Washington, D.C -The glamorous conference hall of the Double Tree Crystal Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, served as the common vertex which peopled seventy participants from thirty-two countries across Africa. The occasion was tagged, “Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Seminar”, under the sponsorship of the Unites States Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS).
The Hall was flagged with different shades of colors representing thirty-two countries, including Africa's newest, Southern Sudan.
Journalists have earlier mounted their giant cameras parallel to the interpreters' (English, French and Portuguese) booth south of the hall. Other photographers and non-participant observers, by their own choosing, sat either at the right or left flank of the hall. I choose the left flank temporarily for no obvious purpose in mind. Seated, I heard two photographers (whitefemales )
whispering as opposed to gossiping, saying, “The speaker for this session is a Fullbrighter”. I turned and looked at them and slightly nodded approvingly. One of them picked up my gesture and quipped, “Do you know him?” “Hmnn”…, trying to construct my thoughts, suddenly one of the ladies interrupted, “He's the one on the scale right now”.
“What does all this amount to?”, I said to myself throatedly. Then I remembered been told that four speakers have earlier preceded the expected speaker. They included Lieutenant General Njuki Mwaniki, Head of the Kenya National Defense Academy, Ms Amanda J. Dory,U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Mr. Johnnie Carlson, U.S Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and AFRICOM's Commander, General Carter F. Ham. It was now understandable while the facial expressions from the participants' suggest that the intellectual bar at this point in time has risen exponentially.
Fast forward, it is nearly five past Eight-O- Clock in the morning and everyone in the Hall awaits with highly expectation to hear the much “whispered about” speaker. The Director of the ACSS, Ambassador William Bellamy walks to the podium. He uses all the positive superlatives at his command and introduces Honorable Brownie J. Samukai, Jr, Minister of National Defense, Republic of Liberia as the distinguished speaker. Minister Samukai now receives a wind fall of applause interspersed with high level of civility from the audience as he mountsthe podium. The Minister readjusts his spectacles, stretches out his hand into his folder for his prepared text. In charge of the microscope, Minister Samukai now unfurls his thoughts on the topic-“PROFESSIONAL
SECURITY EDUCATION IN LIBERIA: ITS ROLE IN SECURITY SECTOR REFORM”
Director William Bellamy, it is a privilege and pleasure being here once again, among friends and professionals. Many thanks for the invitation. I would also like to thank Ambassador Sulunteh, former Minister of Labor, for being here this morning. One cannot help but respect the diversity of professional opinions across the spectrum of the many think tanks, and training institutions across the United States, on any issue, topic, or challenge. However, the ACSS has distinguished itself by its direct and empirical approach in accessing real issues by interacting, and bringing together those who live and work with the challenges being addressed in our part of the world. This audience today is a testimony to this hypothesis.
The hair rising challenge of making a presentation among a group of professionals, as diverse as this group, is a unique opportunity to share experiences and hope that this exchange will lead to a new dimension in the debate of how to carry out Security Sector Reform in a failed state, or states emerging out of a major conflict, like Liberia.
What do you say to such a unique group of professionals and experts, when you are asked to speak on the topic: “Professional Security Education in Liberia: Its role in Security Sector Reform?” Professional Education is in fact what all of you have gone thru exactly during your career service, either in uniform or civilian uniform, that have brought you all here today. Whether it is initial entry training, proficiency development, career training programs, scenario exercises, or advanced education, the content of such program or activity is to prepare you for trustworthy judgment when placed in a position of trust and leadership.
Professional education and training are every necessary in laying the foundation out of which experiences are derived. Successful experiences remain the legacy we all learn from about individuals entrusted to lead or take charge and succeed, especially when others have doubts, yet the outcome changes for the better. This built trust in the judgment of those entrusted to lead.
My visit with the ACSS nearly six years ago, provided me with the unique opportunity of having a strategic outlook in our efforts to transform Liberia Security Sector into a professional outfit. I left from here, after engaging and exchanging ideas with facilitators at the ACSS, with the view that it was possible, but challenging, that the SSR process in Liberia had a fair chance of success. It became clearer to me sooner than later that our actions had to be thorough, deliberate and strategic in their outlook.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN LIBERIA DURING THAT TIME?
