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MONROVIA: An infantry platoon-size unit of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) departs the country on tomorrow, Thursday, June 20, to join the Africa International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

They will be embedded into the Nigerian battalion, with First Lieutenant Nathaniel Waka serving as Commander of the platoon unit.

This will be the first time that Liberia is participating in peacekeeping operations in 52 years. In 1961, Liberia provided troops to the United Nations Organization in the Congo, a UN peacekeeping force established under UN Security Council Resolution 143 of July 14, 1960, to respond to the Congo crisis.

According to an Executive Mansion release, there will be a formal departure program at the Roberts International Airport where the Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will inspect the troops, make a statement and a special presentation before the troops’ departure.

Other dignitaries expected to grace the occasion include the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives’ Committees on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the Ambassadors of the United States and Nigeria accredited near Monrovia, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Liberia.

A United States C-17 military transport aircraft will airlift the troops to Mali for deployment after the farewell ceremony. Already, the United States Government has provided logistics, personal gear and other equipment to the AFL platoon for the mission.

Under the guidance of ECOWAS advisors and mentors, the soldiers commenced training at the Armed Forces Training Command (AFTC) at Camp Sande Ware, in Careysburg, on February 4, and for the next few months adequately trained in major activities presumed peculiar to the military situation in Mali.

ECOWAS organized a military mission, AFISMA, to support the Government of Mali against Islamist rebels in the north of the country. The mission was authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 2085, adopted on December 20, 2012, which “authorized the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali for an initial period of one year.”

President Sirleaf, upon her return from an Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, on January 19, which focused primarily on the Mali conflict, informed her compatriots that Liberia had pledged a platoon that would be integrated into one of the AFISMA peacekeeping battalions in Mali.

She stated, at the time, that Government’s decision was intended to show solidarity and appreciation to the people of Mali and other sub-regional Member States and peoples who helped Liberia during its years of conflict.

Initially, the mission was to begin in September 2013, but after an unexpected advance by rebel forces in early January 2013 and the subsequent intervention by French forces, ECOWAS decided to immediately deploy the AFISMA forces.

On January 17, Nigeria began deploying air and ground forces to Mali. This was followed by the arrival of a 160-man contingent from Burkina Faso the following week. Other sub-regional Member States that are now deployed in Mali include: Benin, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo.

In late April, the Security Council authorized an 11,200-strong peacekeeping force and 1,440 international police to replace the 6,000-member African-led mission on July 1. The Council will make the final decision on June 25.

Already, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Albert Gerard Koenders of the Netherlands as head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, which will be known as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA). It is tasked with supporting the political process in the country, in close coordination with the African Union and ECOWAS.

Likewise, UN Secretary-General has appointed Rwandan Major General Jean Bosco Kazura as Commander of the new UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

The Mission will help the Malian authorities to implement the transitional roadmap towards the full restoration of constitutional order, democratic governance and national unity. This includes the holding of elections in July, confidence-building and facilitation of reconciliation at the national and local levels.

 

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