Military Reform: Accra Peace Agreement
Military Reform – 2003
As a method of reforming the armed forces of Liberia, “a Military Advisory Committee made up of the Chiefs of Staff of the former government forces, LURD and MODEL has been established and charged with developing proposals for the reform and restructuring of Liberia’s armed forces.”1 It was reported that the committee’s recommendations would be considered by the NTGL before they were submitted to the UNMIL and other international partners. As of 2003, the military strength of Liberia was comprised of 15,000 personnel.2“Military Statistics – Liberia,” accessed May 10, 2011, http://www.nationmaster.com/time.php?stat=mil_per-military-personnel&cou…
- “Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council,” United Nations Security Council (S/2003/117), December 15, 2003.
Military Reform – 2004
The United States of America agreed to take the lead in restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia. The UNMIL began to assist the NTGL in re-documenting the personnel of the armed forces in order to produce a database of personnel records and service history. This database would be used to determine which service members were retired or returned to service.1
- John Blaney, Jacques Paul Klein and Sean McFate, “Wider Lessons for Peacebuilding: Security Sector Reform in Liberia Policy Analysis Brief, The Stanley Foundation, 2010.
Military Reform – 2005
The United States of America continued to lead the effort to restructure the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). The job of restructuring the armed forces was contracted out to the United States-based corporation, DynCorp International. This company was hired with a 3-year, $200M contract.1 The first step of the restructuring process was to refurbish the Ministry of Defense as well as the brigade headquarters and battalion barracks at four locations. The second and third components were to restructure and professionalize the Ministry of Defense and to restructure the Armed Forces of Liberia, respectively. The plan for restructuring the AFL required that a 4,000 person force be recruited and put through basic training over two years, with more advanced training to follow.2
The progress of the restructuring was delayed by the decommissioning process that applied to the AFL’s existing personnel. The decommissioning of the former armed forces personnel began on 31 May 2005. In the first phase of decommissioning, the 9,400 irregular personnel, who had been added to the armed forces after the outbreak of civil war in 1989, were demobilized. The process ended on 10 September 2005 and each conscript received $540 in severance pay as well as a photo ID card and a demobilization certificate. An AFL Grievance Committee was established to verify the service of individuals who could not provide documentation that they were war recruits. The second phase, under which the 4,273 regular members of the armed forces were to be retired, began on 17 October 2005. While this process was supposed to be completed in September, acute funding constraints prevented the program from proceeding according to the timeline. By 1 December 2005, only 2,227 of the regular armed forces had been retired. While contributions specifically to the decommissioning program reached $6M, an additional $3M was needed to finish decommissioning the armed forces. Additional fiscal constraints on the government of Liberia forced it to cut the targeted strength of the Armed Forces of Liberia from 4,000 to 2,000 personnel. Because recruitment and training of the new armed forces personnel could not begin until the present armed forces were decommissioned, no further military reform transpired in 2005.3
- “Liberia; U.S. Govt. Offers $200M for Security Sector Reform,” Africa News, February 3. 2005.
- “Liberia; AFL Gets Air Force in U.S. Three-Year Restructuring Program,” Africa News, February 4, 2005.
- “Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council,” United Nations Security Council (S/2005/764), December 7, 2005.
Military Reform – 2006
In January, a standoff developed between retired members of the AFL and the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). A group of soldiers and officers refused to vacate the Camp Schefflin military base as part of the military decommissioning exercise, claiming that the order to do so contravened the Constitution of Liberia and AFL regulations. According to officers leading the protest, the AFL could not be dismissed without a referendum supervised by an elected Government of Liberia because the creation of the AFL was an act of the national legislature (in 1908). In addition, protesting soldiers cited AFL regulations that give personnel a 90-day grace period to remain on military premises after dismissal. They also claimed that the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) did not call for the specific dismissal of the AFL and all of its personnel. In its defense, the NTGL did cite the provisions of the CPA that called for the restructuring and reconstituting of the AFL and also mentioned suspending any parts of the Constitution of Liberia that contravened CPA provisions.1 Other problems arose in the decommissioning exercise when 800 retired soldiers stormed the Ministry of Defense demanding the full payment of the $860 in retirement benefits promised to them at the onset of the decommissioning exercise. At the time, the government’s retirement package had dropped to $540 per individual. Decommissioned soldiers also protested being required to re-apply to join the AFL as new recruits rather than getting preferential treatment due to their former status in the armed forces.2
The UNMIL began receiving applicants for the newly reformed armed forces in early 2006. The Ministry of Defense established guidelines requiring that all recruits were high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 35.3 Former AFL service members that were not above the retirement age for the armed forces were allowed to re-apply to be new recruits. All applicants had to pass literacy, physical fitness, and medical tests in addition to being screened by the UNMIL. The first group of 110 recruits began basic training on 22 July 2006 and graduated from training on 4 November 2006. An additional 500 recruits had been selected for basic training by the end of the year. An additional 130 middle-level personnel in the armed forces began a 17-week training program funded by the United States to prepare them for posts at the Ministry of Defense.4
- “Liberia; AFL Command Rejects 72-Hr. Ultimatum, Wants Int’l Community to Intervene,” Africa News, January 3, 2006; “Dissolve or not to Dissolve, AFL Gives the Dying Horse’s Kick,” Africa News, January 4, 2006.
