President Julius Maada Bio extols women soldiers, warns them against politics in Sierra Leone

President of The Republic of Sierra Leone and Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, RSLAF, Dr Julius Maada Bio, has warned women officer cadets and recruits against politics.

The President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio Decorating the women officer cadets and recruits

While reviewing the passing-out parade and commissioning ceremony of over 300 combined women officer cadets and recruits at the Armed Forces Training Centre, the President commended the soldiers for their resilience and tenacity but urged them not to be involved in partisan politicking or engaged in partisan political discussions.

“As professional soldiers, do not allow yourselves to be unduly influenced by politicians irrespective of your personal relationships or other unseemly affinities with them. You serve the Republic of Sierra Leone and no one individual’s personal interests or ambitions,” he said.

He added: “May I remind you also of your responsibilities. The oath of allegiance, to which you subscribed moments ago, means that you have agreed to subject yourself to public scrutiny as a soldier both on and off duty. You have sworn to respect, uphold, and protect the National
Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone, and to obey all lawful orders from any superior placed over you without question.”

The President said that when his government, in conjunction with the United Kingdom Government and the International Security Advisory Team (ISAT), launched the Special Female Recruitment, it was because they believed that expanding the presence and role of women in the
national security sector was good for national peace, cohesion, and development.

He added that while the initiative aligned firmly with United Nations expectations to further leverage the invaluable role of women soldiers in peace engagement and peace support operations, it was also good for expanding the country’s role in international peacekeeping and
peace support operations the world over.

President Bio emphasised that the soldiers had indeed accomplished themselves with great distinction in training and had proven again that what men could do, women could do even better.

“As commander-in-Chief, let me formally welcome you into the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. Let me also assure you that you are coming into this noble institution at a time when there is growing opportunity for female service personnel in terms of career progression, educational development, and participation in global Peace Support Operations.

“We are also fully committed to recruiting, training, and retaining more women soldiers and we will promote women leadership within the RSLAF. We will put in place accountability mechanisms to ensure that our RSLAF pursues a progressive agenda for women and our institution will continue to evolve as we learn lessons and best practices across the globe,” he said.

The President disclosed that since 1978 and 1979, when 10 female cadet officers and 64 recruits enlisted in the military, more women had volunteered to serve and had, over 40 years of dedicated service to country, shown an uncommon valour, courage, adaptability, selflessness,
leadership, and they had carried through their pledge to defend and protect the land that they loved.

“I read out the following names with pride: Annie Monrovia, Euphemia Cole, Claudia Taylor, Mafulay Bangura, Mariatu Kamara and many others now retired. They were some of the very first women who enlisted in our military forces.

“I pronounce the following names beaming with joy: Kestoria Kabia, Memuna Koroma; June Adeola; Ursula Hanciles and many more were some of our country’s first women officer cadets.

“I call out Brigadier General Kestoria Kabia, Colonel Memuna Koroma, Colonel Annie Paris, Colonel Leona Tucker, and Colonel Agatha Sandy among many more to come. With deep pride and great appreciation, I thank you for your service, commitment, leadership and for blazing a trail for women to serve in senior command positions in our military.

“I also call out Col (Rtd) Annie Paris- Matron 34 Hospital – whose patriotic dedication to service and saving lives during the Ebola scourge earned her a Silver Medal; Sgt Musu Foday – Ambulance driver – Bronze Medal and long service and good conduct medal, who acquitted herself valiantly as
a driver in the Sector Reconnaissance Company (SRC) in Sudan, during Ebola in Sierra Leone, and who continues to serve these colours with pride in the Joint Presidential Guard Force; Corporal Hannah George whose invaluable service as a nurse during Ebola earned her a Bronze Medal.

“Each of these fine women and many more whose names I have not called out today, volunteered, stood side by side with their menfolk in war and public health emergencies, and in disaster management and national development.”

President Bio said the women had defied traditional strictures, battled against stereotypes and unequal treatment and had persevered and prevailed, adding that that was a history and tradition to be proud of.

“To you our new soldiers, you have just sworn into one of the finest military traditions and institutions – one that has hewn and shaped patriots; men and women who have fought and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation in war and in peace. They have served selflessly from Burma to the Congo, from Timor Leste to Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, and in the jungles of
Sierra Leone.

