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National Security

Wives of Army Officers Rally Nationwide in Liberia: Demanding Attention and Action

In Liberia, a groundswell of protest has emerged as wives of army officers take to the streets, demanding attention and action from the government. These protests, spanning across the nation, highlight the deep-seated grievances and frustrations of military families, shedding light on issues ranging from inadequate support for soldiers to concerns about their welfare and well-being by Rtd. Gen. Prince C. Johnson, the former Chief of Staff, now serving as Defense Minister.

The protest grew massively on February 12 with roadblocks along the highway to the nation’s main international airport and the main routes in Gbarnga, Bong County, Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, and scores of other locations across Liberia.

The Catalyst: The spark that ignited these nationwide protests can be traced back to a culmination of long-standing issues faced by the families of army officers. Reports of low wages, substandard living conditions, and insufficient healthcare provisions have plagued the military community for years. Still, the recent deterioration in these conditions has prompted a unified and resolute response from the wives of soldiers.

Voices of Dissent: Amidst the crowds of protesters, voices resonate with frustration and determination. Wives of army officers, many of whom have endured hardships silently for years, have now found their collective voice, refusing to be overlooked or dismissed any longer. Their chants reverberate through the streets, demanding accountability and tangible solutions from the government.

Concerns and Demands: At the heart of these protests lie genuine concerns about the welfare of soldiers and their families. Many wives express anguish over the precarious nature of their spouses’ work, coupled with the lack of adequate support systems in place. From meager salaries that barely cover basic necessities to the absence of comprehensive healthcare coverage, these families are facing a multitude of challenges that demand urgent attention.

The Call for Action: The protest movement is not merely an expression of discontent; it is a clarion call for action. Wives of army officers are demanding concrete steps to address their grievances, including but not limited to:

  1. Removal of Rtd. General Prince C. Johnson as Defense Minister: Calls for the removal or resignation of the former Chief of Staff as Minister of Defense because when he served as the head of the army, disillusionment grew among some members of the army and their families due to perceived maltreatment.
  2. Improved Compensation: Calls for fair and livable wages commensurate with the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.
  3. Enhanced Healthcare: Accessible and quality healthcare services for military personnel and their dependents.
  4. Better Living Conditions: Adequate housing facilities that ensure the safety and comfort of military families.
  5. Psychological Support: Comprehensive mental health services to address the psychological toll of military service.
  6. Transparency and Accountability: Greater transparency in the allocation of resources earmarked for military welfare, coupled with mechanisms for accountability.

Government Response: The government’s response to these protests will be a litmus test of its commitment to the well-being of its armed forces and their families. While initial reactions have been mixed, with some officials acknowledging the legitimacy of the grievances, concrete action is needed to address the systemic issues at hand. The government canceled the official celebration of the 2024 Armed Forces Day and indicated it will implement “low-key” activities that include the visitation of the main military barrack by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

Path Forward: As the protests continue to gain momentum, there is an opportunity for dialogue and collaboration between the government and the military community. Meaningful reforms and policy changes must be implemented to ensure that the sacrifices of soldiers and their families are duly recognized and rewarded.

The nationwide protests by wives of army officers in Liberia serve as a poignant reminder of the challenges military families face and the urgent need for reform. Beyond the slogans and placards lies a collective plea for dignity, respect, and justice. It is incumbent upon the government to heed this call and take decisive action to improve the lives of those who serve their country with unwavering dedication and sacrifice.

Lois Paybayee
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