Nigerian Military and Peace Restoration in Liberia
By Adulsalam Mahmud
Two to three decades back, Liberia, one of Nigeria’s West African brother, was politically unstable. Recurring take over of democratic governments or better still, military coups, further fueled instability in the country.
The first Liberian Civil War, which claimed over 200,000 lives, and displaced over a million, started as an internal conflict in 1989 but spilled over to 1997.
Countries under the ECOWAS bloc and the United Nations had to intervene to restore peace. But the peace was shortlived as in 1999, the second Liberian Civil War broke out with massive casualties and destruction.
Sometime in August 1990, the 16-member ECOWAS deployed a joint military intervention force, the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), which was led by a Nigerian contingent, as part liberating the West African State.
The troops helped establish an interim government, halted the bloodletting and allowed the evacuation of foreign nationals trapped in the conflict.
The Liberian civil wars are regarded as Africa’s bloodiest. During the protracted conflict, children soldiers were used in battles between armed groups. The wars also recorded one of the worst forms of human rights violations.
By the end of the final war, more than 250,000 people had been killed and thousands displaced.
It was during those dark days that Nigeria played the role of a ‘Big Brother’ to Liberia. It heavily deployed thousands of troops, on several occasions, to Monrovia, the capital and other cities in the West African State, to help restore peace, and order.
Nigeria, had in October 1990, deployed over 5,000, about 84%, of the 6,000 troops that were sent to Liberia during the first civil war, which began in 1989.
Between 1991, 1992 and 1993, when the ECOMOG Standing troops rose to 12,000, Nigeria alone contributed 10,000, about 83%.
Nigerian peacekeepers were also deployed to Liberia under the UN Mission in Liberia (UNSMIL), which was established in September 2003, to monitor a ceasefire agreement, following the resignation of President Charles Taylor and the conclusion of the second Liberian Civil War.
19 years after the formation of UNSMIL, the Chief of Staff (CoS), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Maj. Gen. Prince Charles Johnson III has showered encomium on the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) for playing a vital role in the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia.
He also paid glowing tributes to late Lieutenant General LN Yusuf and Major General SA Abdurrahman, who served as the first and second CoS of the new AFL before handing over to an indigenous CoS.
Gen. Johnson gave the commendation and tributes when he visited the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja.
The visiting CoS was accompanied by Colonel JS Willie (Commander Liberia Coast Guard), Colonel ON Ejiga (a Nigeria, who is a Senior Adviser ECOWAS Adversory Training Team to Liberia) and Captain JJ Dwanah (Liberia Military Pilot).
He said that Nigeria and Liberia have had long standing defence and bilateral relations, admitting that, “today Liberia has witnessed seventeen years of relative peace and stability because of the sacrifices of men and women of the AFN, for which Liberia is ever grateful and indebted to Nigeria”.
As an expression of Liberia’s depth of gratitude, he said, a befitting memorial was being planned to honour and immortalize the AFN in the annals of Liberia’s history especially, those who paid the supreme price with their lives to bring peace to Liberia.
The CoS Liberia who had attended the graduation ceremony of Senior Course 44 Students of Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) in Jaji, Kaduna a day before, said the courtesy call on the CDS was to also enable him seek possibility of enhancing the existing defence ties in order to tackle contemporary threats facing the West African sub-region and Africa at large.
He further stated that AFL personnel were already gaining from the training arrangements with AFN, noting that the AFL was benefiting immensely from the professionalism, expertise and experiences of their Nigerian counterpart, which would help in addressing future threats in Liberia and the West Africa sub-region.
Responding, the CDS, General Irabor said the AFN remains proud to have actively participated in the restoration of peace, law and order to Liberia during the period of the country’s security challenges.
Irabor assured that the AFN will continue to render the needed support to AFL in building its capacity required to undertake the responsibilities of defending and securing Liberia.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari was supportive of the AFN’s engagements in Liberia, which was in accordance with the President’s commitment in ensuring peace and stability in West Africa and the whole of Africa.
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Report By: PRNigeria.com