The first battalion of the
reconstituted Armed Forces of Liberia has been activated. The U.S. provided
$210 million to recruit, train and equip the new army. This task has been
contracted to DynCorp, a security firm staffed by former military personnel.
The new army will be ready in two years. Basically, the new force will be an infantry brigade, with two infantry
battalions, plus support units (the largest being a 220 man engineer company
and a Military Police company with 105 troops).
problem is finding senior officers (brigade and battalion commanders, plus a
few senior staff officers) for the brigade. There are few acceptable candidates
in Liberia. Anyone who participated in the civil war is out, and that leaves
only a handful of candidates. These require six months or more of professional
training (which the U.S. and Britain are willing to provide), and not all the
candidates may be able to complete it. One suggestion is to have U.S. Army
officers of Liberian ancestry assume the senior positions for a few years,
until Liberian candidates are ready. Ultimately, the idea is to set the army,
and its senior officers, up as a professional organization. That is, a Liberian
Army that will not, as so often happened in the past, get involved in politics.
Given that tribal affiliations are still so important in Liberia, and the
culture of corruption is still thriving, this will not be easy.
already over 3,000 trained members of the National Police on duty, backed up by
15,000 UN peacekeepers. The peacekeepers
are about to be withdrawn, in a process
that will take 2-3 years. By then, the new army should be ready to take over
the task of dealing with mob violence situations. Regular policing here is
primitive, mainly because there is so much crime, and little money to equip the
police to Western standards. Vigilante justice still occurs, and even the new
police tend to steer clear of the vigilantes, especially if they have the
backing of tribal elders.
last three years, Liberia has been
recovering from twelve years of civil war. There is still unrest, largely
because over 80 percent of the population is unemployed (not counting some
small scale farming and gardens), and about the same proportion lives in abject
poverty. There are still thousands of guns out there, and anyone so inclined
can get a knife or axe. About a third of the population lives in the capital,
Monrovia. It's the UN peacekeepers that have kept the place from falling into
really save Liberia is economic growth. Timer, diamond, iron ore and rubber
exports have long been a mainstay. There is a surplus of iron ore on the world
market, but the other three commodities are still in demand. Reviving domestic
agriculture is difficult, because one people have come to the city, they don't
want to go back to the farm. The civil war all but destroyed the educational
system, so most of the available workers are illiterate. The lack of
infrastructure and security makes it difficult to get many international
companies to move in.