9 April 2012
President Koroma’s decision to import large cache of military grade arms and ammunition into the country, so close to a general election, is regarded at best with suspicion by the international community – especially the UN Security Council; and at worse, seen by most Sierra Leoneans and the opposition political parties, as a reckless disregard for the peace and stability of the country, after ten years of brutal civil war.
But after several weeks of attempts to justify its decision to arm the police force, the government has finally abandoned its propaganda, half truths and cover-up. It has issued a public statement, which many find stupefying and absurd.
This is what the statement says:
“Over the past few weeks, there has been public debate on the importation of arms and ammunition for the Sierra Leone police.
“This issue dates back to December 2009 when the procurement committee of the Sierra Leone police met to discuss the procurement of security hardware to meet future security needs of an expanding economy and a police force that was becoming greater in number.
“At that meeting it was agreed to procure arms and ammunition for the Operations Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone police to meet part of its operational requirements.
“It should be noted that under the policing charter of 1998, the role of government is to ensure among other things that the Sierra Leone police is adequately resourced, financed, well equipped and professionally trained to undertake its duties.
“In February 2010, the contract was awarded to Amylam Sierra Leone limited and payment was to be made between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2012. The arms and ammunition arrived in Freetown in January 2012.
“Recognizing the primacy of the police in providing security for the people of Sierra Leone, government has a duty to equip the force even in time of peace.
“This particular importation of security hardware had been arranged over two years ago as part of the police force’s routine procurement and not in response to any overt threat to our peace and security, or specifically for deployment during the electioneering period.
“However, having regard to objections raised about the type and quantum of the said weapons, a technical committee was set up to look into the matter in order to allay the fears of the public.
“Following their deliberations, a directive was issued that certain of these weapons be transferred to the republic of Sierra Leone armed forces (RSLAF) to be deployed in peace support operations to the African Union / United Nations.
“The Sierra Leone police in collaboration with RSLAF have effected the transfer, witnessed by international observers.
“As a responsible government we are determined to uphold the tenets of democracy, and also maintain peace, tranquillity and the rule of law throughout Sierra Leone. Our primary concern is the protection of lives and properties of all Sierra Leoneans and we will remain steadfast in doing so.”
Would the government succeed in this latest attempt to sanitise its messy arms deal and eradicate the perception of a government that is preparing for post-election war?
Perhaps not, but as the saying goes: if you find yourself in a whole, stop digging.