midst of growing tension. We see this as a new precedence set by him in the democratic space of Liberia,” said the Council.

“It is now our hope and aspiration that President Joseph Nyuma Boakai will appoint a new minister who will take the welfare of the men and women in arms as key priority. The Council also calls on the wives of all AFL personnel to remain peaceful and wait on the President’s next decision,” the Council states.

At the same time, the National Civil Society Council is calling on the government of President Boakai to launch an immediate probe into the situation at hand so as to authenticate the claims levied by the women so as to establish whether they are indeed, all wives of the AFL.

The Council notes that the investigation will also uncover whether the issues being raised by the women are true or mere political propaganda against the resigned minister.

“Now that the Minister has resigned, the Council is now urging the Boakai’s administration to also pursue this matter to a proper end by initiating an investigation to ascertain the hard facts connected to these claims, because we live in a society wherein most of our issues are politically motivated. But through the outcome of whatever investigation, we will know whether or not these claims are real and whether or not these are truly wives of AFL personnel,” the statement adds.

The CSO Council, a conglomeration of all civil society organizations in the country, had earlier pointed out that the situation at hand is a looming security threat that if not solved, could create some level of hostility.

It can be recalled that following the nomination of Retired Maj/Gen. Johnson, women under the banner of wives of the AFL staged a first in a series of protest at the Capitol – seat of the Liberian Legislature, calling on the Liberian Senate under the stewardship of President Pro-tempore Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence to reject him (Johnson) for these reasons.

The petition was at the time received by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Claims and Petition, Senator Augustine Chea of Sinoe County, who then promised to relate the message to full plenary and report back to the women. The women were also given assurance by Lofa County Senator Momo Cyrus, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs that the complaint was going to be looked into before any further confirmation action.

But there was no further notice to the aggrieved protesters until the nominee and his deputy were confirmed to their new positions, and so the women reverted to further protest.

Before Monday’s biggest protest, the women on Friday and Saturday, February 9 and 10, 2024, gathered along the Robertfield Highway and staged a second and third in a series of the protest to call on President Joseph Nyuma Boakai to remove the former AFL Chief as Minister of Defense.

During their protest in a much higher number, the women blocked the main route of the Roberts International Airport (RIA), calling on new Liberian President Boakai’s attention to their grievances. Vice President Jeremiah Koung, along with Police Inspector General Gregory Coleman and ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia Josephine Nkrumah responded to the scene and promised to address some immediate concerns, such as installing a transformer to provide 24-hour electricity to the barracks.

However, in the face of this effort, the women remained adamant about Prince C. Johnson’s removal as they continued to express their dissatisfaction.

Vice President Koung then informed them vowed to facilitate a meeting with President Boakai on grounds that he was unable to address the issues alone as Vice President.

The situation resulted to President Boakai to announce a low-key observance on the eve of Armed Forces Day so as to enable him meet with the women.

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