Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 December 2016
Sierra Leone’s former defence chief of staff lieutenant general Samuel Omar Williams was shot dead by unknown gunmen at his home in Freetown in the early hours of this morning, according to police report. (Photo: S.O Williams in the centre).
The military chief retired from the army in April 2016, after a snappy cabinet reshuffle by president Koroma in March this year, and was replaced by his assistant John Milton.
His assassination comes just few months after another former military chief of Sierra Leone Major General Claude Nelson Williams was kidnapped in Nigeria, by criminal gangs whilst serving as Sierra Leone’s deputy high commissioner to Nigeria. He was later released after the government paid what was understood to be a hefty ransom.
Reports of fatal gun violence on prominent public officials by criminals is rare in Sierra Leone.
But with a massive rise in armed robbery in the last ten years, there are fears the use of guns may also be rising.
Just last week the residence of one of the aspiring presidential candidates for the opposition SLPP party – Alie Kabba, was attacked by four gunmen.
No one was hurt in that attack. The police are said to be investigating.
In July, 2012, president Koroma – who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces appointed S.O Williams as the country’s new Chief of Defence Staff (Photo).
The two most senior positions in the military – Chief of Defence Staff and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, were up to March this year, occupied by officers of Mende and Sherbro origin from the South-East.
S.O. Williams is a South-easterner of Mende/Sherbro origin, from Bonthe district. The current chief of staff John Milton is also from the south of the country.
There are no indications his assassination may have been politically motivated.
In his appointment as head of the military, president Koroma told Williams: “It is your responsibility to maintain high morals in the RSLAF. You have the task of ensuring that the RSLAF conducts itself in a professional manner during and after the elections slated for November this year.”
In reply, Williams said: “I am ready to protect the sovereignty of my country and make sure that the RSLAF will live up to the task.”
And in June 2015, chief of defence staff S.O. Williams and three other senior officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, were promoted to various ranks.
Addressing the officers, President Koroma said the day marks yet another milestone in the history of the military, as the newly promoted Lieutenant General Samuel Omar Williams has become the country’s first CDS to attain the rank, and also the 17th Defence Chief since Independence. He pointed out that what they have just witnessed manifests dedication to duty, commitment, loyalty and above all selfless sacrifice to humanity both locally and globally.
But less than ten months after his historical decoration, Williams was replaced by president Koroma at a cabinet reshuffle.
His predecessors include Brigadier Blakie (1957-62), Brigadier David Lansana (1962-67), Brigadier Juxon Smith (1967-68), Brigadier John Bangura (1968-71), Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh (1971-85), Major General MS Tarawallie (1985-92), Major General Jusu Gottor (1992-94), Brigadier Kellie Conteh (1994-95), Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (1995-96), Brigadier JOY Turay (1996-96), Brigadier Hassan Conteh (1996-97), Brigadier Maxwell Mitikishi Khobe (1998-2000), Major General Tom Carew (2000-04), Major General Edwin Sam-Mbomah (2004-08), Major General Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams (2008-10) and Major General Robert Yilla Koroma (2010-12).
Police in Freetown say that they have mounted a major manhunt for the killers of Sierra Leone’s highest ranking military general.
Massive youth unemployment and rising violence across the country, are posing serious threats to Sierra Leone’s security and stability.
Early this week, president Koroma met with his cabinet to discuss national security issues, as well as consider plans for the forthcoming elections in 2018.