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Arthur B. Dennis

I Differ in Part with B. J. Samukai's Security Reform Proposals

Arthur B. Dennis

At the All Liberian National Conference held April 14-16, 2005 in Columbia, State of Maryland, B. J. Samukai, Jr, a long time friend who and I served in the military with nickname "academic," presented a paper containing a wide range of Military and Security Reform Proposals not only for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) but also for the entire civil security agencies. Good job, "academic" but I differ in part with some of the reform proposals.

Where I differ in the Reform Proposals

Firstly, I differ with the content of the proposed reform plan. The Plan is overloaded and too heavy to be implemented in this relatively short period of time by the Transitional Government. For example, the regional and international exposure of our new military officers through bilateral cooperation, the re-establishment of the International Military and Educational Program (IMET), the Army Student Training Program (ASTP), relocation of the Barclay Training Center, changing the name of the AFL, the abolition of the Joint Security Commission created by law, etc. are completely outside the mandate of the Transitional Government. These are medium and long-term reform tasks that should be reserved for the elected government. The short-term mandate of the Transitional Government as stipulated under VII of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is twofold: (a) To disband the irregular forces, and (b) To restructure the AFL as well as other Para-military agencies created by law.

Secondly, I differ with the way the problem areas for reform were identified. In so doing, Samukai places too much emphasis on the failures of the AFL as well as the Para-military agencies with no single comment on their past accomplishments. Furthermore, he describes the activities of the AFL and the Para-military agencies in the war as if the entire service members of these institutions are all bad guys. It is unthinkable. However, while it is true that some of the bad guys in these security institutions committed unspeakable war crimes in the conflict, there are some good guys in there who came out with clean hands in the war, as such, they should not be indicted on the basis of collective guilt. Their job experience and skills could be used in the near future to train new service members in the restructured military and police.

Moreover, let us bear in mind that in the years before the war, the activities of the military and Para-military agencies were not a complete nuisance to the taxpayers. For example, in 1960, the AFL served with honor on the UN the peacekeeping mission to Congo; under the Tolbert and Doe Administrations, the AFL constructed roads and bridges; it built public buildings and health centers; it was involved in food production, etc. Similarly, following the reorganization of the Police under the USAID program in 1962, the Police became very effective in professionally maintaining law and order. Even under Samukai's leadership during the course of the war, the Police exhibited some remarkable level of professionalism in the execution of their duties.

Therefore, it would have been fair for comment to be made on their accomplishments as well as on their failures so that policymakers will be able to know where to carry out the necessary reforms that will make our national security agencies more responsive to the security needs of Post-War Liberia.

Thirdly, I differ with the inconsistency in the entire Reform Plan. In some part, the Plan endorse the need to restructure the military and the other security agencies, yet in the end, the Plan proposes Option I, Option II, and Option III measures in order to demobilize or discharge all service members of the military and the police recruited before 1971 and from 1971 up to 2003 with no option for future re-enlistment. To better understand my points, let me briefly review the military science of demobilization.

The term "demobilization" is the contra-positive for mobilization. Both terms were created to provide opportunity for the President in his capacity as Commander-In-Chief to deal with crisis situations, especially in the event of war. In so doing, our National Defense Law (LCL Vol. II) empowers the President to increase the strength of the military by ordering all able bodied citizens into active duty to defend the nation. This process whereby citizens are called into active duty in time of war to augment the strength of the military is known as "mobilization."

At the end of the war, the very citizens who were called into active duty will then be honorably discharged and given certain lump-sum benefits so that the military can return to its pre-war strength. The discharged citizens will then be placed on Reserve list to be recalled in the event another outbreaks of war. Thus, the process whereby mobilized citizens are honorably discharged at the end of the war for the military to return to its pre-war strength is known as "demobilization" or "downsizing by demobilization."

In military science as well as under Liberian Defense Law, regular service members in active duty prior to any war are not subject to "demobilization." However, if the circumstances demand that the strength of the military be further reduced or downsized to make way for new service members to be recruited, the law provides that regular service members who are eligible for honorable discharge for long-service, physical disability and old-age be given life-time retirement benefits, while those with character deficiency and bad human right records from the war be dishonorably discharged with no benefits. The honorably discharged service members will then be placed on Reserve with an option for future re-enlistment. This process whereby regular service members are discharged to reduce the strength of the military is known as "downsizing by separation."

Therefore, whenever the term "demobilization" is used in reference to active military service, it means reducing the strength of the military by honorably discharging mobilized citizens who were recruited in the war by state actors. In contrast, whenever the term "demobilization" is used in reference to irregular forces such as rebel factions, vigilante groups, etc, it means completely disbanding the units of unlawful combatants recruited in the war by non-state actors.

In our situation, the civil war started December 24, 1989 and ended August 2, 1997 with the inauguration of President Charles Taylor. But the war resumed in April 2000 and finally ended August 18, 2003. Meaning, under our law and the doctrine of military science, those recruited in the military and the Police before December 24, 1989 are the regular service members who should be subject to downsizing by separation (if need be), while those recruited after December 24, 1989 are the mobilized service members who should be subject to demobilization. Having clarified these points, let us now analyze Option I, Option II, and Option III proposals as contained in Samukai's presentation.

