Liberia: Damage Control as Defense Minister Clarifies Leaked Audio on Army Chief of Staff

Defense Minister Daniel Ziankan has clarified a leaked audio circulating on social media here involving the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major/General Prince C. Johnson sharply criticized the Minister of Finance , Planning and Development Samuel D. Tweah for 20% of soldiers’ pay.

In the leaked audio, a rather furious Major/General Johnson is heard criticizing the cut and condemning the Finance Minister’s decision, which he says poses a serious threat to Liberian troops serving in a peacekeeping mission in the United States. Mali where they face tenancy problems and other obligations.

Defense Minister Ziankan explains that the AFL Chief of Staff was addressing soldiers currently on UN peacekeeping missions in Mali through the area, noting that Major/General. Johnson’s statement means no harm to the finance boss, and he (General Johnson) has apologized, without specifying by what means.

“I spoke with both the minister and the chief of staff; I can tell you that the chief of staff could have said that to the minister himself if they were to meet, but he is abroad and so I have spoken with both of them and things are under control,” Minister Ziankan, himself a former AFL head of state, says here in an apparent effort to calm the storm.

He made this clarification on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, while addressing a wide range of security issues during a live interview on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia.

However, the Defense boss notes that it is unfortunate that someone secretly recorded the Chief of Staff in particular, where he briefed soldiers and addressed their concerns about the challenges they face in Mali.

He argues that Major/General. Johnson regretted referring to Finance Minister Tweah in the way and form he did, adding “I myself here can sometimes disagree with the Minister on key things, but the way whose recording has been made public, it shouldn’t have been, but I spoke to the minister and that shouldn’t be a problem, what is essential now is the repatriation of our troops; these are things that we focus on, instead of talking about recording.”

He recounts that these issues regarding the 20% deduction raised in the recording leaked by the Chief of Staff date back to 2013, when the AFL was part of the African Peace Mission, after which the troops were then regrouped in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.

He details that at that time the AFL had a platoon of soldiers serving only peacekeeping missions, but now it has been increased to a battalion command strength.

According to him, while serving as Chief of Staff alongside then Minister of Defense Brownie J. Samukai, it was decided that Liberia had just returned from the war and the government had to many challenges, so that he could not fully assume the responsibilities of the troops in Mali, as is done in most countries, they took some of the money from the soldiers to be used for the operation.

“Take, for example, soldiers will need a passport to go to Mali and the government at the time was not responsible, until this president decided that it should be the full responsibility of the government to provide a passport and not the soldiers themselves,” something he said they welcome and praise President Weah for.

Minister Ziankan continues that from 2013 to present, it is this 20% deduction that the AFL has used for pre-deployment, noting that soldiers will not just board a plane to travel to Mali, adding that before doing so, they must go through the deployment training, which relates to the operations that will be carried out, including language and culture, among others, which normally takes two to three months and it is this same operational money that is used to deal with it.

He says that when soldiers return from the peacekeeping mission, they will have post-deployment training, which is basically for rehabilitation following gunfire from the mission area, and then demobilized. for two to three weeks and that’s how the 20% is used.

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