- “Liberia; Demobilized Soldiers Threaten Recruitment, Issue 72 Hr Ultimatum,” Africa News, January 24, 2006.
- “Liberia; Army launches recruitment drive in central, southeast regions,” BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, May 1, 2008.
- “Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council,” United Nations Security Council (S/2006/958), December 11. 2006.
Military Reform – 2007
The United States contracted another private corporation – Pacific Architects and Engineers – to help with the restructuring of the armed forces. The duties of the restructuring process were split between the two companies involved, with DynCorp handling the recruitment and basic training of personnel and PAE providing advanced training and construction/renovation of facilities.1
After completing basic training, the first batch of 110 recruits that graduated in November 2006 began advanced individual training. Training for a second recruitment batch, which had been scheduled to begin in January, was postponed until July. This batch of 502 recruits graduated from basic training on 7 September 2007. The Armed Forces of Liberia will be composed of two infantry battalions, an engineering unit, a military police unit, a military band and medical personnel. The first three infantry companies in the first battalion, composed of 128 men each, were activated on 19 December 2007. Though the companies were activated, they would require further training before they were fully operational.2
- “Liberia: Key Facts on the Armed Forces of Liberia,” Refugee International, September 18, 2007, http://www.refintl.org/content/liberia-key-facts-armed-forces-liberia.
- “Liberia; AFL Initiates First Infantry Companies,” Africa News, December 19, 2007.
Military Reform – 2008
The United States continued to lead the effort in restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia. The third batch of 485 recruits graduated from basic training on 11 January 2008, after which they began advanced infantry training. A fourth batch of recruits entered training on 8 March and the final batch of 500 recruits and 29 officer candidates commenced training in June. The full strength of 2,000 personnel was reached in August when the last batch of recruits completed their basic training. The first of two battalions in the Armed Forces of Liberia was commissioned in August and the second followed in December. Nigeria also contributed to the training of AFL recruits by providing advanced training to 200 infantry soldiers from March to September. Additionally, Nigeria provided a total of 5 military advisors to help train AFL troops within Liberia.1
Officer training hampered the operational capacity of the armed forces. By August, only 45 commissioned officers were in service. Officers from ECOWAS members’ militaries filled a number of key positions in the absence of adequate Liberian officers.2
- “Liberia; 200 AFL Soldiers Return From Nigeria,” Africa News, September 4, 2008.
- “Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council,” United Nations Security Council (S/2008/553), August 15, 2006.
Military Reform – 2009
The United States continued to lead the effort in restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia. The two battalions completed the United States Army Training and Evaluation Program in September and December of 2009, respectively. This signaled the end of the United States’ leadership in the restructuring effort, after which they would operate solely in an advisory role. As part of the reduction of their training role, the United States returned control of the Barclay Training Center to the Government of Liberia on 31 July 2009.1
The UNMIL began to cooperate with the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia in focusing on the continued training and mentoring of the new army. The first phase of the process ran from July until December and was concerned with military training exercises. Throughout 2009, the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Ministry of Defense, the United States Embassy, and UNMIL participated in regular working groups designed to prepare the armed forces for operational independence.
As of 1 August, only 58 of the 2,000-strong army were female. With regards to this issue, President Johnson-Sirleaf expressed determination to address the gender imbalance in the new Armed Forces of Liberia.2
- “Liberia; Barclay Training Center to Be Turned Over to Defense Ministry,” Africa News, July 30, 2009.
- “Secretary GeneralsÕ Report to the UN Security Council,” United Nations Security Council (S/2009/411), August 10, 2009.
Military Reform – 2010
On 1 January 2010 the United States handed over operational control of the Armed Forces of Liberia to the Government of Liberia. The handover also included the transfer of the armed forcesÕ military equipment to the Government of Liberia. However, for the duration of 2010, the United States continued to control the weapons and ammunition of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Training of the new armed forces focused on infantry and specialization. The United States deployed 61 training personnel to Liberia to continue to assist in the development of the new armed forces. In addition, the Government of Liberia officially activated the 50-person Liberian Coast Guard, which had procured two out of its fleet of four boats by the end of 2010. The UNMIL began specialized training exercises with select units of the armed forces, including training in engineering, military police, and signal and headquarters responsibilities. By August, the armed forces had developed an annual training plan for its members, a vital step towards self-sufficiency.
The Armed Forces of Liberia are not expected to be fully and operationally independent until mid-2012. Numerous officer positions are still filled by seconded officers from ECOWAS member states. Self-sufficiency is also delayed by the problems surrounding the adoption of an official national defense strategy and the inadequate funding of the armed forces.
The strength of the armed force decreased from 15,000 personnel to 2,000 professional personnel.1
- “Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council, United Nations Security Council (S/2010/429), August 11, 2010.
Military Reform – 2011
No further developments observed.
Military Reform – 2012
No further developments observed.