Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 February 2019:
Yesterday, 18 February 2019 was Armed Forces Day in Sierra Leone. And the focus of attention as expected, was on the welfare and conditions of service for the thousands of men and women serving in the military.
Addressing soldiers yesterday at the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown – the country’s military headquarters, president Julius Maada Bio who is also serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), announced new measures to improve conditions of service for the serving and ex-servicing men and women.
He told them: “As I have said, your service and sacrifice are unique; your dedication and loyalty, exemplary. It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce a number of immediate interventions to improve the conditions of service of all serving and retired men of the RSLAF who honourably served and are serving their nation.
“Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) – Starting this year, members of the RSLAF will benefit from the enhanced salary pay, which has also been rolled out to all public sector service workers. Henceforth, your annual leave allowances will be normalised to reflect your gross pay. This is in recognition of the unique nature of your service to this nation.”
President Bio also stated that under the New Direction, the amount paid to the RSLAF as ‘Monthly Running Costs’ (MRC) and ‘Rations Cash Allowances’ (RCA) have been reviewed, and his government has concluded that these payments are insufficient to support their welfare and other needs.
He said: “Furthermore, in support of your well-being, I have also authorised the recommendation that the MRC of the Joint Medical Unit (JMU) be increased by 100%. This increased budget allocation to the Joint Medical Unit will facilitate the maintenance of hospital equipment, and other undertake infrastructural improvements in support of your welfare.
“Furthermore, the provision of adequate housing facilities for all service personnel and their families is still a strong priority of my government. This plan will incorporate the rebuilding of Wilberforce Barracks. I also encourage the military leadership to take strong action in evicting illegal occupants off military property as a matter of urgency. Once this is complete, we would review the stabilised situation and plan in a purposeful way how to cater for adequate housing.”
The Commander-in-Chief also announced that the Defence Council has approved the transformation of the RSLAF into a Tri-Service organisation with a separate but unified Army, Navy, and Air Force that will be implemented as part of the government’s long-term strategic goal, within the next five years.
“Alongside this, we also plan to develop and properly resource the RSLAF’s specialist units such as the Armed Forces Agricultural Units (AFAU), Engineer Regiment (Engr Regt), Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), the Armed Forces Technical and Education College (AFTEC), the Joint Medical Unit (JMU), and the Tailoring Unit.
“This will help each of the specialist units to develop their capacities in order to support food security, skills and human capital development, construction, and to generate revenue for the military. These specialist units will also be particularly strengthened and capacitated to contribute towards disaster and emergency relief interventions,” he said.
The president thanked the UK government, through the International Security and Advisory Team (ISAT), adding that he has already sanctioned the special female recruitment drive into the force. He also acknowledged the invaluable interventions of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and, in particular, for providing a grant of 50 million Chinese Yuan equivalent of $7.3 Million..
“My aim is for our women to constitute 25% of the Army in line with best practices all over the world. This recruitment drive begins to close the gender gap and opens up possibilities for women to serve their country as proud and distinguished members of our armed forces,” he said, adding that based on recommendations by their commanders and endorsed by their Chief of Defence Staff, he has confirmed a number of promotions that recognised meritorious and outstanding service.
Lastly, he told the soldiers: “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have had the distinguished honour to serve in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. I feel, know, and recognise the stresses and hardships of military service. I am delighted to be here today both as our country’s democratically-elected President and as a man who proudly served in our Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces.”