By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
After one complete year of peacekeeping mission in the West African state of Mali, the platoon size of about 45-50 men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has returned home.
The platoon under the command of Lieutenant Nathaniel S. Waka departed the country at this time last year to participate in the ongoing African-led international Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
They boarded a C-17 U.S. Military Aircraft with equipment and transport assets to include M1017 trucks, Ford Rangers, among others. This operation is backed by the United Nations (UN) Resolution number 2085 and is expected to be rotated after initial (90) ninety days period.
The men underwent intensive training here for about 5-months before departing the country. The deployment of the AFL to Mali marks the first international peacekeeping mission to be undertaken after the restructuring of the force. The army’s infantry platoon was deployed under the 333rd Nigerian Battalion as part of AFISMA that seeks to restore the territorial integrity of Mali.
Another infantry platoon left the country yesterday morning in continuation of the mission.
It may be recalled that on January 19, 2013 after the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf attended the UNSCR 2085 and ECOWAS summit of Heads-of-State in Ivory Coast, she officially sent a communication to the Liberian Senate requesting them to concur with her decision to pledge a robust infantry platoon to be integrated into a Nigerian Battalion as Liberia’s own contribution to international and regional peace. The Senate endorsed the President’s request but questioned the strength and financial capability of the government to deploy the men in Mali.
Liberia’s first international deployment was in 1962, when the soldiers participated in a peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo at which time the government contributed five contingents of military personnel, which were attached to the Nigerian Brigade.
In 2012, Major Emmanuel Sneh of the current AFL was Liberia’s first post war representative to the United Nations Observer Mission in Syria.
At a brief ceremony held yesterday upon the troop’s arrival at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), AFL Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Daniel Ziankahn expressed his satisfaction over the commitment the courageous men and women have brought to the army.
Brig. Gen. Ziankahn commended the men for the sacrifices and performances they took to Mali and reminded them that such effort was only applied because they were called to duty.
Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai in a brief statement lauded the soldiers for their splendid performance in that West African state and said that that was why he went there (Mali) to medal them.
Speaking on behalf of the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai firstly recognized the families of the soldiers who went to witness the arrival of their sons.
The Vice President told the gallant men of the AFL that they have won for themselves a high seat in the society which he was thrilled with. “We are proud of you. You have become ambassadors of peace. You have boost-up the spirits of the motherland because Liberia benefited from the collective efforts of West African countries during our conflict,” VP Boakai asserted.
VP Boakai observed that Liberia stands proud to note that the soldiers served with distinction and have shown their patriotism. He added that Liberia reaffirmed its commitment to the support of the United Nations (UN) work.
“We say welcome home and put your head up high. Continue to show your patriotism. As a nation, you have played our part to contributing peace to our West African brothers. On behalf of the Commander-In-Chief, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, I welcome you back home, ”he concluded.