February 22, 2016 By Regina Pratt
President Ernest Bai Koroma has promised to address the dire accommodation problem faced by the Republic of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) during National Armed Forces Day celebration last Thursday, 18 February.
“We are gathered here today to commemorate our National Armed Forces Day, to raise our flag in remembrance of all the men, women and officers who gave their lives in the service of our country, to honour those who have helped preserve our freedom,” he said at the hockey pitch, Wilberforce barracks in Freetown. “My Government will continue to support these efforts and we will address the accommodation problem which our service personnel are faced with.”
He disclosed that funds have been provided for the construction of 15 accommodation blocks at both the Wilberforce and Gondama barracks, while the construction of an ultra-modern barracks would commence in Kambia this June, adding that he would be commissioning a newly constructed barracks at Gondama, southern Sierra Leone.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence said there was more to celebrating National Armed Forces Day than mere enjoyment of freedom and peace and stability, as it was a special day with a great deal of historical significance.
“It is a day in which we must oblige to express our deference to those heroes, whose legacy should inspire all citizens to the acts of patriotism. This is why the commemoration of this day should focus on making the general public become aware of what the Armed Forces have done and continue to do on our behalf,” he emphasised.
He said the day was set aside by Commonwealth nations to commemorate the bravery and great sacrifices of soldiers in the First and Second World Wars and that its commemoration in Sierra Leone had been modified to include remembrance of soldiers who died in all other wars the country has experienced as a nation, particularly the 11-year rebel war and the war against the Ebola virus disease.
“We owe it to ourselves to be thankful to our Armed Forces and to demonstrate that there is great honour in sacrificing for one’s country,” he said.
“Owing to the outstanding performance of our troops, we have more than 30 officers serving both as Military Observers, Arms Monitors and Staff Officers in various UN Missions around the world. We have RSLAF staff officers deployed on MUNISMA operations in Mali and plans are far advanced for the deployment of another battalion – LEOBATT II in South Sudan,” he disclosed.
President Koroma said his government would continue to pay attention to career development of officers and men of the RSLAF, as there were several training opportunities available them, including women, to enable them compete with their male counterparts.
“I am heartened that you have established your own Armed Forces Tailoring Industry, Armed Forces Agricultural Unit and the various self-help infrastructural projects you have embarked upon, including the construction of Storage facilities, construction of Forward Patrol Bases, the Benguema Water Dam project and the Expansion and upgrading of the Peace Mission Training Centre and RSLAF Drug Store,” he said.
He extended government’s sincere appreciation for the diverse and invaluable supports rendered to the Ministry of Defense and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces by the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Peoples Republic of China, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ghana.
National Armed Forces Day was declared a public holiday throughout the country.