The challenges facing our Security institutions and the Armed Forces were very unique in circumstances, as well as content. The circumstances were such that the politics of the last twenty-five years in Liberia (from 1980 – 2005) had dominated the fundamental nature of services these institutions were to provide to the Liberian people. Nearly a dozen armed factions emerged during this period for a variety of reasons and variety of representation and purposes and of course personal loyalty. We saw the growth of different types of loyalty, either to the individual, loyal to ethnic class, to the warring faction, to the group with the biggest weapons, or to the political leader. This polarization of loyalty and tunnel of splinter loyalists became the order of the day.
In 2003, after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra, Ghana, Liberia was consumed by too many challenges that needed to be addressed immediately. Everything in Liberia was urgent: People needed to be saved from militias with guns, since law and order had broken down, and it was only those with the strongest with weapons that could survive. People needed simple drinking water, since in fact access to water is an index of the level of poverty. Schools needed to be rebuilt and reopened, but teachers were lacking; clinics and hospitals needed nurses and doctors but drugs were needed to save the ailing population. Roads were needed to get produce from the farms to the markets, to get to the hospital and to school. Teacher training institutions also needed to be rebuilt to train teachers to go back into the classrooms. The medical schools needed medical instructors to train nurses and doctors to go into the hospitals to serve the people once again.
Looking back, among many other things, you could see that there were cross cutting issues on people's mind for survival: Peace and Security, Rebuilding their lost lives and facilities, and most important, for Liberians at the time, who would be their Next President. In fact, these three things were in people's mind as far back as 1990 in Banjul, the Gambia where the Interim Government of National Unity was born; when the Inter
Faith Mediation Committee, one of many credible institutions, presented its road map for peace in Liberia, and emphasized the need for Peace and Security, reforming the security sector, and a government of national unity. It became very clear sooner than later that Peace and security were the sine qua non of all issues, and thus over two decades later, it is still the aspiration and expectation of the Liberian people.
In terms of content, during the years of military and militia adventurism, the security sector and the military were accused of being instruments of ethnic dominance, violence and deprivation. This trend was exacerbated when multiple armed groups gained major political significance in Government. By the end of
2005, the Security Sector in Liberia became an outfit of loyalists from marauding militias who had gained political significance thru the barrel of the gun. Therefore, the content of our security sector became an embodiment of questionable characters, who had lost the public trust, and the sacredness of their loyalty.
As a consequence of this polarization, security institutions in Liberia became engulfed in an arena of political survival and lost their significance of protecting the people. The professional content of minimum entry statutory and institutional requirements, vetting processes, credible recruiting, and training, were completely compromised, ignored, and in some cases lost their significance.
As it is commonly stated, security institutions ought to represent the legal power and authority of the people's trust in addressing issues of personal loyalty, law enforcement, redress, and issues of territorial integrity. Loyalty is to the State and to the Organic Law of the land in protecting the trust of the people. Therefore, a major reform of the Security Sector in Liberia became an immediate priority.
Immediately after the 2005 elections, and as part of preparation by the newly elected government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an analytical matrix of the Liberian Security Sector was completed, and it clearly showed the very urgent need for a major Security Sector Reform Program to be instituted. The Police needed urgent reforms. The Military needed more than a major reform to a complete overhaul of the entire military structure “…To have a new command structure.” The Immigration Services needed to be overhauled as well as the Special Security Service, and the Intelligence community. This required a new legal framework to guide this process, as well as direction from the National Security Strategy document and its corresponding Implementation Matrix.
This locally produced analytical matrix clearly showed that leadership in some sectors of the security services would be a major challenge for reform to succeed. A surgical overhaul of the SSR was needed without which the results would have been daunting. As years have since shown, indeed it remains a daunting task for the reform process to successfully take hold across all spectrum of the Security Sector in Liberia.
Similarly, by the end of 2007, the Rand Report provided analytical survey urgency to the Reform Process. It stated that Liberia needed to reform the Liberia National Police, the Bureau of Immigration, and other security services as well as the AFL. These institutions needed better training, better leadership, strategic management oversight, and adequate resources were needed, among the litany of technical and tactical needs.
One would have expected that the sequence of initiating the reform process should have been the first legal framework, second followed by policy documents, as well as Strategy documents, validation processes, sourcing, training, equipping and deploying. This would have only happened or been possible if everything were to stop in country, and wait for the other to happen before moving forward. Unfortunately, it was not possible to delay the very urgent need for law enforcement activities and protection services, neither could we delay nor defer protecting access into Liberia from other countries. Therefore, it was not possible to begin in such a sequence.
