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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | May 16, 2024

Sierra Leone to Partner with Michigan National Guard, Liberia

By Capt. Andrew Layton, Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. - The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is joining the State Partnership Program as an additional member of the existing partnership between the Michigan National Guard and the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Michigan and Liberia have been partners under the SPP since 2009.

“This expansion is good news for each of our organizations,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, Michigan National Guard adjutant general. “Welcoming Sierra Leone to our partnership in West Africa will provide new opportunities to address security challenges through a trilateral approach. Michigan sees this as a new chapter in the history of one incredibly meaningful regional partnership.”

The SPP began in 1993 with 13 partners and has grown to include more than 100 nations. The Department of Defense National Guard Bureau program facilitates civil-military collaboration, broadening the pool of security partners supporting defense and security cooperation objectives worldwide.

“This partnership will strengthen defense, security cooperation and will address lingering security challenges in the West African sub-region and the Gulf of Guinea,” said Lt. Gen. Peter Lavahun, RSLAF chief of defense staff. “The RSLAF stands ready to embrace this partnership and anticipate opportunities to work closely with the Michigan National Guard in pursuit of our shared objectives and values.”

Over the past 15 years, Michigan and Liberia have partnered on various issues, including the rule of law familiarization, noncommissioned officer professional development, medical readiness, and disease control. Michigan played a role in rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia following Liberia’s civil war era through the U.S. Africa Command-sponsored Operation Onward Liberty.

“The State Partnership Program has been a big success for Liberia, and we look forward to continuing the benefits of our cooperation with Michigan alongside our counterparts in Sierra Leone,” said Brig. Gen. Davidson Forleh, AFL chief of staff. “We must work together to achieve and maintain peace, security and prosperity in the region.”

The Michigan National Guard has also partnered with the Republic of Latvia since 1993.

“Michigan has a long track record of success with the State Partnership Program dating back to 1993 when Michigan and Latvia were among the first participants,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Liberia was added as an SPP partner in 2009 and our state-to-state relationship has led to a beneficial exchange of people and ideas. As we welcome Sierra Leone to this new regional partnership, we must reaffirm our commitment to our partners in Liberia and lay the foundation for successful cooperation with our new partners in Sierra Leone. Together, thanks to our skilled military leadership and brave service members, we will get it done.”

Situated in coastal West Africa, Sierra Leone is Liberia’s neighbor to the west. While both countries enjoy vibrant cultural and ethnic distinctions, they share a common use of the English language and some historical similarities. Both countries experienced devastating civil wars during the 1990s and early 2000s.

“This announcement further solidifies Sierra Leone’s partnership with the U.S. to address mutual security challenges in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Bryan Hunt. “The SPP will provide continuity and support to bolster the professionalization of the RSLAF. Moreover, it will promote the U.S. as Sierra Leone’s committed partner for bilateral security cooperation.”

An official signing ceremony for Sierra Leone’s SPP membership is planned for late 2024.