Calls by the disbanded soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) recently to report for general muster including former rebel generals; Prince Y. Johnson, George Bolley and others seems to worry many Liberians including members of the National Bureau of Veterans Affairs, expressing fear that it may exacerbate another crisis if this called muster is held.
Several apprehensive citizens in and out of Liberia who called on a local radio talk show Wednesday, 13 November said the gathering of former military personnel with no clear aim or objective of their gathering is worrisome for the country especially, during these times of economic challenges. The disbanded soldiers on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, to call off their planned muster for the sake of peace.
Retired Major Alexander Giord, head of all battalions representing ex-servicemen insists the muster would go ahead as planned, beginning Friday. He claims the exercise will continue up to 30th November.Ex-soldiers here have strength 6,500, including retired personnel of the formerly Special Security Service (SSS) Police and Immigration.
Musa Bility, who phoned in from Paynesville City outside Monrovia, urged the Government of Liberia to immediately take seize of the matter before it gets off hand, warning there are clear indications the ex-soldiers are up for something different.
He notes that those former soldiers were the same group that summoned and threatened to arrest Representative YekehKolubah of Montserrado District#10 and the government did nothing.
“Today, everyone is promoting this event that is being organized by former soldiers to gather in their thousands in the heart of the city and our security sector is not doing anything about this to inform us the public. Listen to the name ‘muster’ and you expect us to not be shaking in our various homes?”, Andrew Cooper, another panicking resident questions.
Cooper notes that government’s continues silence on serious security issue has caused the country serious setback, narrating that the planned muster has extended to widows of dead soldiers, who are organizing a separate gathering of their own on the same day.
James Lamine, a youth advocate similarly calls on government through the Joint Security to assure the public and reduce the current fears brought about by the heightened tension in the country, adding, “If the people are rightfully informed, they will not have reason to panic or spread false rumors.”
“Government should not be the one embracing conflict among its citizens. Right now, you are allowing former soldiers to gather in their mass; few days ago, the widows of soldiers are assembling too on that same day at different locations; who knows tomorrow? Maybe few times from now, ex-fighters that are now involved in drug and causing problems in our various communities and streets corners will want to gather in their mass too and you want to tell me, this government will have power to stop them?” Lamine asserts.
The actual motive of the planned muster is unclear, but demobilized AFL soldiers have time to time used mass gathering to pressurize the former Sirleaf administration to give them money, particularly around major holidays such as July 26 Independence celebrations and Christmas.