The Need for Counter Terrorism Strategy
By: Edwin Woryonwon Harris, Jr
The Government of Liberia, like any other responsible government on the globe, has as a major responsibilityof protecting the lives and property of its entire citizenry and those who reside within the borders of Liberia. Since the sweeping rise terrorism (Boko Haram), much has not be done by the government of Liberia for the protection of the homeland.
It can be recalled that in 2013, the current Executive Protection Service (EPS) Director stated during his confirmation at the Liberian senate that the terrorist group called Boko Haran was in Liberia and since then, the government has not refuted nor confirm this assertion made by the EPS Director.
The latest pronouncement made recently by the terrorist gang, Boko Harram, pledging support to the ideas and operations of the heartless and nefarious Islamic terrorist group named and styled: Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the ISIS declaration of establishing a caliphate in West Africa through Boko Haram was indeed troubling. It becomes worrisome also as to the preparedness of the government of Liberia to protect the homeland from these criminal bandits taking into consideration our vulnerabilities and the poor domestic policy (Don’t Care) of the Liberian government that has in many instances injured the masses instead of providing safety nest in keeping with its constitutional responsibilities and the social contract entered into with the masses.
Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa, bounded at the North, East and West by three of its neighbors, namely: Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. These countries and Liberia have official borders that are known internationally for trade and transportation amongst the people of their respective countries. At these International borders both countries either Liberia and Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea or Liberia and Ivory Coast are represented by their Immigration officers (guards), custom officers and other security apparatus with the sole purpose of safe guarding their respective borders from intruders and allow the peaceful movement of their citizens and visitors in and out of their borders peacefully.
However, it is also an undeniable fact that there exist several other unofficial borders that are not guarded by immigration guards and other security agencies of the countries. These borders are so porous and permeable that it will takes Liberia millions of dollars every fiscal year if she intends to mend it. This is the first and foremost form of vulnerability to the security of the state. A border that can easily and quickly be access and move into without any hindrance is terrible to the survival of its people.
The second point of vulnerability is the commonality of the inter-tribal, cultural and religious linkages of the people in these countries (Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast). For example; Liberia and Guinea share the Kpelle, Mano, Lorma, Mandingo, and Kissi Tribes. The Muslim Religion is common to these tribes, especially those residing in the north of the country. Another classical case for instance is Sierra Leone and Liberia have the mandi, Via, Kissi and Kru in common, while Liberia and Ivory Coast shares the Gio and Krahn tribes in common. One may ask why these commonalities in tribes and religion have done with the vulnerabilities of Liberia to the rising scourge of terrorism, especially terrorism in the name of Islam.
Tribes and religion have a lot to do with the vulnerabilities of the homeland to Islamic terrorists because, they attract sympathy to Islamic terrorism and make easy for recruitment into the rank and file of this so called terrorist group using the name of a noble religion or inspire lone wolf in carrying out terror on the homeland as seen in other places like France, Australia and Canada. Another area of vulnerability is the numerical strength and poor logistics in term of modern armor and military equipments of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Before, the 1989 war, the AFL strength was not less than fifteen thousand men and women with all of its division functional and experienced unlike the current young Armed forces of Liberia (AFL) that is gradually moving one step at a time with a numerical strength of not more than a little over two thousand. The United Nations Military to include its police force in Liberia are downsizing considerably to the extent that its draw down is at the threshold of completion hence, it cannot be rely on in countering Islamic terrorists in protecting the homeland.
Like, the Armed Force of Liberia (AFL), the Liberia National Police is also faced with the same but chronic capacity gap but worse of all is the low salary of police officers that make them susceptible to bribery. Bribery could be a vehicle for terrorists to easily enter and get settle in Liberia before lunching their terror on the Homeland.
Other areas of vulnerabilities are poverty and unemployment. The 2008 census revealed that Liberia has a youth based population. These youth were robbed by the crisis in such a way that most of them are illiterate functionally without any marketable skills to get employment even if there were jobs. The government over the last ten (10) years has done nothing tangible in providing marketable skills to thousands of youths as a measure of national security but has only put forth concept papers that youth will be trained and at least twenty thousand (20,000) jobs would be created annually to unemploy youths. None of these promises has yet to come to fruition, and can be categorized as one of the Government many deceptive and tools of falsehood in keeping the people abate.
Considering the economic hardship of the youths and their quest to emancipate themselves from poverty, they are prone to joining these terrorists in causing havoc where they can loot and steal the properties of their fellow citizens as form of empowerment. This is what most of the youths know best and have profited from it over the last twenty –five years in the nation’s history.
Looking at these vulnerabilities, it is important that the Liberia Government act quickly in protecting the homeland as a responsible government. The lesson learnt from the Ebola Virus is that the Liberia Government did not put into place the appropriate mechanism to curtail the virus until it got out of hand. The Government had all of the facts that EBOLA was deadly but created no interest to protect the lives until it got off hand. This is not what we want again.
Has the Liberia Government learnt any lesson from the EBOLA and can apply same to this potential scourge of Islamic terrorism or radical Islam in protecting the homeland? Here are some recommendations for the protection of the homeland in countering any potential form Islamic terrorism in Liberia:
1. The Government of Liberia needs to put together National Security strategy that is realistic, implementable and contextualize in keeping with the vulnerabilities of our country (NO CUT and PASTE).
2. That a Unit be created within the Ministry of Justice or National Security Agency to be named , Division of Counter Terrorizing. This division will gather factual and verifiable intelligence, make swift investigations and subsequent arrest of persons suspected of associating with a terrorist or a potential terrorist.
3. The Government works with the inter-faith councils of Liberia to reach out to their congregations in denouncing every forms of terrorism and radicalism and reporting potential terrorists (home grown terrorists and lone wolfs) in their communities and respective congregations.
4. Government provides the necessary support to the Bureau of Immigration to screen people coming into and leaving the country. Provide the urgent and necessary support to all security forces relevant in protecting the homeland
5. Government puts in to place mechanism in keeping with its national security interest and the movement of ECOWAS citizen. For example, when the EBOLA virus hit Nigeria, the Nigerian Government halted its carrier Arik Air from going to Liberia and halted all flights coming from Liberia into Nigeria. Because they felt that by allowing flights from Liberia it was a risk to their national security even though, they are a ranking member of ECOWAS. We cannot stop ECOWAS citizen from coming into Liberia but can prevent those who may be suspicious and threat to our national security.
6. Straightly implement the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorist Financing Act of 2012 to prevent financing of terrorist using the financial institutions of Liberia. The Government of Liberia must not purchase goods and services and give contract to persons suspected of having ties to terrorists. This will take background checks and enhanced due diligence on businesses and individuals receiving tax payer’s money.
7. Provide opportunities to the youth population by providing marketable skills and granting than access to start up capitals
8. Government fast-tracks the trials of those arrested for suspected association with terrorism. Due process should take place in a fair and impartial manner consistent with our Laws.
As I drop my pen on this matter, I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciate for the public statement of Justice Janeh condemning those using name of Islam in their pursuit of terror. It is important that prominent leaders in the Islamic community follow the example of Justice Janeh in preventing the contamination of such a noble religion that have stand an enviable place in history.