The People’s Republic of China has provided Liberia with a grant of $ 3.3 million in cash to finance the acquisition of new military equipment and meet the logistical needs of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
According to Liberian government media reports, the official signing for the grant agreement took place in the capital Monrovia between Chinese ambassador Zhang Yue and Liberian deputy defence minister Joseph Johnson earlier this week.
In remarks made shortly before the signing ceremony, Ambassador Yue said the grant is his country’s contribution to the creation of a peaceful and economically secure Liberia.
“On behalf of the People’s Republic of China, I have the honour to sign the agreement between the Ministry of Defence of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of National Defence of Liberia, because this agreement is the most meaningful gift from the Chinese people to the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during this period of fighting Ebola.”
“According to this agreement, signed between China and Liberia today, the Chinese government will provide the Liberian side with military assistance to the value of $3.3 million to enhance the AFL to contribute to Liberia’s social and economic security”, Yue said.
He added that the agreement will deepen the strong bilateral defence and mutual assistance relationship which already exists between the two countries. China has previously donated various equipment to the post-civil war Liberian army.
Over the past three years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has trained and equipped the AFL’s only engineering brigade. The unit is currently engaged in joint road and bridge construction projects with the PLA engineering unit deployed to support its medical corps leading the fight against the Ebola virus.
Joseph said the Chinese military grant will help the Ministry of National Defence in procuring new equipment and providing fresh logistical tools for the army. He said despite receiving direct support from the US and other foreign governments, the Liberian annual budget of $500 million remains too meagre to support the re-equipment, training, logistical and equipment needs of the armed forces.
As a gesture of appreciation for the support provided to his country by the PLA, Joseph presented outgoing defence attaché Colonel Zhao Xizhan with a medal of appreciation for the support provided to the Liberian armed forces by the PLA.
“On behalf of the Chief of Staff of the AFL, Brigadier General Daniel Ziankhan and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia, I present to you this gift for your work in bringing the Armed Forces of Liberia to where it is today, so that whenever you look at it you will reflect on what you did for the AFL,” Joseph said.
The Liberian army is being rebuilt into a professional army following the disbandment of the previous army which was loyal to former president and convicted warlord Charles Taylor.
Although 2 100 personnel were trained for the first AFL brigades, the high rate of desertions has decimated the army’s strength to an estimated 1 800 poorly equipped and ill-trained personnel.