Liberia’s journey with United Nations peacekeeping forces has come full circle over the course of two decades.
In need of support after 14 years of unrest and two civil wars, the West African country hosted a U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2003. Ten years later, the rebuilt Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) deployed a platoon as part of the U.N. stabilization mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
On December 21, 2023, with the closure of MINUSMA, Liberia’s contingent of 162 peacekeepers returned home from Mali and was greeted with gratitude and pride.
“You are now the beacon of hope, not only for Liberia, but the region and beyond,” President George Weah said to the troops during a ceremony at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia.
When the initial platoon of 45 Liberian Soldiers deployed as part of MINUSMA on June 23, 2013, it was the first time the AFL operated abroad since it supported the U.N. operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the early 1960s.
The AFL deployed about 800 of its 2,000 total personnel to Mali over the course of eight rotations between 2013 and 2023.
AFL Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson III joined the outgoing president in praising the returning peacekeepers. He also thanked the United States for its partnership and support in helping rebuild the country’s military.
“The credit goes mainly to the people of Liberia, for the confidence they have in our new armed forces,” he said during the ceremony. “It just shows how fast, with the training and equipping of the U.S. government — I always like to call it the U.S. taxpayers’ money — that today, the Armed Forces of Liberia, internationally, has increased the number of countries it has supported to four.”
Since 2013, Liberia has contributed military observers to U.N. missions in South Sudan and Sudan. It also has provided support to the Economic Community of West African States mission in Guinea-Bissau.
Weah said Liberia aspires for the AFL to be continuously committed to the responsibility of service to mankind while also ensuring international peace.
“I have no doubt, following your remarkable achievement in Mali, both at the level of the troops and as military staff officers, that you are on the path to greatness in international peacekeeping,” he said.
Liberia and the AFL have become stalwarts for democracy and stability in the West African region that has seen increasing instability with multiple coups and violent insurgencies.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the U.N. under-secretary-general for peace operations, has hailed Liberia’s transformation.
“Liberia is an example of the tangible impact that peacekeeping has on countries affected by conflict,” he said. “Today Liberia is a country at peace, thanks to the efforts of thousands of peacekeepers from around the world. Today Liberia, in turn, deploys ‘Blue Helmets’ to help other countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.”
In the aftermath of the second Liberian civil war, the U.S. helped rebuild the AFL and supported Liberia’s entrance in the peacekeeping realm.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers congratulated the AFL in a statement. Rogers’ Michigan National Guard has worked with Liberia since 2009 through the State Partnership Program and was involved in Liberia’s Security Sector Reform through the U.S. Africa Command-sponsored Operation Onward Liberty.
“The AFL’s performance in MINUSMA is remarkable proof of how far the Liberian military has come as a professional and disciplined military organization,” Rogers said. “From recipients of a U.N. peacekeeping mission to serving as credible and trustworthy peacekeepers in the region, the AFL’s journey in less than two decades is truly extraordinary.” Source: adf-magazine.com