It seems that his meetings with American officials, both in the administration and on Capitol Hill have been very fruitful. The results have been translated into a new funding channeled through the latest supplemental appropriations passed by US Congress.
Indeed, according to a press release issued by the office of the President, Liberia was provided $45 million dollars in the U.S. Urgent Supplemental Appropriations Bill (HR 2206), which was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on 25 May 2007. These monies are in addition to the significant bilateral assistance that Liberia has received on an annual basis since the election of Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Receiving the news of the new funding, Minister Samukai said: “We had been very concerned about the gaps in funding and we are delighted that the US government and Congress have taken this step. Our SSR is a unique formula of cooperation between Liberia, the US and our regional partners. Having learned lessons from the first phase, we can all make the necessary adjustments to move forward and complete the process."
During her visit to the United States in February 2007, President Sirleaf appealed to the U.S. Administration and the U.S. Congress to make available, on an urgent basis, funding to continue the rebuilding of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), as well as support the rehabilitation of Liberia’s National Police Force. Her call was emphasized by Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. who said that any gap in funding the security sector reform could severely endanger the progress made in Liberia in terms of peace and stability. He promised to work with others in the House to ensure that Liberia’s security needs were put on a front burner and considered as priority.
Liberian Minister of Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr., joined the effort to raise support for Liberia during the February trip and in a follow-up visit in May 2007 to brief key legislators and officials at the White House, the Department of Defense, and the Pentagon. In a status report circulated to the US Congress in advance of the President’s February trip, Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States, Charles A. Minor III, pointed that “President Sirleaf clearly recognizes the short window of opportunity her government has to secure and consolidate Liberia’s peace. And while tangible progress under her leadership has been made, durable success is not yet certain. The challenges to the country are real but, with the support of the United States Congress, Liberia can become a success story in Africa. A secure, peaceful, democratic Liberia can be enormously beneficial for Liberians, the West Africa region, and United States security and long term interests of Africa. To achieve this, Liberia is in urgent need of security sector funding and swift action on a U.S. contribution to its debt relief.”
The current funding includes approximately $35 million for rebuilding Liberia’s Armed Forces, $5 million to support the training of a Quick Reaction Unit within Liberia’s National Police Force to tackle the wave of violence from armed robbers and security around the capital. Another $5 million will be spent to support the equipping of the Protective Detail for the President and strengthening the Special security Service. All of these programs have constituted elements of the Comprehensive Peace Accord of Accra 2003 that ended the Liberia civil war.
“The $45 million dollars allows Liberia to establish a viable security sector including standing up its own army and police. At the end of the day, security is the enabler to economic growth,” said Riva Levinson, Managing Director of KRL International and an advocate for the government of Liberia in Washington, DC. “It is an essential ingredient to ensuring the success of the President’s reform agenda.” Ms. Levinson has been an adviser to President Sirleaf for over a decade.
Minister Samukai added that with the new funding, and the cooperation of all those involved in the reform process, he hopes for “better coordination between Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), the Contractors, AFL Command-Officer-In-Charge Office, the U.S. Sr. Defense Advisor, and authorities of Ministry of Defense, the Department of Defense Foreign Military Funding and the International Military Education and Training. The appropriations should be properly coordinated with the Ministry of Defense for identification of priority programs.”
Recently, President Sirleaf said the security reform is a cornerstone of the recovery process because, “for a country emerging from a 14-year civil war, the question on everyone one’s mind when traveling to Liberia is: How safe is it? This is why we make SSR a priority.”