By Blamo N. Toe
Soldiers of Armed Forces of Liberia appears unhappy over the appointment of now retired General Prince C. Johnson as Minister of National Defense with spouse group petitioning Senators to block the ex-army chief confirmation.
Under the banner “Army Wives Association of Liberia” the group accused the General of corruption and administration mal practices that have contributed to the suffering state of the country’s army.
Johnson told the Oracle News Daily, the new Chief of Staff will address the issues being raised but his sole interest is for the greater good of the army and the country’s security.
The protesting group said it represents wives of soldiers from various military centers including the Camp Tubman Military Barracks in Grand Gedeh County, Gbarnga Military Barracks in Bong County, Todee Military Barracks in Montserrado County, Lofa Military Barracks, Coast Guard and Star Base Military Barracks, the Military Police Barracks at the Smell No Taste, Roberts International Airport and the home of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, the Edward Beyan Kesseley Military Barracks in lower Margibi County, among others.
Spokesperson Theredon Walker claimed in a Tuesday Feb 6 petition filed with the Senate that their husbands have been deliberately deprived and marginalized by Gen. Johnson and former Defense Minister, retired General Daniel Ziahnkan.
“We have come here today as the voices of those gallant men who by laws: the constitution, the Defense Acts, the Geneva Conventions and rendering them as a duck organization who cannot voice out their pains, frustrations, depravations, marginalization, untold poverty willfully, deliberately placed upon us and our children by the former defense minister, now retired General Daniel Ziahnkan and his chief architect, the ‘modern day pharaoh’ of our time in person of Major General Prince Charles Johnson III,” they said in a statement.
They explained , the country has not heard about the corrupt, brutal and diabolical acts of General Johnson, adding that he is so dearly admired by the public, most especially the some members of the media as they live in his pockets at the detriment of their husbands to sing praises to his name as the best statesman in the land.
“General Johnson is like a father who uses his economic power to buy fans outside while his family languishes in poverty and his children run away as he comes home because of his evil demonstrated upon his family,” the release indicated.
The group emphasized that they have not come to politicize anything or exaggerate or manufacture lies against General Johnson to bring him down but to plead with the senate not to confirm him the position due to this alleged criminal and inhumane acts against the gallant men of the AFL.
“We have registered the below counts against General Johnson and with a plea for this honorable House to do the honorable thing for us, our husbands and children to safe the peace and harmony we have enjoyed since the deadly civil war, by denying General Prince Charles Johnson from the post of Defense Minister,” the petitioners said.
Outlining count one, the group named corruption, recounting that since the new Armed Forces of Liberia began the United Nation Peacekeeping Mission in Timbuktu, Mali, the army has produced nine rotations and has military equipment with the memorandum of understanding between United Nations and Liberian government.
“UN rents every equipment the AFL carries in Timbuktu. This Country Own Equipment (C.O.E.) money has not been accounted for; this General along with the ex-minister to the government of Liberia. Most precisely, General Johnson deducts 20% from every soldier monthly UN salary under the contingent levels. After too many complaints, the ex-president George Weah ordered this amount to stop and the president through budgetary allotment figured out seven hundred thousand to compensate expenditures for the Peacekeeping Mission. With all the president’s involvement, this General still went ahead and cut the soldiers’ UN salaries as they came home from the MIDNUSMA Account,” they said.
Moreover, the group averred that every local and international duty their husbands performed with attached financial benefits, noting that the Minister of Defense designate would direct involvement with financiers to divert all funds relating to soldiers to him and thereby in return giving them peanuts.
“For example, now as we speak, our husbands that are serving at the Bea Mountain Mineral Mining area, they have been paid by the company US$1900 per soldier monthly and directly to General Johnson and in return, gives our husbands US$300 monthly with all the risks involved from the exposed chemical in the area and resulting to sickness because of their exposures to the chemical,” the statement noted.
In addition, Madam Walker said the AFL Engineering Equipment are rented to the Bea Mountain Mineral Company with monthly rental fees of about US$10,000 directly to his account, stressing that this continues with all the local missions/duties their husbands serve and termed the alleged act as a monkey works baboon draws.
Constant marginalization and deprivation of merit and economic benefits
Under this count, the Army Wives Association of Liberia emphasized that during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, personnel of the AFL were paid in line with their submitted credentials and further promoted, unlike the regime of General Johnson.
“This policy was instituted by the former president, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in all public institutions. Upon the assumption of this modern pharaoh, General Johnson the Chief of Staff, he publicly voiced it out in the military formations and gatherings putting an end to this policy,” Madam Theredon Walker, the spokesperson added.
His constant refusal to obey direct orders from President George Weah on our husbands’ promotions and increment in salaries
The following accusations were levelled
His Lack of interest in the retirement policy of the soldiers and no retirement policy
Also, the group said currently, their husbands are dying without any defined death benefits and after 6 months, their families left behind were thrown out without any package for settlement.
Poor Housing Facility
The wives of the AFL personnel disclosed that they are living in poor and deplorable housing facilities.
“Every year, the Minister designate and former Minister Defense Daniel Ziankahn project funds for renovations of military barracks, and as the funds are approved, they will carry on cosmetic projects on those old-old buildings and divert the funds to their private uses and we sleep in the leakages of the roofing of those buildings during the rainy season,” the women cried.
Perpetual Volunteering at the 14-Military Hospital
At the same time, the Army Wives Association of Liberia said 90% of the workers at the 14-Military Hospital have worked for more than one year without salaries.
“When the issue of employing the staffers came about, General Johnson boasted about not being ready to employ but this hospital charges fees and nurses work 24 hours without pay and the funds raised from the hospital goes to the office of the chief of staff of the army,” they noted.
Bogus Insurance Policy
General Johnson and the former Minister clandestinely changed the insurance company that was providing better care for their families without any return cash benefit from the Medicare Insurance Company to Mutual Benefit Insurance Company that cuts more premiums from their husbands’ salaries.
In furtherance, the Army Wives Association of Liberia believes the confirmation of General Johnson to the post of Defense Minister will make the army ineffective, increase the already poverty ridden institution and cause more death rate to curable diseases because the defense controls the survivability of the army.
“All our appeals to the President, His Excellency President Joseph Nyuma not to nominate this general to Defense Minister with all the counts against the general did not yield fruits but rather, the president exacerbated the situation and this now has created a complete dark cloud over the wellbeing and security of our husbands and the state,” they stressed.
The Army Wives Association of Liberia emphasized that there is no way General Prince Charles Johnson III can be accepted by the soldiers as they see him as a nightmare.
According to them, members of the Armed Forces of Liberia believe the nominee, if confirmed, will definitely witch-hunt and create insecurity in the army and as such, he should be rejected by the Liberian Senate for the sake of national security of the country.
Receiving the petition on behalf of the Liberian Senate, the Chair on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions, Senator Augustine Chea of Sinoe County thanked the Army Wives Association of Liberia for orderly raising their concerns and promised to submit the petition of the plenary for further actions by the body.