Private company neglects to train soldiers in human rights

Soldiers recruited to the new national army in Liberia don’t get any training in human rights. This means that the misbehaviour that was widespread during the civil war may continue, according to NAI guest researcher Abraham Fofana.

At the end of the civil war in Liberia, the Armed Forces of Liberia was dismantled and around 103 000 rebel groups were disarmed.   The US was given responsibility for training a new national army, and in turn contracted the task to the private security firm DynCorp. NAI guest researcher Abraham Fofana is looking into why a national army is being trained by a private company that is only motivated by profit. In his opinion, the recruitment procedure of soldiers was more transparent than the recruitment of the police in the sense that candidates were made public for the citizens.

“People could report candidates with a record of human rights violations to have them disqualified. There were also other criteria, such as educational and health background, and selections were made to ensure geographic and religious diversity among soldiers” Abraham Fofana says.

However, as regards the actual training manual of soldiers Abraham Fofana is more sceptical. For some reasons, DynCorp omitted education in human rights. This is a particularly serious issue in Liberia, where the military before and during the war had a track record of violating human rights. That record still exists in people’s minds and contributes to their deep distrust in the authority. Good grounds exist for this distrust as there are already reports of    corruption involving army personnel. One case was when Aisha Flowers, a female commissioner connected to the ruling elite, was “rescued” by military from the quarantine of West Point slump in Monrovia. People living there objected to that the rules of quarantine did not apply for her and in the protests that followed a 16-year old boy was shot and left bleeding to death.

“Moreover, several cases of theft involving people posing as soldiers and police have been reported. The suspicion is that officers lend or hire their uniforms to criminals after work hours. What has gone wrong? Millions of dollars have been spent on training the soldiers, and then they act like the pre-war army” Abraham Fofana says.

According to him, the Liberian government didn’t have a strategy before carrying out a security sector reform or even before DynCorp began recruiting soldiers.
“DynCorp is a private company, whose only interest is making a profit. It is not going to come up with a strategy and vision of how the Liberian army should be. This task is for our government” Abraham Fofana concludes.

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