Senate Conducts Confirmation Hearing -For New Defense Minister, NSA Director

MONROVIA: The Liberian Senate yesterday carried out one of its cardinal functions when it conducted confirmation hearing of two key nominees in the security sector of the country nominated recently by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai with the nominees pledging to improve upon what they are meeting at their respective positions as Minister of National Defense and the Director General of the National Security Agency.

The confirmation appeared unusual as compared to most of the others conducted by the senate as it was more or less overwhelmed by the status being accorded Brigadier General Geraldine Janet George as the First female Minister of National Defense perhaps not only for Liberia but also the African continent. Most of the Senators spent time congratulating her in advance even before they could ask their questions while others decided not to ask any question but to assure her of their votes.

Dressed in a splendid African suit, Madam George confidently read her introductory statement, presenting herself, explaining her educational and professional background as well as her suitability to serve as the National Defense Minister.

She then urged the Senate to confirm her because “I have the experience and capability to serve in this position as Minister of National Defense”. Henceforth, questions that followed did not go further to inquire about her qualification or experience but rather praised her and offered pieces of advice that will make her new assignment fruitful.

She responded in the affirmative when Senator Abraham Darius Dillon asked whether she already a set agenda and blueprint to improve the military and work with other security institutions in the country.

Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County who was visibly excited to see Madam George before the Senate for confirmation praised her for the service to the country which has earned her another level as Minister of National Defense, stressing “you are not just a woman, but you are a qualified profession for this job”

In terms of experience, Madam George is a well decorated officer with extensive military leadership skills. She has served in the following posts in the Armed Forces of Liberia: Acting Commander, 23rd Infantry Brigade; Military Police Company Commander, 23rd Infantry Brigade; Brigade S-5, CIMIC Officer, 23rd Infantry Brigade; Provost Marshal, 23rd Infantry Brigade; Legal Officer, Armed Forces of Liberia Headquarters; Acting  Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS), Armed Forces of Liberia Headquarters; Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel (ACOS J1)(2x), Armed Forces of Liberia Headquarters and Assistant Chief of Staff for Operation (ACOS J3) (2x), Armed Forces of Liberia Headquarters.

Brigadier General George, a graduate from the College of West Africa (CWA), holds a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations, Webster University, USA; and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice, African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College, Monrovia. She also obtained several certificates: Intelligence, Fight against Terrorism, Rome, Italy; Administration of Justice, Liberia Institute of Public Administration, Monrovia; Public Sector Management, Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), University of Sierra Leone.

From the several military trainings attended, she attained the following certificates and diplomas: Initial Entry Training (IET), Barclay Training Center (BTC), Liberia; Advance Individual Training (AIT), Barclay Training Center (BTC), Liberia; Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course (BNCOC), Barclay Training Center (BTC), Liberia; Officer Candidate School (OCS), Barclay Training Center (BTC), Liberia; Basic Officer Leader Course,  Fort Benning, USA; Basic Officer Leader Course, Fort Benning, USA; Military Police Basic Officer Leadership Course, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, USA; Company Commander Course, Rwanda Military Academy, GAKO, Rwanda; Junior Staff Course (JSC), Horton Academy, Freetown, Sierra Leone; United States Army Command and General Staff College, USA; and United Nations Staff Officer and Military Component Planning Process (Western Accord 14), USA

On the hand, Major General Prince C. Johnson (Rtd) was between the two who got most of the questions and talking as the some Senators were keen to know how could he reconcile his transition from the full military where he served as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia and once nominated as Minister of National Defense but the process was thwarted by rioting widows of AFL soldiers and wives of active service men.

General Johnson told the Senate that he will be going to the new job with 18 cognate years of experience in the military which “put me in a good standing for this position as Director General of the National Security Agency; my work over the years can speak for my competence and so when confirmed, I dedicate myself to the task of contributing to improving the security of the country”

In response to a question by Senator Amara Konneh of Gbarpolu what would he do to change the image of the NSA which “is being seen as an institution where Presidents pass money for other things”, Johnson from the background he was coming from he will ensure that he puts his expertise and experience to use while at the same time work with the act that created the agency to better the status of NSA. He also vowed to make use of the Act so as to recommend the appointment of an Inspector General of the institution as provided for by the act.

He named fake news, drug abuse and militarization of the Liberian youth as some of the possible national threats to the country and warned that “if we do not have the presence of security and paramilitary, these drug users will take over those places”

“I believe if confirmed, I can assure you that my experience working with national leaders including the various military and paramilitary institutions like the Liberia National Police, the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency(LDEA), the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), among others to protect our citizens and combat against terrorism in the region working with international partners”, Johnson said.

Retired Major General (Maj/Gen) Prince Charles Johnson, III, is an infantry officer in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who has served his country for over sixteen years and is currently serving as Chief of Staff (COS), AFL. He was nominated by the President of the Republic of Liberia and confirmed by the Senate on February 5, 2018. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after completion of the Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 2007. He has held several positions within the AFL: Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS); Commanding General/23rd Infantry Brigade Commander; Chief of Operations, HQ AFL (ACOS J3); Deputy Assistant Chief of Operations HQ AFL (Dy ACOS J3); Chief of Logistics HQ AFL (ACOS J4); Military Assistant (MA) to the Minister of National Defense; Assistant Brigade Operations Officer, S3; 2nd Battalion Executive Officer (XO); Company Commander and Platoon Commander.

Maj/Gen Johnson, III has attended several military schools, including the US Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA; Infantry Mechanized Company Commander Course (MCCC) in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China Hebei Province, China; Junior Staff Course (JSC), Horton Military Academy, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Infantry Young Officer Course (YOC) at the Nigeria Army School of Infantry in Jaji, Kaduna, Nigeria.

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