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RSLAF Chief of Defence Staff orders dispersal of Leobatt 2 Troops

RSLAF Chief of Defence Staff orders dispersal of Leobatt 2 Troops

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Major General Samuel Omar Williams, has warned troops of the Second Sierra Leone Battalion (LEOBATT 2) to be prepared to disperse to their various units by end of October 2014, as their movement to Somalia has been put on hold indefinitely. He made this disclosure whilst addressing the troops on Thursday 16 October 2014 at the Peace Mission Training Centre (PMTC) at Hastings.

LEOBATT 2 is a battalion of 850 soldiers which completed its 8 months peacekeeping training in June 2014 and were due to deploy in July 2014 to replace LEOBATT 1 in Somalia. The movement was temporarily halted due to the Ebola outbreak in the country and the troops have since been encamped awaiting movement.

In his short address to the troops, the CDS seized the opportunity to first of all dispel rumours among the soldiers that authorities at the MoD are responsible for their plight. He then highlighted key implications of such a stalemate on both LEOBATT 1 and 2, saying that LEOBATT 1 continues to remain exposed to the risk of losing their lives in the theatre in Somalia, while LEOBATT 2 continues to consume huge sums of money monthly on maintenance.

In outlining the antecedents leading to the final decision to disperse, the CDS asked that few correspondences be read to the troops so that they could better understand the frantic effort made by authorities at various levels to ensure their deployment. He however expressed disappointment over the stance of the Somali Government to reject all troops from West Africa despite our extremely kind resolve to deploy far beyond our sub-region just to demonstrate African solidarity; when other options like Mali and Central African Republic were open. He is of the view that alternatively, the Somali Government could have requested the isolation of our troops for a reasonable period upon arrival in their country. He further expressed frustration over the most recent issue of Ebola scam on LEOBATT 2, which has been widely regarded as the final ‘nail on the coffin’.

The CDS also informed the troops that the dispersal order was not unilateral but received the concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief of the RSLAF who he said, is also very much disheartened by the entire episode. He however assured the troops that frantic effort will be made to explore other opportunities for the RSLAF in other peacekeeping missions. He therefore advised the troops to be very careful and remain focused, even though they may be deployed in the fight against Ebola, as they will be the first to be considered whenever any other opportunity arises. On the question of the repatriation of LEOBATT 1 troops from Somalia, the CDS emphasized that the issue will be handle at diplomatic levels.

The CDS was accompanied by the Commander Joint Force – Brigadier General Brima Sesay and the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Operations and Plans – Brigadier General Mamadi Keita. Together with his entourage, he endeavoured to pay a snap visit to the construction site of the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre, where the RSLAF Engineer Regiment is doing a commendable job.

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