Leadership: Liberia Imports an Army Commander


February 20, 2006: Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has made a bold move in appointing a Nigerian major general, Luka Yusuf, to rebuild and lead Liberia's armed forces. It was the Liberian army that played a key role in starting, and sustaining, over a decade of civil war. The presidents decision naturally caused Liberian army officers to protest, and call the action an insult to the Liberian military. But since military coups have long been a source of civil war and tyranny in Africa, bringing in an outsider makes a lot of sense. The arrangement includes a deal with Nigeria to provide training and other assistance. The Nigerian armed forces, although they have produced many military dictators, is also one of the more professional in Africa. Nigeria has also been active in peacekeeping, and has a vested interest in Liberia being stable.

President Johnson-Sirleaf intends to build a new army from scratch, in an attempt to produce a professional force that will be less likely to contribute to another round of civil war and disorder. The Liberian army basically disintegrated during the years of civil war. All that was left at the end was a bunch of gunmen who said they belonged to the army, and far more gunmen who followed various warlords.


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