By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) under the Ministry of National Defense has commenced activities marking its 58th anniversary celebrations which are expected to climax on Wednesday, February 11, at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia.
The AFL is expected to hold a one day symposium today under the theme, “Military Support to Civil Authorities: The Way Forward,” at the Monrovia City Hall while the parade ceremony to climax the entire celebrations will take place on Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. in the Barclay Training Center.
On Saturday, the medical team of the AFL in collaboration with members of the infantry battalion paid a one day visit to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to carry out its customary civil military operations as part of the AFL Day’s activities.
The AFL Commanding General, Prince C. Johnson said communities in Buchanan City were earmarked for the clean-up campaign which is the Army’s way of showing appreciation to citizens and showcasing soldiers’ interaction with the public as it relates to being the citizens’ army.
Col. Johnson said last year’s anniversary, the soldiers visited the West Point Community in Monrovia to demonstrate that the army is for the people and this year’s celebration beginning with Buchanan City is a showcase that the military is poised to decentralizing the activities of the AFL’s civil military operations.
The activity which is to boost the morale of the AFL in that port city witnessed the appearance of 150 soldiers including high ranking officers and their United States military counterparts who took to the streets to give the city a face-lift along with the City Corporation and the County Health Team.
The back-to-school initiative which carried two phases began at the Fair Ground with the medical team providing all materials needed for schools to 40 of the children who were orphans of parents who had died from Ebola or the HIV and AIDS Viruses in the county.
Presenting the gifts to the children, the Chief Medical Officer of the AFL, Josiah George, said the gesture was the AFL’s way of impacting the vulnerable children of Grand Bassa County. He recognized that there are more children affected by the menace and regretted that the AFL could not cover them all.
The medical team’s motto for the outreach was, “Enhancing AFL Capacity for Humanitarian Aid,” which also took the team to identify with three schools and the only community college in the county. At the schools and college, the AFL presented six hand washing buckets each and also one carton of disinfectants each.
The schools visited were the Bassa High School, the SDA High School and the Gbandi Community Junior High School along with the Grand Bassa Community College. Cpt. Joseph Kowo said the gesture was a tradition carried out every year by the AFL during this time of celebrations.
He said most times, the medical team provided direct treatment to residents under its access to health care program but due to the Ebola outbreak, the team had decided this year to pay attention to those who were affected directly in consultation with the County Health Team.
Cpt. Kowo who estimated the cost of the items that included book bags, copy books and other school accessories as well as sneakers, sanitizers and clothing to US$ 3, 500 as the beneficiaries were between ages of 5-17 years old and noted that the program was supported by the United States Government through the Ministry of National Defense’s Department of Defense HIV and AIDS Program.
At the Community College, the Director of Health Sciences, ZenasFlomo thanked the AFL for the gesture even though he said due to the Ebola virus which has left more problems, the situation of the HIV and AIDS is gradually being neglected by partners in the county.
He called on others to continue from where the Army had stopped adding, “Years back, we were afraid of our Army but today we are free to partner with them because of the role they are playing in society.”
Meanwhile, this celebration would also mark the first anniversary of Liberia’s successful take-over of its own Army under the leadership of Chief of Staff, Daniel Ziankahn, even though the Liberian government and the Ministry of National Defense mourn the passing of the former Commanding General Suraj A. Abdurrahman whose role cannot be detached from the restructuring of the AFL.