RENOWNED HUMAN RIGHTS lawyer and an advocate for social justice, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods yesterday stressed the need for a new focus for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as means of making the military meaningful in building of the Liberian nation following years of civil strife which had been followed by a relatively ten years of peace.
Delivering a tough-provoking message at the 58th Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Day celebration at the Barclay Training Center, Atty Woods stressed a new focus for the new Armed Forces of Liberia.
THE LIBERIAN LAWYER, a major critic of the army said Liberia should only use the military as a “last resort,” noting that even so there must be enhanced understanding and effective communication between the military and humanitarian professionals at all levels in such situation. Atty. Woods, a former student leader who had to pay dearly for his advocacy even during the days of Liberia’s military dictatorship said one cannot overemphasize the importance of inter-organizational communication and coordination during military engagements in “permissive and uncertain environments”.
ATTY. WOODS WHO served as Minister of Labor before moving on the ministry of Public Works told Liberians that there is a need to establish a basic framework for formalizing and improving the effectiveness and efficiency in relief situations.
AS SUCH ACCORDING to the former Public Works Minister, the basic humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality should be inculcated in the mindset of the military so as to deliver person driven services.
STRESSING FURTHER ON the issue of humanity, Woods said alleviating human sufferings, particularly the most vulnerable in the population which include children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities should be the order of the day. On neutrality he pointed out that guarding against hostilities be it political, ethnic, religious or other social characters must be adhered to and that guarding against discrimination (when delivering humanitarian assistance) as to ethnic, gender, religious or other considerations are cardinal to the focus of the new army.
THE SOCIAL JUSTICE advocate said a national policy framework must be developed and properly communicated throughout the rank and file of the military. He also stressed that the men and women of the Armed Forces must be properly trained and informed that there are local and international consequences for violations and those punitive measures must be enforced.
HE MADE SPECIFIC reference to the recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease which he said necessitated the debate about the new role the military should play. Atty Woods said the new role means that we should ready our men and women in arms not only to carry the guns but to have the brain power to assist our people when they are victims of natural disaster, a health epidemic or other forms of mishaps; as happened and is happening in our country in regards to EVD.
ATTY WOODS, A longtime critic of the AFL having experienced at first hand the brutality of the military dictatorship and behavior during the civil crisis must be listened to.
HE STRESSED THAT the new AFL needs engineers who can build and maintain the nation’s road networks; doctors and nurses who can go to the remotest part of Liberia and attend to the sick wherever they reside; and teachers who are committed to the education of the nation’s future leaders, our children.
THESE SUGGESTIONS AS put forward by this son of the soil must be listened to because these are all roles that can be played by loyally people-centered army in enhancing the lives of the citizenry. Indeed the new army must engage the Liberian people in ways that add meanings to their lives and needs. The need for capacity building as noted by the human right advocate which is more talked about in our society needs to find expression with the rank and file of the national army and as such the men and women in the armed forces need to develop leadership skills and abilities.