If you have met and talked with the AFL Command Office in Charge, Major Gen. Abdurrahman on the reform process in Liberia, I am sure you may have heard him famously say: “…That we are building this airplane while flying in the air at the same time...” We could not stop. We had to keep going. Therefore, we are building the airplane while flying in Liberia. Indeed, Liberia had to undertake the Reform Process of its Security Services while also expected to perform security and protective services for its people.
By the end of 2007, the Government published its National Security Strategy Document. This was followed by the National Security Strategy Implementation Matrix, intended to lay the road map for the reform and restructuring of the security services. Subsequently, in 2008, the New National Defense Act was enacted into Law, replacing the 1956 Act of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Although it was drafted in 2009, it took another two years, until 2011, for the National Security and Intelligence Act to be passed into Law as the legal instrument for amalgamating the various security institutions and make them more functional and avoid overlapping of functions. By the end of 2011, The Draft National Defense Strategy document has completed the first in a series of validation processes, and hopefully should be completed sooner than later.
Although all of these instruments were very fundamental to the emerging SSR process, we were very late in their production.
The Security Sector Reform Process in Liberia, therefore, undertook in varying degrees the following sequence, and at other times, alternating courses of actions:
Minimum Entry level requirement of both personnel and officers
A thorough non-judicial vetting process information gathered would not be used to prosecute individuals
Diagnostic examination including physical, medical and psychological evaluation
An Order of Merit List (OML) of all candidates was generated
A validation process was constituted involving Members of the International Community, Bilateral Partners, Civil Society and the Liberian Government, in order to certify the process and the corresponding OML.
Proficiency Development Training, military occupational specialty and mid-career level courses had to be put in place.
Professional Education within this context therefore represented a heightened level of urgency put in place to bring to some degree of credibility the credentials of some of the emerging leaders in our security institutions. It represented a jump-start to provide immediate services demanded by the returning citizens after long years of war. Although, minimum requirements would have been the preferred form of prerequisite for some of these initiatives, the demand for the presence of security and law enforcement personnel throughout the country, overrode the major significance of these fundamental requirements during our reform process. Despite the alternate route in Liberia's SSR process, it has remained critical that security institutions are rebuilt to reflect international standards and best practices.
For an example, the Liberian National Police undertook a lustration process, as part of its reform, weeding out some rusty elements from the force, and at the same time bringing in some new personnel into the Police. Entry requirements were adjusted to immediately fill the gap for the need for more Police personnel to help maintain law and order, maintaining public safety, peace, and security. The maintenance of law and order, peace and security are major concerns and took priority over the stringent recruitment of high school graduates.
Instructors came from many different countries to help train our law enforcement personnel. There were varying instructors, from variety of countries, without a unified law enforcement doctrine, who were put in charge as instructors. Can you imagine six different countries were training one person? You can imagine the outcome. Concerns have since risen as to whether all of these well meaning international civil servants had the requisite background as instructors, and institutional builders to retrain our law enforcement personnel. In most cases, the outcome has become even more challenging and required further re-evaluation and redress.
As a consequence, the Government of Liberia put forth an appeal to its international partners, especially the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), for such training of our law enforcement personnel to be undertaken by either a country or a state with a unified doctrine of training law enforcement personnel.
The successful precedent to this suggestion has been the training of the Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police. The ERU, as it is called, was trained by the United Nations Mission in Liberia, but with instructors from the United States. The quality of this output reflects the extensive experience of their instructors with institutional knowledge to build. Therefore, it will be reasonable and practical to replicate this strategy for the rest of our Law enforcement community.
A better practical example of this strategy is the restructuring and retraining of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The United States Government took the lead in providing all of the basic and necessary training to stand up the Armed Forces of Liberia. The initial training was provided by a private U.S. Contractor, along with mentoring mentors from Military Officers and NCOs from ECOWAS Countries led by Nigeria.
Later, U.S. AFRICOM took additional steps to conduct an ARTEP of the quality and content of training and capabilities of the new AFL. Following that, U.S. AFRCICOM launched Operation Onward Liberty to send U.S. Military Personnel to further train and mentor all levels of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Through AFRICOM, Proficiency Development and MOS training were also provided through other mechanisms such as African Endeavor Exercises, Exchanges on the U.S. African Partnership Station vessels, as well as thorough engagements with U.S. Sea Bees.
