Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara has told Liberians that the withdrawal of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from Liberia by June 30, 2016, puts the nation at a crossroad. “We are being closely watched by the international community, to see if the years of reform and investments in democratic processes, including security sector reform will indeed yield sustainable peace,” Ambassador Kamara said. “Our partners have high expectations of us.”Minister Kamara made these remarks on Thursday, February 11, when she served as the Keynote Speaker at Liberia’s 59th Armed Forces Day celebrations, held at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.She, however, expressed her confidence that Liberia can provide security and maintain peace after the inevitable departure of UNMIL. “I believe sincerely that we can and, indeed, we must,” she added.The new Foreign Minister nevertheless warned that the security of the state and the maintenance of peace in the post-UNMIL era will not and should not rest with the military alone. Reflecting on history, she said, sustainable security and continuing stability in this country will be defined more by the efforts all Liberians make – as a government and as a people – in addressing national challenges such as youth unemployment, reducing inequalities in income and opportunities, reconciliation and national healing, decentralizing social and security services, improving the quality of education and maintaining an enabling environment for investment. She indicated that cooperation and coordination between military and civil law institutions are key in the post-UNMIL environment; noting that the military can be useful in multidimensional ways in that environment.The Foreign Minister noted that some Liberians do not believe that Liberians have the ability to secure the country. “We must make our people understand – even if it means communicating in our local dialects – that there will remain a reduced UNMIL presence of military personnel and civilian police beyond June 30. However, security responsibilities once performed by UNMIL will now be solely in the hands of state security,” she clarified. Reflecting on the military in the past, the Minister said today’s Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has evolved to become the most educated in the nation’s history with specialized skills in many disciplines.“Our men and women in uniform reflect high quality and standards, integrity, loyalty and commitment not to any particular ethnic group but to the nation. They are being trained not only in national defense but also in strategic institution building and civic responsibilities,” she told the audience. She stated that the military has also moved beyond its traditional role to being more civil and has become true to its mandate, as enshrined in the National Defense Act of 2008, in building a respectable track record for supporting civil authority. “The Health Department of the Ministry and the Medical Command of the Armed Forces have been providing medical examinations, treatment and HIV/AIDS counseling as part of their outreach to communities,” she said.She thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of AFL, for her able and farsighted leadership and direction of the country and for the orientation of the nation’s security architecture, which began when she served as Chairperson of the Governance Reform Commission.Among other things, the Foreign Minister said that she is particularly impressed with the progress that the military has made in integrating women. “I understand that seven female officers and 73 enlisted women currently serve in the military, and that the Ministry of National Defense desires to reach a goal of 20 percent female enlistment.”Minister Kamara urged the Defense Ministry and the AFL to attain this target, which will contribute to the national objective of gender mainstreaming. “We congratulate the AFL for all of these exemplary works and the continuing dedication to helping breach capacity gaps and render assistance where it is needed. In the presence of UNMIL, the military has demonstrated that, in addition to its statutory responsibility to defend the territorial integrity of the state, it can provide effective support to civil authority. We expect them to do no less in the post UNMIL environment,” she added. The Foreign Minister reminded Liberians that they should not lose sight of the fact that the military is a part of the broader security architecture of the country that encompasses the police, immigration and other agencies. She asked these security agencies to collaborate under a well-coordinated framework to build synergies for the protection of Liberians within safe and secure borders. Ambassador Kamara also called on Liberians to envisage a post-UNMIL environment with a strong, well-trained, equipped and people-friendly national police force, decentralized and deployed throughout the length and breadth of this country. Following her speech, the Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conferred upon her the nation’s Distinguished Service Order (DSO).Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Photo: NOAAThe U.S. House this evening began debate on a bill by Alaska Congressman Don Young to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s primary fishing law. Actually, lawmakers just debated how they’re going to debate the legislation. Meanwhile, the White House has issued a policy statement criticizing Young’s bill, suggesting the president would veto it.The White House, like environmental groups and some small-boat fishermen, disapproves of the flexibility written into Young’s bill. It would give regional management councils more leeway to set catch limits and rebuild stocks. The White House says Young’s flexible approach would put fish stocks at risk. Young spokesman Matthew Shuckerow says the Congressman is still listening to stakeholders and he says the bill is likely to change in the legislative process ahead.Download Audio:“We believe, and Congressman Young believes, it’s entirely premature for the president to discuss vetoing the legislation at this time,” Shuckerow said.Young says some regions of the country don’t have enough fish data to employ the rigid science-based model that’s been so successful in the North Pacific. Critics, though, say if catch limits aren’t tied to science, councils will be pressured to let fishermen take too much, depleting the resource.That very debate played out on the other side of the Capitol today, in a Senate subcommittee hearing on fisheries data. Sen. Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., made a passionate plea for the cod fishermen of New England. Their catch limit, the senator says, was slashed 75 percent in a single year.“And then when I look back over the course of five years, the total cut is 95 percent. I do not know a business that could take a 95 percent cut and continue to operate,” she said.Kathryn Sullivan, the head of NOAA (and, incidentally, the first American woman to walk in space) told Ayotte she does care about fishermen, but she says the cod of New England are in dire trouble, in danger of never recovering.“We’re obliged by law to set catch limits that ensure we do not have over fishing occurring on a stock, and with a stock that’s at 3 percent of its biomass. That is a disasterously low number,” she said.Ayotte says that’s not her only duty: “You’re also obliged by law to think about the economic impact.”Ayotte says the fishermen have no confidence in NOAA’s grim stock assessment because it doesn’t match what they’re seeing on the water. The NOAA Administrator told her there’s a place for fishermen’s observations, but it’s not always the most accurate picture.“Cod are known to school in very large aggregations and when they aggregate that way it becomes easier to catch the fish and that can give … sometimes a false impression,” she said.A Senate bill to renew the Magnuson Stevens Act hasn’t emerged yet. The full House is likely to begin debate on Young’s version of the bill in early June, after the Memorial Day recess.