MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah has assured his government’s commitment to upholding the welfare of members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Weah said one of the hallmarks of any civilized nation is the way it supports and respects those who fight in defense of their country, including their families.
“The government of Liberia, under our watch, is committed to upholding the welfare of our men and women who continue to put their lives on the line to keep us safe. They are an integral part of who we are as a nation, and an inspiration to us all,” he said in a speech during the 162nd Armed Forces Day celebrations on Monday, February 11.
According to the president, this year’s celebration was designed to highlight the fact that the services and sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform fundamentally exceed the care and benefits they receive from the government.
“As a country and people, let us honor that commitment by showing our support to our military,” he noted. As commander-in-chief of the military, the Liberian leader also promised that the government would take tangible measures to make the lives of soldiers easier and better.
He further noted that the country cannot have a well-respected military if the men and women in uniform are not assured of their welfare.
“Our soldiers are under oath to sacrifice their lives for the safety of our nation; therefore, as their commander-in-chief, I am obligated to cater to their wellbeing at all times,” he said.
The president reported that significant progress has been made to fulfill his promise to build the country’s first military hospital. With the assistance of the Engineering Company of the AFL, he said the structure had reached roof level and is expected to be completed by the middle of 2020.
“For some, it was just mere words. For others, it was just a pipe dream…an illusion not grounded in reality. But as I have often told you, I am not a man of words, but a man of action!” he mentioned.
“The welfare of our men and women in arm remains the primary concern of this administration. Our military personnel should not have to pay for their own welfare.”
Having instructed the chief of staff of the army last year to immediately prescribe the appropriate policy, procedure and management of all welfare-related issues, including the current welfare account, the president reported that the disbursement of soldiers’ compulsory savings was now also in progress.
The president said he has, at the same time, also instructed the Ministry of National Defense to commence an immediate evaluation of all military barracks around the country and begin urgent repair and renovation of damaged housing units.
“Of equal importance, the men and women who are trained to defend and protect the sovereignty of our country should not dwell in congested and low-standard housing facilities,” he also noted.
He said when completed, the problem of congestion at military facilities in the country will be finally eliminated and men and women in uniform and their dependents will have better accommodations. Stressing that families of military personnel are the unsung heroes, the Liberian leader underscored the need for the nation to pay key attention to them.
“When families are stressed and distressed, it impacts negatively on the overall readiness of our soldiers. So, my administration will strive to create a secure environment and wellness programs for our military families, and provide them with a quality of life that is commensurated with the value of their support for our men and women in arms,” he further promised.
According to president Weah, the new military, though small in size, remains a ‘force for good,’ which he said is evidenced by the series of initiatives the army has been involved with across the country including constructing the military hospital, collaborating with the Ministry of Public Works on road repairs and rehabilitation, and renovation of houses at barracks around the country.
He said the troops also provide medical and public health education, comprising family planning and HIV/AIDS awareness, to communities and areas within the vicinities of their barracks.
The president believes that in a post-UNMIL environment, support to civil authority and local government is critical, thus assuring his government’s continuous commitment to provide the armed forces and the Ministry of National Defense the necessary support within the scope of its fiscal space in the implementation of civil-military initiatives, as the administration harmonizes its strategies toward the achievement of its Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.
“Over the years, our military has been involved in lethal and non-lethal operations, both internally and externally. These operations were meant to protect our borders against armed aggression and restore the confidence of Liberians in our military,” the commander-in-chief further disclosed.
“It is clear to me, that the effectiveness and enhanced capabilities of our soldiers can be credited to the quality of training that our partners have imparted to our Armed Forces, coupled with their preparedness and willingness to execute assigned tasks.”
Weah said the Liberian Coast Guard, which has the mandate of protecting the country’s territorial waters, also remains a very important element of the army, with its recent arrests of fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing activities in Liberia’s territorial waters.
“These operations not only protect and defend our territorial waters but also contribute to the economic viability of our country. We will continue to step up patrol of our coastal waters and we shall prosecute any individual caught violating our maritime domain,” he noted.
In his closing comments, the president encouraged members of the armed forces to continue to serve and protect the country with diligence, dedication, commitment, courage, and bravery, as well as loyalty, in defense of the cause of the country.
Featured photo courtesy of Executive Mansion