Liberia defense minister steps down ten days after taking office

Following a protest by the wives of troops, Liberia’s newly appointed minister of defense announced his resignation on Monday, barely ten days after taking office, according to the presidency.

Since taking office at the end of January, Joseph Boakai, the new president of Liberia, has faced several political challenges. This resignation is the first of them “has received and accepted a letter of resignation from the recently confirmed Minister of National Defence Mr. Prince C. Johnson,” the presidency said in a statement.

General Geraldine Janet George was named to the important position by the president, who moved quickly to select a temporary replacement.

In his resignation letter, Johnson cited “the current political and civil disturbances occasioned by the protest of women believed to be wives of servicemen”.

He wished to “preserve the peace and security of the State”, the statement added.

Boakai was forced to postpone its National Army Day celebrations on Monday when the wives of Liberian soldiers erected barricades throughout the nation, including close to the capital Monrovia, according to an AFP correspondent.

The women were complaining about a variety of issues, including low pay and pensions, a lack of social security, blackmail in the armed forces, and power outages.

In addition, they called for the resignation of the defense minister, citing him as the reason behind the pay cut for Liberian troops returning from peacekeeping operations in Mali.

On Sunday, the first roadblock was erected on the road leading to the international airport in the Monrovia neighborhood, close to the Edward Binyah Kesselly barracks.

On Monday, more homemade materials and kitchen utensils materialized as barriers across the nation.

Long traffic bottlenecks on the route to the airport forced several drivers to give up and walk the remainder of the way.

President Boakai asked the army on Monday to ensure that the roadblocks were lifted “immediately”, according to the presidency.

He met with soldiers’ wives on Sunday and vowed to carefully examine their concerns and set up a commission, his team said.

He gave the go-ahead for free instruction in the on-site school and the restoration of electricity to the Edward Binyah Kesselly barracks.

“The President has been in office for 20 days only and he has taken immediate steps already to address some of these issues which have been festering for more than five years,” his team said in a statement.

Boakai “advised everyone to remain calm and peaceful as the government seeks to address their concerns,” it added.

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