Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 December 2019
Hundreds of children gathered at State House in Freetown today for this year’s special festive celebration, hosted by President Julius Maada Bio and his wife – Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio.
It is the second Christmas party that the Bios have organised for children from all backgrounds in the country. Speaking about the event, president Bio said they invited the kids to dine together because of the premium he and his wife place on the wellbeing of children.
He also encouraged the children to focus on their academic work and make good use of his government’s free quality education.
In another development, earlier today president Bio was at the proposed construction site of a new Myohaung Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters at the Wilberforce Military Barracks in Freetown, where he turned the sod.
According to State House report, the construction project is part of a package of support approved for Sierra Leone by the Chinese government in June this year.
The package includes military aid grants to the value of 50 million Yuan ($7.2 million US Dollars) for the construction of a five-storey military accommodation of 104 rooms, with modern facilities for single officers.
Also, the existing Myohaung Officers’ Mess will be completely demolished and replaced with a new and expanded Officers’ Mess of two floors with ultra-modern facilities, according to the agreement.
Speaking at the ceremony, president Bio said that ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sierra Leone and China, “both nations have continued to pursue a shared future based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal footing, common security, fairness and justice, and common development.”
The President also said that the future of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Force (RSLAF) is in the hands of the junior officers but warned that they must inculcate the military’s ethos, values and traditions which could best be accomplished in the Officer’s mess. He noted that for far too long, the existing Myohaung Officer’s mess has been unfit for purpose.
“The size of the RSLAF has quadrupled. Younger officers have not been able to identify with the structural, regimental, morale and historical purpose of the Myohaung Officers’ mess; and have thus, not asserted ownership as they should.
“Additionally, because of inadequate housing, young officers have had to live off-premises in private accommodation. This has not enhanced that intangible but all too invaluable psychological salary for our soldiers – morale and esprit de corps.
“In line with my Government’s manifesto commitment to purposeful interventions to enhance the capacity and capability of the RSLAF, I followed initial contacts with high-level meetings on the margins of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in late 2018 with a special focus on defence cooperation and assistance.
“Beyond training, the RSLAF continues to gain from key infrastructural investments from the PRC. We acknowledge the continuing engagement of the PRC in enhancing the capacity of our country’s armed forces,” he said.
Minister of Defence, Rtd. Brig. Kellie Hassan Conteh, said that the event to initiate the construction of the Myohaung Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters that would transform the facility into a new modern accommodation, is record-breaking.
He expressed the belief that the desired outcome of the project would certainly contribute to transforming the face of the RSLAF in terms of infrastructure, military professionalism and morale.
Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hu Zhangliang, said that the project is the brainchild of President Bio and the result of friendly discussions between the two countries, adding that the gesture was a shining example of the fruitful cooperation between the two countries.
He noted that after relentless efforts in communication and coordination at the earlier stages, the project is now formally breaking ground.
He also mentioned that the proposed Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters is a first-class design, which when completed will go a long way in improving the living conditions of the officers of the RSLAF, bringing them a stronger sense of honour and happiness. He said it will raise the logistics support capabilities and morale of the army.