The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Is Boakai Still Interested In AFL’s Protestation Report?

By Bill W. Cooper

An investigation done by this paper has established that President Joseph Boakai is yet to speak to the investigation report, if any, on the recent protests by wives believed to be of the officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), as the two-week ultimatum given the public elapsed.

The protests, which took place across the country by females purporting to be wives of AFL and later joined in other barracks vicinity by both male and female soldiers, on the basis of what they outlined as their grievances over the poor living conditions and low salaries for military personnel, also led to the resignation of former Defense Minister, Prince C. Johnson III (Rtd).

In February of this year, several women held series of protests, which started on February 10, 2024, demanding the immediate resignation of retired Maj. Gen. Johnson, on the day of, and after his confirmation by the Liberian Senate.

The AFL wives’ well-organized demonstration was held in Montserrado, Bong, and Grand Gedeh Counties, thus stalling normal activities, including the free movement of pedestrians and vehicles, motorbikes and kehkehs.

The protestation included the wives of servicemen from Camp Tubman Military Barracks, Gbarnga Military Barracks, Todee Military Barracks, Lofa Military Barracks, Coast Guard and Star Base Military Barracks, and the Edward Beyan Kesselly Military Barracks, among others.

During the ladies’ protest, they named the issues of poor housing conditions, stagnating earnings, and insufficient health insurance, lack of electricity and lack of schooling opportunity for their children, noting that the unhappiness of their husbands might undermine the AFL’s stability if care is not taken.

They, however, accused former Defense Minister Johnson of being the individual stagnating the Army, and did little or nothing to address the numerous challenges the Army is faced with, during his time as Chief of Staff of the AFL.

As a result of the women’s protest, the country’s historic Armed Forces Day celebration could not be held, leading to its cancellation by President Joseph Boakai. As the day progressed, Minister Johnson then tendered in his letter of resignation to the President, during evening hours.

In his letter of resignation, Johnson cited the issues of civil and political disobedience caused by protests of the AFL wives and also attributed his decision to preserving the peace and security of the country.

But in response to the women’s action, President Boakai, announced the constitution of an investigative committee to probe the incident, emphasizing that the committee was mandated to report to his office for subsequent action within two weeks. 

However, as the deadline has passed since February 26, 2024, there has been no word from the President’s office or his administration on the status of the investigation, leaving the public in a state of doubt and suspicion.

Also, the delay in providing the investigation report has raised concerns among the public, with some Liberians questioning the government’s commitment to living up to its promises of ensuring transparency and accountability in government.

Others have also said the allegations against former Defense Minister Johnson is grave, and as such, the delay in releasing the investigative report could prove the AFL wives’ allegations are right, or hamper the improvement of the living conditions and welfare of the military personnel, who play a crucial role in maintaining peace and security in the country.

Regarding the situation involving the wives of some AFL personal, the Minister disclosed that the ongoing investigation will take some time despite initial commitment by the government to come out with findings within a period of two weeks.

In the meantime, Minister Jerolinmek Piah said the government takes due note of the concerns from the public, but at the same time made a passionate appeal to the public to allow the special investigative committee to do its work and come up with a detailed and comprehensive report.

He said, “Due to national, regional and international implications that the current investigation could have, the team is being accorded more time to come out with its report.’

However, a concerned Liberian journalist, Oscar F. Mulbah, stated, “Mr. President, today, it has been exactly two weeks since you commissioned an investigation precipitated by a nationwide protest by some women believed to be wives of servicemen who had setup major roadblocks, impeded and intimidated the free movements of citizens and foreign nationals as a whole.”

“Your Excellency, while many Liberians equated the actions of these women as an act sanctioned by their husbands and labeled same as Mutiny, even our diplomatic partners frowned at their actions and described such as grave, lawless, and undemocratic,” he stated.

As a career diplomat and a renowned media practitioner, I am deeply concerned, not only about the impeccable character and hard-earned reputation of Johnson, both at national and international levels, especially in a gullible society and one with high illiteracy rate, but the picture this can paint about our country within the global community, if not properly handled,” he said.

Mulbah furthered, “Least I forget to mention, Mr. President, an attempt to keep silent on this matter would only open a floodgate of continuous and unnecessary demands by protests for you to rescind future nominations or appointments.”

“In conclusion, Mr. President, I trust your leadership, which is guided by wisdom, and have the exclusive confidence that this case, and the probe into the issues surrounding the executive pardon of some officers by the past regime who were involved in alleged examination malpractice, will not be business as usual, and Liberians and the world would see a logical conclusion, especially in acquitting or bearing witness thereto the accusations against this statesman, Johnson,” Mulbah added.

Meanwhile, as the situation continues to unfold, many are calling on President Boakai to fulfill his promise and provide the investigation report on the AFL wives’ nationwide protests, for the sake of transparency and accountability.

According to some of them spoken to, the President’s handling of the issue will be closely watched, as it will be a test of his leadership and commitment to addressing the concerns of all Liberians, including the military personnel, and ensuring their well-being, as well as living up to his promise of ‘no more business as usual.’

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