They have stood up when it mattered; they have shed their blood when their country needed it most. They are the proud men and women of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. Let us all continue to stand for our country’s peace, unity, freedom, and justice because we have only this one Sierra Leone.

Acting British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Alistair White, said after an incredibly demanding and difficult few months, he was happy to witness the passing-out ceremony of the new female recruits. He said the military was one of the links between the United Kingdom and Sierra Leone and noted that it was important that the country benefited from the capability of all its young people.

“This achievement should also be noted widely among other national and international institutions and also by the United Nations where an increasing number of women serving is recognised as critical to success,” he said.

Sierra Leone: Seven Military Personnel in CID over Capt. Kamara’s Escape

By Joseph S. Margai

Officials of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), have on Wednesday, 29th May, 2019, disclosed to newsmen at MOD’s headquarters on Tower Hill, Freetown, that seven military personnel are currently being investigated at the country’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in relation to the escape of Captain Patrick Edwin Kamara.

Capt. Kamara, who is believed to have escaped from the military custodial centre at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown, in the early hours of Tuesday, 21st May, 2019, was on a court martial trial with two other accused persons.
Major Yayah Brima, Staff Officer Grade II in-charge of public relations and information, said Capt. Kamara and the other two accused persons-Warrant Officer Class I Samuel Conteh and Warrant Officer Class II Abu Bakarr Jalloh-were on court martial on five count charges.

“These charges include conspiracy to steal service property, larceny by servant, wilfully damaging service property, wilful neglect causing damage to service property and conduct to prejudice of good order and military discipline,” he noted.

He said Capt. Kamara and the two others were key members of the security detail of former President Ernest Bai Koroma from 1st January, 2008 to 19th June 2018.

“The quantities of ammunition for which they were being tried under the various offences include 4,245 rounds of 12.7 millimetre (mm) anti-aircraft rounds, 3,828 rounds of 14.5mm anti-aircraft rounds, 11 bombs of rocket propel grenade, six rounds 7.62 × 39mm ball lint, 11,476 rounds of 7.62×39mm ball, 14,100 rounds of 7.62×39mm tracer, 6,740 rounds of 7.62×51mm ball lint and 515 rounds of 9×18mm ball,” he explained.

He added that the MOD/RSLAF would like the public to know that the value of the above mentioned ammunition is eighty thousand, four hundred and two dollars and thirty cent (US$80,402.30), approximately six hundred and eighty-three million, four hundred and nineteen thousand, five hundred and fifty Leones (Le683,419,550).
He recalled that the very day Capt. Kamara escaped from the military custodial centre, his twin brother coincidentally passed away at Makoth, seven miles off Yonibana near Mile 91, Tonkolili district, Northwest of Sierra Leone, after a long illness.

He said the deceased, Michael Kamara, had first been admitted at the Chinese Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Centre at the 34 Military Hospital in Freetown before later moved to the village for native treatment, where he died.

“Following these coincidences, the MOD/RSLAF has followed some misleading and inaccurate story purporting that Capt. Kamara has died in detention. The writer is believed to have deliberately mistaken the death of Michael Kamara for the fugitive Capt. Kamara,” he said. However, he said, the remains of Michael Kamara was conveyed to Freetown on the very day by deceased’s wife, Capt. Alice Koria Sesay, who is also a serving military officer.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Brima Sesay, said they have instituted necessary and proper actions regarding the escape and they have acted swiftly to hand over seven military personnel who were on duty during the escape, noting that they are being investigated at CID headquarters.

He said they have always been taking stringent actions against any military personnel who misbehaves, noting that the military would always be as good as the citizens want it to be. He called on media practitioners to always crosscheck with MOD before they publish anything relating to the military.
Deputy Minister of Defence, Col. (Rtd.) Simeon Nasiru Sheriff, said regarding the escape, they have enhanced standard operating procedures, revisited security advisory, among other measures.
He also called on all media practitioners to crosscheck with MOD before they publish anything relating to the military.

How using the military in Nigeria is causing, not solving problems

Soldiers patrol the Nigerian city of Jos, in the central Plateu State, in a bid to quell religious violence. EPA/George Esiri
Sallek Yaks Musa
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Stellenbosch University
Disclosure statement
Sallek Yaks Musa received funding from Lisa Maskell Fellowship of the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Germany as administered by the the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University and the Social Science Research Council’s Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa. He is affiliated with the Jos Stakeholders Center for Peace Collaborative of the Search for Common Ground, Nigeria.