We set out to rebrand the Liberian Military as a “Force for Good” and that our new Armed Forces should be seen as “Citizen Soldiers”. Likewise, the civilian administration of the Ministry of National Defense had to have similar standards if they were to provide strategic guidance in supporting the Armed Forces of Liberia.
The geopolitics of an emerging democracy within post war Liberia meant that the reform process had to affect all segment of our society. For example, by just reforming the security sector without reforming the Justice system for access to justice, and other aspects of the criminal justice system, the challenge of due process for all would remain incomplete. Likewise, the issue of accountability and transparency in the reform process had to be addressed as part of the overall reform process.
Therefore, professional education and training within the Security Sector had to be complemented with reforms in our governance structures. The likelihood of political reversal and other disincentives for achieving democracy is not farfetched if the foundation of our governance structures including professional education and training are not fully established.
Looking out to Guinea Bissau and now in Mali, it is clear that professional education alone is not sufficient for a successful SSR Program.
There must be a consequential political awakening through Democratic reforms internally. There has to be democratic governance of our security and military institutions. The military must remain under civilian control at all times. Our Security institutions must be accounted to other mechanisms of democratic oversight. Our governance structures, therefore, must be more responsive, transparent and accountable.
The shifting dynamics of information technology and social connectivity makes it very practical to recognize that a concentrated reform process, without the corresponding quality of a meltdown in other areas, will constrain the anticipated outcome. Security Sector Reform by itself is a single engine of democratic governance, and therefore must be holistic to encompass the wider specter of human upliftment.
Paraphrasing what the former U.S. National Security Advisor Brzezinski said in his book “Strategic Vision” about the impact of global political awakening said that, “[T]here is a revolution out there in people being well informed through social media, thus spreading literacy among this bulge of the younger generation.” And I say that this transformation of the individual political awakening into mass phenomena will make it nearly impossible to halt the emergence of a new generation of leaders.
And when Paula Broadwell quoted in her book, “All In”, about US Gen Petraus upon assuming command in Afghanistan, the words of T.E. Lawrence almost 92 years ago (in 1920) resounded that: “…the printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” The printing press in this context could mean that the documented references of ideas and the cross cutting social media outlet are powerful medium for future commanders and leaders.
The challenge for emerging leaders is to recognize that professional education and training is unlimited by the global extension of information, and therefore the truth and facts must be encumbered in your directives as leaders and those entrusted with the public trust.
It makes your hair to rise and goose bumps become visible when even your subordinate has: “…The intellect and analytical skills to develop theoretical framework for combat strategy….” That recognition and characterization by Gen. Petraus of retired Officer Dr. Douglas Ollivant is evident of the quality of output through the arena of professional education and training that we should recognize, even if that person is five times your junior. He has ideas that would probably bring better results than you might have thought.
Today, in front of us is a geographic representation of that emerging bulge of younger generation; enlightened, socially connected and professionally prepared. It is within the context of making the right decision, when faced with uncertainty and challenges, that your ability to lead will resonate among your peers as someone who has prepared himself or herself for the unanticipated.
I say to you today, take the ideas learned here during the past two weeks as additional fertilizer you have acquired along the path of your professional career. But more importantly, keep forever the lasting friendship you have developed as your references for the future. To lead is to enter the lonely world of personal responsibility. Do not shy away from that responsibility. At no time is it more demanding when you have to make that judgment or decision that affects our humanity. Look back and see what you missed.
As Professor Marty Linsky of Harvard University School of Government asked us in one of his leadership classes, that I attended: “…What makes you think you are a leader? You are only exercising leadership by those who have entrusted you to lead them.” Indeed your leadership comes from those who have entrusted you to lead them, as well as from legal instruments, such as the Constitution, that embody the aspirations of those being led. Do not betray the trust of the people.
Finally, the consequential shift of the center of gravity from failed state to one of success is ever evolving, and should not be seen as an event. I work for Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and I am privileged to listen to her story, share her moments, and dream along with her imagination of a new Liberia. She reminds us that: “…Every challenge creates an opportunity for achieving your desired goals…and that if your dreams and aspirations do not scare you, then you have not yet reached the imagination of what may be achievable.” I thank you.