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The Wish Center will file a lawsuit to replace Major General S.A. Abdurrahman with A natural-born Liberian

By Edmond Gray 

The succession of a Nigerian General, Yusuf by his countryman, Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman in June 2007, as Commander of the Armed Forces of Liberia, is not only damning and denigrating for one of Africa’s oldest nations, it defies all international legal wisdoms.

Under Article VII of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Armed Forces of Liberia along with other security agencies were to be restructured under a new command. The call to restructure Liberia’s security apparatus came from concerns held by a group of Liberian politicians, including Madam Sirleaf on the “brutal role” of security units under previous Liberian governments. This thirst to institutionalize Liberia’s security units was to ensure that, never again in the history of Liberia, would any government or politicians use the security to protect their political interests.

In all fairness, the rebuilding of new security machinery for Liberia not only restored its lost dignity, but that process completely removed the pariah status which it inherited from prolonged years of civil unrest. Nonetheless, how worthy is the sovereignty of a nation whose security apparatus is headed by a foreign national?

There remains to be seen, how Nigeria would allow Ghana or Liberia to head its security apparatus, when it was prosecuting a bloody Biafaran War; or neighboring Sierra Leone or the Ivory Coast subjecting its sovereign pride to a regional counterpart, from political differences?

The intentions of rebuilding a new Liberia, including its security sector may have been well intentioned. But the subjugation of its security responsibilities to foreign nationals puts the process aloof.

Would an Amos Sawyer or a Boima Fahnbulleh allow a UN-sanctioned foreigner to head Liberia because both men vigorously prosecuted a progressive struggle against the Samuel Doe regime? Should Madam Sirleaf be excluded from the presidency of Liberia because she admittedly, contributed ten thousand dollars to a rebellious process which dissipated Liberia?

It can be said that, yes, prior to the takeover of Liberia by a military junta on April 12, 1980, the security sector served in détente, or an ease of relationship with its political masters, one that resulted into a trust-deficit. This strange relationship largely sanctioned a very popular indigenous struggle. Some contended that, “the Liberian security sector was used as instrument of coercion by politicians,” and not the reverse.

Would a discharged weapon, which resulted in the death of someone be blamed instead of its user? Should the courts find a vehicle used in a felony drive by, guilty, and not the operator? Bluntly put, the security apparatus exists at the will and caprices of the state. In fact, where praises belong, the Sirleaf administrations, previous and now have done well to institutionalize Liberia’s public sector to include the security. On the contrary, the condoning of Nigerians and other nationals to head the Armed Forces of Liberia in particular, indignantly risks the territorial integrity of the once proud lone star nation, Liberia.

The basis for this unlawfully ignoble arrangement, which lends authority to a Nigerian national to preside over the Armed Forces of Liberia, arguably, came from the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement of Accra,” signed by MODEL, LURD, and the then willy-nilly government of Mr. Taylor.

Part IV, Article VII (A&B) of the CPA mandated the disbandment of irregular forces (MODEL and LURD), restructuring of a citizenry binding Armed Forces, one which is proportionally represented with a new command. While this provision vaguely mandated a Nigerian, Ghanaian, or other foreign national to serve in advisory capacities, the intention was to mostly oversee the transitioning of the AFL and other security units. But the CPA did not grant the subordination of the AFL to the Republic of Nigeria, or any other ECOWAS member country.

Moreover, Urias Pour of the Liberian Policy Research Group argued that “key stakeholders of the Liberian civic society, including the Legislature, were excluded from the dialogue and vetting aspects of the security sector reforming process.” Pour further claimed that efforts to reform the AFL and the Liberian National police, without the full participation of the Liberian people are fundamentally flawed, if they are to serve as pillars of a very weak democracy.

To say the least, the reform process has not only moved at a sluggish pace, it continues to condone the unconstitutional heading of the AFL by Nigerian and Ghanaian nationals. Under the two-term presidency of Madam Sirleaf, the Armed Forces of Liberia continue to struggle with a number of transformational issues, key among, is size.

The current strength of the AFL for a nation of almost four million people is ridiculously less than 2,500. In addition, reports have pointed to the unattractively low wage to security personnel, as the hallmark for a weaker security apparatus. Some of these reports argued that the prevalence of corruption within the security sector is largely due to a very unattractive severance package. But the argument can also be made that a third of the lofty benefits given to nationals from foreign nations, could be given to Liberians with equal or better leadership skill set.

It can be said, that there is abundance of qualified Liberians with post graduate education, including PhD, and extensive military and, or security knowledge from the United States Armed Forces and others, who can ably preside over the Armed Forces of Liberia, and other Liberian security entities. Undoubtedly, some may believe that the presence of a Nigerian General as head of the AFL is in itself a way of playing it safe.

Yet, others may argue that, in the event of an insurgency, or civil strife, the Federal Republic of Nigeria will commit Nigerian troops to quell down any such rebellion. While such ambition may be considered worthy under international law, there is something called, pacta sunt servanda—this is a Latin phrase, which means that promises or agreements must be kept. It is a private contract which in tandem implies that non-fulfillment of respective obligations is a breach of an international pact.

But history shows that these types of private pacts are nominally unfulfilled. The fact remains that under such agreements, both parties have to constitutionally evaluate the financial and human costs of committing troops to foreign crises.

Under a totalitarian administration, Nigeria may have little or no struggle in meddling in a foreign strife. However, it may not be that easy under the current democratic atmosphere, where containing its own Islamic insurgency posed by Boko Haram continues to present Nigeria’s security apparatus as a feeble entity. 

On the part of Liberia, this pact has never been ratified or approved by our Legislative branch. And because of that, Madam Sirleaf is in violation of the Liberian Constitution, which clearly grants her the responsibility to head the Armed Forces of Liberia, under Article 86; to a Liberian citizen, who is to be commissioned by the Liberian National Legislature.

Besides, under the same international protocol, there is a subsequent law, which excuses parties to such pacts from execution. Under Clausula Rebus Sic Stantibus—things thus standing: is such that whenever there is a fundamental change of circumstance, which was not anticipated by the parties other than what otherwise existed, may not be enforceable. 

And unless the change is objectively essential to the obligations of the agreement; and the instance wherein the change of circumstances has had a radical effect on the obligations of the treaty, it is unenforceable.

For instance, under President Tolbert, a similar pact was signed between his government and the late President Sekou Toure’s. What happened in 1980 at the behest of a military junta takeover? Guinea could not fulfilled its side of similar agreement, because of the occurrence of a Liberian coup d’état, which was not factored into the Tolbert-Toure’s Pact. Dejavu!

Are we implying that within one of the oldest nations, there is no capable Liberian other than a Nigerian to head the AFL? Where in twenty-first century Africa is this possible other than Liberia?

Sometimes, I wonder whether there exists any civil legal body in Liberia to take on such unconstitutionally irrational decisions. Such a move will protect Liberia’s brittle democracy.

Nonetheless, a few weeks from now, a group of Liberians lead by The Wish Center, a human rights organization, will sponsor a law suit in our Liberian courts, with the hope of replacing Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman with a natural born Liberian. Stay tuned!

Edmond Gray is a Liberian national residing in Minnesota, and can be reached at




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