Stellenbosch University provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

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Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against external aggression and internal violence. The first is usually the responsibility of the military. The second duty falls on the police.

But in Nigeria, the government often deploys  the military to restore order and to keep the peace. This is largely due to the inability of the police to contain violent conflicts, particularly in areas where armed groups are active.

This is the situation in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in the centre of Nigeria, just north of the administrative capital Abuja. The military has been used to maintain security since violence broke out between Christians and Muslims in September 2001.

The violence has evolved into one of the most enduring conflicts in Nigeria. Initially, angry young people used crude implements such as axes, sticks and machetes. Now various organised ethnic and religious militias wield small arms and light weapons. The conflict has spilled over into most parts of the state, with a pattern of hit-and-run attacks developing.

Several studies have indicated support the use of the military as a “necessary evil” to ensure the return to peace in the region.

But my study found that using the military to quell internal conflicts and restore order causes several problems. These included undermining the legitimacy of the military mission, as well as failing to quell the violence. In my PhD thesis I concluded that the conduct of soldiers only worsens the security situation for ordinary people.

I identified two factors as responsible for the problems. The first was a lack of military professionalism. Soldiers often intimidate and coerce civilians. They also engage in corruption and extortion, especially at military checkpoints. Some soldiers also subject civilians to psychological and emotional abuse. Yet others engage in blatant and flagrant acts of sexual and gender-based violence.

The second factor I identified was the fact that the command-and-control structure of the military is at odds with the way society operates.

These problems could be addressed with effective civil control of the military. But the study argues that civil control is weak in the country.

The use of the military

The response of the Nigerian government to growing levels of insecurity has increasingly been to use the military. Several peace and security conferences and commissions of inquiry have been instituted. But these yielded little or no result due to the lack of political will by the government to implement the recommendations.

The military has been deployed because of the weaknesses and inadequacies of the Nigerian police. Inadequate training, shortage of manpower as well as policing equipment, coupled with excesses have added to the erosion of public trust in the police and their legitimacy.

But the use of the military has introduced a host of new problems.

In my study I set out to understand whether the Nigerian state is exercising adequate civil control of the military to ensure that it doesn’t become a threat to the citizenry and exacerbate insecurity. I conducted 55 one-on-one interviews with civilians in six local government areas in Plateau State.

The study found that civilians see the military as exacerbating insecurity. For example, increased militarisation has led to people’s movements and activities being severely restricted. And several emergency rules have been declared. These have involved suspending civilian government and replacing it with military administrators.

Another finding was that dereliction of duty is rife among soldiers, with some choosing which distress calls from citizens to respond to or not.

On top of this, there’s tension between military culture and civilian values. The military operates a culture which follows an authoritarian leadership style, and is combat-focused. For their part, civilians are more likely to seek resolution to issues and to use the criminal justice system to adjudicate problems.

This has led to relations between civilians and the military becoming severely strained.

Lack of civil control

A bigger problem is the weak civil control over the Nigerian military. This has led to a lack of accountability and compliance with rules of engagement.

Nigerian law subordinates the military to civil control and parliamentary oversight. Ideally, this should ensure that the military acts within its mission and mandate. But, the problem lies with implementation. The culture of civilian supremacy over the military is not as yet well institutionalised.

The result is that citizens counteract abuse by the military in various ways. One way is to simply comply with the demands and orders of the soldiers, even when they are illegitimate. Another entails non-violent resistance or non-compliance. For example, it’s common for civilians to refuse to cooperate and share information with the military.

A third way is to collaborate with compromised soldiers. The fourth is to use various forms of violent resistance. This involves people either aligning with armed groups, or forming their own. This proliferation of armed groups worsens insecurity.

My study also showed a sharp difference of opinions between people of different religions. Christians contended that the military was biased in favour of Muslims. For their part, Muslims didn’t share this view.

What needs to happen

The use of the military is not an effective intervention against internal armed conflict. This is especially so in states with weak institutional control over the military as is the case in Nigeria.

The more recent setting up of a peace building agency is a more plausible alternative towards bringing the violent conflict to an end through effective mediation and peace education. The use of the military needs to be reconsidered and the peace building agency should focus on reuniting people and bridging the gap between the reactive security measures with proactive conflict prevention strategies. This is the only way in which trust and relative peace can be restored in this once peaceful Nigerian state.

Credit: The Conversation