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Sierra Leone AMISOM troops to be withdrawn

By Winifred Hannah Koroma

DECEMBER 22, 2014

Sierra Leonean troops deployed in war torn Somalia as part of an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are due back home early next year after they had been bade farewell by the government of Somalia.

The 850 Sierra Leonean troops, deployed in the war stricken Horn of Africa country in 2012, are going to be withdrawn because of the Ebola outbreak in the tiny West Africa country which put paid to the rotation of troops, a process well overdue.

Speaking at a farewell ceremony for the Freetown bound troops last Friday in Kismayo, President of Somalia, Hon. Hassan Sheik Mohamed, commended the soldiers for their gallantry and dedication while serving the AU peace support mission in Somalia. He lauded the troops for having the best interest of Somalia at heart, as their sole mission was to stabilize the conflict ridden country.

“I always said and I will say it again, the best gift one can give to someone else is to sacrifice his life, and that is what these troops have done, and we owe them too much,” President Mohamed said at the ceremony in Kismayo, where the troops were based.

Speaking about the Ebola outbreak, which is currently ravaging the country, President Mohamed expressed his commiserations with victims, and added that Somalia will stand by the people of Sierra Leone.

AMISOM news bulletin quoted Ahmed Mohamed Islam, head of Interim Jubba Administration, to have applauded the Sierra Leonean troops for their heroism during their time with AMISOM. He said the troops conducted themselves according to the rules of engagement and had good relationship with the locals.

“They even shared their daily rations with the disadvantaged citizens of this country,” Mr. Islam said and expressed hope that Kismayo would be twinned with Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.

Commander of the Sierra Leonean troops, Brigadier Tamba R. Alieu, said at the ceremony that he was disheartened to leave Somalia, but wished the country well in her quest for sustainable peace.

Brigadier Alieu revealed that the contingent lost one soldier, while six others were wounded during their mission in Somalia.

In a telephone interview, Ministry of Defence spokesman, Colonel Michael Samura told Concord Times the troops are due in Freetown in the second week of January 2015.

He said the withdrawal was necessitated by “mission fatigue and home sickness” as the men had requested to be repatriated, having served almost two years in Somalia, fighting Al-Shabab insurgents, although they should have been rotated a year earlier.

Colonel Samura said Sierra Leone was unable to deploy a fresh contingent following the outbreak of Ebola in May, and that “Somalia had requested we put the rotation on hold” until the outbreak is declared ended.

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