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Setting The Wrong Precedent Liberia- Making Another History

By Gideon Nma Scott, Jr.

From February 10-12, a group of women under the banner of “Army Wives Association” blocked major highways and streets that lead to the country’s capital, demanding that Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson III resigns his post as Minister of National Defense.

Following his nomination by the President, the group gathered at the Capitol Building, and they called on the Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence not to confirm the nominee, on allegation that while serving as Chief of Staff, General Johnson did not work to improve the living condition of their husbands, cut their salaries and benefits, refused to settle the full benefits of some of their husbands who went on UN peacekeeping missions, others.

Gen. Johnson, the second Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, who was retired from the military and appointed as the Minister of National Defense after serving in his previous position for six years with direct command and control over the Army, got the shock of his life to see his young career slip away from his grip into thin air.

In a meeting with President Joseph Boakai, on February 10, the ‘soldiers’ wives’ accused Johnson of corruption, low salary and incentive, lack of insurance, poor housing facility, lack of education programs for their children, and retirement benefits for their husbands.

They informed the President that those issues have long been on the table, but were not given due attention by the General or his bosses.

In response to their issues, the President assured them that their grievances would be looked into carefully so as to find remedy where possible, and called on them to return to their barracks. 

As a means to immediately address some of their issues, President Boakai announced that the Linda Thomas Greenfield School at the EBK would be tuition free and ordered the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to ensure that all military facilities are connected to its power grid.

But the President’s appeal to the women fell on deaf ears, and in disrespect to the Commander in Chief (CIC) of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the wives of soldiers in other counties where the military are posted, like Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh, joined the protest, thereby forcing the recently confirmed Minister of National Defense to resign his post.

In his resignation, Gen. Johnson denied all allegations leveled against him, but was stepping down from his post for the common good of the country.

The pressure exerted by those women claiming to be wives of some personnel of the army should not be allowed in the administration of national duties. Their “husbands” in an oath of affirmation to the military, pledged to be loyal, dutiful, and disciplined, as well as defend the State from all forms of aggressions and protect the territorial boundaries of our country, which these acts of their ‘wives’ completely contravened.

I believe that if the President, who is the Commander in Chief of the AFL, had ordered their husbands to stand down, they would have obeyed, but for few women under the disguise of being wives of AFL to disrespect the President on his first military order as Commander in Chief is something that needs to be looked into.

That the “wives of the AFL” have openly disrespected the President of the country through their protest which called for the resignation of Gen. Johnson, we should not be surprised to see the “wives of the police” or the “girlfriends of the DEA” or even the “children for the LIS” demanding the resignation of a particular government official.

Now that Major General Prince Johnson has resigned from his post as Minister of National Defense, let it be known that a precedent has been set for the appointment and removal of people designated to work in the Executive Branch of government, because we will soon see or hear the “wives of journalists’’ calling for the appointment of one of their own to be justice minister, even though the suggested individual has no legal knowledge whatsoever.

While many Liberians have so much respect and admiration for our first-class citizens, I believe that, in having their wives in the streets in the name of calling for the removal of a particular government official, they have fallen beneath the bar.

But to speak to the point: Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson was Chief of Staff of the Armed forces of Liberia for six consecutive years, and before ascending to the post, he was the first Commanding General of the AFL. Where were they when he had direct command and control over their husbands? Were the schools and clinics at the various barracks not government institutions? Was he the one who built those housing units or did he harmonize the salaries of their husbands?

I hope that these purported wives of AFL personnel have facts to the many allegations against the General and answer to the questions that ran through their protest.

Let it be known that the pressure exerted by the “Wives of the AFL” to have a minister of government to resign his post has set the wrong precedent and that we, as a country, have made another history.   

I am of the conviction that the once “Force for Good” which is our nation’s pride, will begin to use their wives to express their disenchantment through protestation- it won’t be long to see these very women with their husbands’ weapons, making another demand in the name of soldiers’ wives.

These soldiers should be brought to the attention that as first-class citizens, their public appearance speaks volume to the understanding of the many Liberians whose sons and daughters are bearing the nation’s flag. This is a country of Law and not men.

I am encouraging the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia to reinstitute discipline in his army and bring to book all those wives and their husbands in our Army or risk being targeted by these very soldiers through their ‘wives’ for something else.

Lizard and Crocodile are all reptiles.

*The Thought of the son of a professional Kru woman. 

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