Liberia: Pres. Boakai Calls for Lowkey Armed Forces Day Celebration Amid Continuous Protest by Wives and Widows of AFL Personnel

For the past two days, the women have carried out protests, blocking the main route leading to the country’s only international airport and other major routes.

MONROVIA – President Joseph Boakai, on the eve of Liberia’s Armed Forces Day celebration, has issued a directive for a scaled-back observance. The President’s call for reduced activities comes amidst ongoing protests from the wives and widows of Armed Forces personnel. They have urged President Boakai to reconsider his nomination of the former Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. (Retired) Prince C. Johnson III as Minister of Defense.

For the past two days, the women have carried out protests, blocking the main route leading to the country’s only international airport and other major routes.

The women had threatened to disrupt the celebration if their request to the President was not granted.

A press release issued by the Executive Mansion on Sunday evening states:

“Directive By His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr., President of the Republic of Liberia and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia February 11, 2024 Program marking the observance of the 67th Anniversary of Armed Forces Day will be reduced to a short and low-key activity. His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai, President of the Republic of Liberia and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia gave the directive this evening, February 11, 2024. The President will lead officials on a visit with the men and women of the Armed Forces at the Edward Beyan Kesselly Barrack in Schieffelin, Margibi County on Monday, February 12, 2024.”

Meanwhile, the President met with the aggrieved women on Sunday and he listened to their grievances.

According to the Executive Mansion, the women highlighted challenges they are currently experiencing at the Edward Beyan Kesselly Barracks in Schieffelin. These include retirement benefits, low salary, corruption, lack of adequate insurance, education, poor housing, lack of electricity, social services, and their general welfare. They stated these challenges have lingered on for too long without redress as the military leadership has remained indifferent.

President Boakai reassured the women that their grievances would be thoroughly investigated with a view to finding redress where possible. He promised to constitute a committee to probe into the matter and provide a report within a week’s time. In the interim, the Liberia Electricity Corporation has restored electricity at the EBK Barrack, upon the orders of the Commander-In-Chief. The President has also declared the Linda Thomas Greenfield School at the EBK Barracks tuition-free.

During their protest over the weekend, the aggrieved women described the new Defense Minister as a “dreadful, power-drunk, inhumane, impassionate, corrupt, and blood-sucking vampire.”

On Saturday morning, the women set up roadblocks on the RIA Highway, held placards, and chanted anti-Johnson slogans, calling on President Joseph Boakai to recall his nomination for what they termed as inhumane treatment meted out against husbands by him and his former boss, Ex-Defense Minister Daniel Ziankan.

“We have come here today as the voices of those gallant men who, by laws: the constitution, the Defense Acts, the Geneva Conventions, and rendering them as duck fowl organization who cannot voice out their pains, frustrations, deprivations, marginalization, untold poverty willfully, deliberately placed upon us and our children by the former defense minister retired general Daniel Ziankan and his chief architect, the modern pharaoh of our time in person of Major General Price Charles Johnson,” the army wives said.

The women again carried out a protest on the RIA Highway and in Duala, setting up roadblocks, causing inconvenience for travelers.

Major General Johnson (retired) led the army during the administration of President George Weah from 2018 to 2024.

He was nominated by President Boakai to serve as Minister of National Defense, and if confirmed by the Liberian Senate, he will replace Daniel Ziankan who served in the role for the last six years under the past administration.

There was no major protest against the defense minister-designate during his reign as Army Chief of Staff. However, there were reports of disillusionment by some members of the army and their wives over the ‘maltreatment’ meted out against them by General Johnson.

“We, the wives, represented the various military centers including the Camp Tubman Military Barracks in Grand Gedeh County, Gbarnga Military Barracks in Bong County, Todee Military Barracks in Montserrado County, Lofa Military Barracks, Coast Guard and Star Base Military Barracks, the Military Police Barracks at the Smell No Taste, Roberts International Airport, and the home of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, the Edward Beyan Kesseley Military Barracks in Lower Margibi County.

They, among other things, accused General Johnson of not remitting all of the monies and benefits of AFL soldiers on UN peacekeeping missions abroad. They accused General Johnson and former Minister Ziankan of unfair employment practices. Under their leadership, they said there was no sound retirement policy and soldiers and families lived in poor housing facilities.

The protesters barricaded the main road leading to the Roberts International Airport for hours, leaving travelers departing the country at risk of missing out on their flights due to the barricade in front of the barracks.

This drew the attention of the government and the international community. The women told ECOWAS Resident Representative Josephine Nkrumah and Police Inspector General Gregory Coleman that their husbands were deliberately deprived and marginalized by Gen. Johnson and former Defense Minister, Ziankan. Despite the meeting with the Police Chief and Ms. Nkrumah, the women continued their protest until Vice President Koung intervened. The women reportedly gave a 24-hour ultimatum to convene a meeting with the President to ensure an amicable solution.

They, however, maintained that Johnson’s dismissal is not out of the discussion because he lacks interest in former and current soldiers.

The post Liberia: Pres. Boakai Calls for Lowkey Armed Forces Day Celebration Amid Continuous Protest by Wives and Widows of AFL Personnel appeared first on FrontPageAfrica.