Option I: Persons within the Military or the Police who were recruited either in 1971 or prior to 1971 with concurrent years of service up to 2003 but not less than 24 years of service in 2003, should be demobilized without option for future active service…with payment of salary arrears up to June 2005…. In other words, Samukai is saying that all persons within the military and police either in 1971 or prior to 1971 should be demobilized (apparent reference to discharge) and given certain lump-sum benefits without option for future re-enlistment.

I strongly differ with Option I because firstly, as I indicated in the foregoing, those who were in the military and the Police either in 1971 or prior to and after 1971 are regular service members. Secondly, as I also indicated in the foregoing, the term "demobilization" does not apply to regular service members. Instead, it applies only to mobilized citizens and unlawful combatants.

Thirdly, as far as the doctrine of military science and our National Defense Law are concerned, honorably discharged regular service members are entitled to life-time retirement and pension benefits, whether in peacetime, wartime or at the end of a war. Only mobilized service members (and at times unlawful combatants) are entitled to lump-sum benefits. Fourthly, I also indicated in the foregoing that honorably discharged regular service members are usually placed on Reserve list with option for future re-enlistment if they meet the re-enlistment requirements. Therefore, Option I violates the doctrine of military science and the Defense Law of Liberia.

Option II: Persons within the Military and or the Police were recruited from 1980 with concurrent years of service up to 2003 but not less than 14 years of service up to 2003, should be demobilized without option of future service… with payment of salary arrears up to 2005. In other words, Samukai is proposing that those who were recruited from 1980 in the Military or Police up to 2003 should be demobilized (apparent reference to discharge) with certain lump-sum benefits without option for future re-enlistment.

Here again I differ. Because those recruited from 1980 up to December 24, 1989 are regular service members who deserve statutory discharged treatments once they meet the eligibility requirements... Therefore, Option II also violates the Defense Law and the doctrine of military science.

Option III: Persons within the Military or the Police who were recruited from 1990 with concurrent years of service up to 2003, should be demobilized… with certain lump-sum benefits, including salary arrears up to June 2005. Under Option III, Samukai is right on target. People recruited in the military and the police from December 24, 1989 up to August 2003 are mobilized citizens and so they should be demobilized.

On the issue of abolishing the Militia, Samukai needs to be informed that since April 12, 1980, militia units have been abolished in Liberia and replaced by Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Air Force Reserve, including Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Militia Units were first established in the United States following the 1776 Revolutionary war, and their role was to provide citizen soldiers to the military in time of war. But in 1908, they were abolished and replaced by Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air Force Reserve including ROTC. Although the Reserve maintains the traditional role of the militia, the term "militia" is no longer in the dictionary of military science.

Concluding Comments

Indeed, Samukai made some comments on the reorganization of the military and other security institutions, but his proposed demobilization measures under Option I, II and III seem to suggest that he wants the entire military and the police to be completely disbanded probably to make way for a new military and a new police. Here are the clues.

Firstly, as I indicated from the beginning, Samukai places too much emphasis on the weaknesses of the military and police so much so that any legal minded person would conclude that he is building a case in an indictment against the service members of these institutions, rather than identifying the problem areas for reform.

For example, in the introduction of his presentation, he said "Unfortunately, our military and security institutions became brutal instruments of human rights violations and state sponsored acts of terrorism. Command leadership became tribalized, factionalized, and their actions politically driven…" Commenting further on P.3 of his presentation, he said "the constitutional rationale under which the military was to benefit from retirement and pensions did not anticipate the brutal nature of men in arms, neither did it foresee that personnel of our military and security institutions would be involved in atrocities as well as creating and supporting warring factions, and violating their constitutional responsibilities. The burden of proof herein rests with the military and security organizations…" Here, he is justifying why regular service members should be discharged with lump-sum benefits (not pensions) as contained under Option I and II.

Secondly, under Option I Samukai proposes that persons within the military or the Police recruited either before 1971 or in 1971 and up to 2003 be demobilized (apparent reference to discharge) with lump-sum benefits without option for future re-enlistment. Under Option II, he proposes that persons within the military or police recruited from 1980 up to 2003 be demobilized (apparent reference to discharge) with lump-sum benefits without option for future re-enlistment; and under Option III he proposes that persons recruited from 1990 up to 2003 be demobilized (apparent reference to discharge) with lump-sum benefits.

Now, if all persons within the military and police who were recruited before 1971 and those who were recruited from 1971 up to 2003 should be discharged with lump-sum benefits with no option for future re-enlistment as contained under Option I, II and III, it means at the end of the day, no person will remain in the military and police. Of course, in military science, the process whereby military units and their service members are completely disbanded in such a manner is known as "demilitarization." We believe this is exactly what Samukai's Reform Plan seeks to achieve, especially so given the interest he developed to quote the World Bank Paper which states that the transition from war to peace is marked by the need to stabilize the economy and demilitarize the country….

However, perhaps Samukai needs to be reminded that the Transitional Government was not mandated by the CPA to disband the military or dismantle any statutory security agency to create a new one. Instead, it was mandated to disband only units of unlawful combatants and thereafter to restructure the AFL as well as other para-military agencies. Even the mandate of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) as contained in the Press Conference held at the U. S. Embassy in last February is to restructure, train, and upgrade the Liberian military.

Therefore, the gradual building of a restructured Police involving the phase by-phase recruitment as well as training and deployment currently being carried under the Transitional Government is precisely the restructuring exercise needed for the AFL and other security agencies. As such, we should support the Transitional Government and the Security Sector Reform with proposals that are directly related to reorganization, rather than demilitarization. THE END

 
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