Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 February 2018:
Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), yesterday Sunday 18th February 2018, urged the men and women in uniform to be professional at all times.
Speaking at the ceremony marking the 9th Armed Forces Day, held at the Hockey Pitch, Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown, the president described the military as a professional institution democratically accountable to the people, as well as aligned to wider national interests.
He added that the RSLAF has gone through tremendous transformation since 2002, particularly in training, operations, and discipline, with good policies and procedures for recruitment, promotion, transfer, and retirement all in place.
“In today’s RSLAF, promotions are not unilateral; there are no double or treble promotions, and no one becomes a Brigadier overnight,” said the Commander-in-Chief.
According to reports from the State House Communication Unit, President Koroma pointed out that it was not surprising therefore, that the RSLAF has become competitive in regional and continental Peace Support Operations, saying that the RSLAF has contributed to global efforts of bringing peace to other parts of the continent and beyond.
He said that the RSLAF continues to serve in different UN Missions in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and Lebanon. At home, he said, the RSLAF continues to provide prompt support to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) in the form of Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP).
“During the Ebola scourge, RSLAF supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in the form of Military Aid to Other Government Departments (MAGDs). It also provided Military Aid to Civil Communities (MAC-C) during the 14 August 2017 mudslide and flooding in Freetown. For all these efforts, I salute you,” President Koroma told the men and women in dark green uniform.
The head of state expressed satisfaction with the Forces Reconnaissance Unit (FRU)’s robust posture at key installations around the Tower Hill general area and State Avenue in particular, and added that as part of the Presidential Guard Force, the FRU have performed extremely well over the period.
The president also noted the continued readiness of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) at Cockerill Barracks to respond to emergencies within the Western Urban Area, as well as the formation of a Counter Terrorism Unit to enable the force to effectively respond to any terrorist attack in the country.
He commended the selfless commitment to duty, willingness and determination of the RSLAF to contribute to the peace and stability of the country.
President Koroma went on to remind the distinguished men and women of RSLAF that his government has provided the enabling environment for the RSLAF to perform its constitutional role.
He told them that despite the uninformed criticisms of some of those who want to be their Commander-in-Chief, his government has provided the funds for the acquisition of logistics and equipment for the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) Company, as well as a Peace Support Operation (PSO) Battalion.
“I have been informed that 99% of ESF equipment are in country and that the production of about 50% of LEOBATT2 equipment by an international company has rekindled the RSLAF PSO aspiration.”
He also noted that the current acquisitions will enhance the RSLAF’s capability to deploy a Battalion and Company at UN and ECOWAS Peace Support Operations respectively, assuring that this time around, RSLAF will deploy on Wet Lease with Contingent Owned Equipment (COE), once the necessary planning and deployment with the UN is finalized.
President Koroma further said that government has also acquired, quite recently, reasonable quantity of essential equipment such as defence stores, beddings, cooking utensils, etc as part of RSLAF G1098 Stores.
On accommodation, the president informed that the ongoing barracks expansion projects at Wilberforce, Gondama and Kambia, in sharp contrast to the ignominious operation pebble, are partially complete.
He disclosed that on completion, each of the barracks is estimated to house approximately three to five hundred personnel, which would be a huge boost to accommodation for serving personnel. He also mentioned the Military Guest House (The Boom Defence) and the Hill Cot Flat which is also being rehabilitated to cushion the accommodation challenges facing the RSLAF.
With regards to uniforms and boots, President Koroma said that “your individual appearance now, compared to the days of old, is a manifestation of our commitment to the welfare of the RSLAF”.
The high point of his address came when he mentioned the terms and conditions of service of the RSLAF, which according to the president, is being given the requisite consideration it deserves – even as he leaves office.
The president also noted that since training is the hallmark of professionalism, several training opportunities are now open to all serving personnel and across all ranks. He also informed that equal opportunities have been created for women to be enlisted both as officers and other ranks and be able to compete with their male counterparts, thereby addressing issues of gender equality in the military.
He revealed that there are 615 Cadets and Recruits currently undergoing training at the Armed Forces Training Centre (AFTC) at Benguema. This comprise of 85 Cadets, 196 Specialists and 341 Recruits. Among these numbers, President Koroma said, there are 20 female Cadets, 33 female Specialists and 80 female Recruits.
In a sombre mood, President Koroma told the men and women of the RSLAF that this year’s Armed Forces’ Day Celebration was very special to him, because it coincides with the end of his tenure in office.
He told them that it was therefore a fitting moment to bid them farewell and to thank them most profoundly for the support they have accorded to his Government. “Let me also, at this stage, entreat you to always remain loyal, committed and dedicated to the service of our motherland and the people of this country.”
Giving a brief background on the rationale behind the Armed Forces Day, Brigadier General Usman Turay, ACDS PR/Info and Defence Spokesman said the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) fought bravely as part of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) during the First and Second World Wars (1914-1918) and (1939-1945) respectively.
He said that the army fought gallantly in India, Burma and the Cameroons as well as in the ECOMOG, Liberia and the 11 years rebel war. He also mentioned the RSLAF’s involvement in peace support operations in DR Congo, Sudan and recently in Somalia.
He noted that the celebration is in recognition of the victories achieved in all these operations as a departure from the traditional Myohaung Day Celebration observed on 24th January every year, which recognized victory in only a single battle during the Burma Campaign.
Brigadier General Turay assured the government and people of Sierra Leone of their preparedness and commitment in sustaining the peace, and contribute their own quota to the development of the country.
The ceremony climaxed with an award ceremony for deserving members of the RSLAF who have excelled themselves in various categories. The recipients include SL27566 Pessima Lomboi, who was born in 1921. He Joined the army at the age of 21. He is now 94 years old.