The Armed Forces of Liberia officially brought her peacekeepers home after a 10-year mission in Mali. They were responding to a request made by the Junta in Bamako in June 2023.
The Liberian Army contingent was part of a peacekeeping mission, known as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
With the Blue Helmet operation pullout Liberia’s journey with United Nations peacekeeping came full circle over two decades.
After 14 years of political crisis and two civil wars, Liberia hosted a U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2003. Ten years later, the rebuilt Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) deployed a platoon as part of the U.N. stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
On December 21, 2023, with the closure of MINUSMA, Liberia’s contingent of 162 peacekeepers returned home from Mali and was greeted with gratitude and pride.
“You are now the beacon of hope, not only for Liberia but the region and beyond,” Former President George Weah said to the troops during a ceremony at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia.
When the initial platoon of 45 Liberian Soldiers deployed as part of MINUSMA on June 23, 2013, it was the first time the AFL operated abroad since it supported the U.N. operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the early 1960s.
The AFL deployed about 800 of its 2,000 personnel to Mali throughout eight rotations between 2013 and 2023.
AFL Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson III praised the returning peacekeepers. He also thanked the United States for its partnership and support in helping rebuild the country’s military.
“The credit goes mainly to the people of Liberia, for the confidence they have in our new armed forces,” he said during the ceremony. “It just shows how fast, with the training and equipping of the U.S. government — I always like to call it the U.S. taxpayers’ money — that today, the Armed Forces of Liberia, internationally, has increased the number of countries it has supported to four.”
The Director of the United Nations Office of Peacekeeping Strategic Partnerships (OPSP), Major General Jai Menon, had earlier described Liberian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as trained, disciplined, and ideally fit for service.
Major General Menon said he was greatly impressed and exceedingly proud of their skills and alertness, particularly as he carried out a tactical military drill with the Liberian troops intended to test their proficiency and vigilance in line with their scope of duty.
Since 2013, Liberia has contributed military observers to U.N. missions in South Sudan and Sudan. It also has supported the Economic Community of West African States mission in Guinea-Bissau.
With increasing instability with multiple coups and violent insurgencies, in the subregion, Liberia and the AFL have become stalwarts for democracy and stability in the West African.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the U.N. under-secretary-general for peace operations, also hailed Liberia’s transformation.
“Liberia is an example of peacekeeping’s tangible impact on countries affected by conflict,” he said. “Today Liberia is a country at peace, thanks to the efforts of thousands of peacekeepers from around the world. Today Liberia, in turn, deploys ‘Blue Helmets’ to help other countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.”
In the aftermath of the second Liberian civil war, the U.S. helped rebuild the AFL and supported Liberia’s entrance into the peacekeeping realm.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers congratulated the AFL in a statement. Rogers’ Michigan National Guard has worked with Liberia since 2009 through the State Partnership Program and was involved in Liberia’s Security Sector Reform through the U.S. Africa Command-sponsored Operation Onward Liberty.