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President Koroma’s address for Armed Forces Day

President Koroma’s address for Armed Forces Day

Address by His Excellency, the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, 18th February 2010 at the National Stadium:

The Honourable Vice president,
Ministers of Government
Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Chief of Defence Staff
Inspector General of Police,
Director of Prisons, Chief Fire Officer
Serving and Retired Senior Officers from the Military and Police
Distinguished Personalities
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great honour that I stand here this morning to address RSLAF troops on this very important day. It is a day we have set aside to remember our patriotic compatriots who sacrificed their lives yesterday that we can live today in peace, and harmony and be led by a democratically elected government.

There is a time for every purpose under the Sun: a time to commemorate and a time to celebrate; a time to honour gallant men and women and a time to pay tribute to their heroism. Just 3 months ago in November, together with our sister commonwealth nations, we had the annual Remembrance Day Ceremonies to commemorate the gallantry of our brothers in the first and second world wars. But in the Sierra Leone version of the ceremonies, we decided to also commemorate the heroism of all those who laid down their lives in all other wars and conflicts we have fought as a nation. Today we are continuing that tradition of remembrance; today we are honouring the many men and women who laid down their lives for the glory of God and country; today we are re-dedicating ourselves with their heroism in mind; to serve, to do all we can and even to pay the ultimate price, to defend, secure and honour our great country.

As Commander-in Chief, I am very confident that officers, men and women of the RSLAF will always be ready to make such sacrifices for the survival and prosperity of our people and our beloved country.

Distinguished Personalities, Ladies and Gentlemen, the RSLAF has come a long way. It has been a tough and arduous journey. But with determination, perseverance and unrivalled dedication, the officers, men and women of the armed forces have stayed the course. Inspired by the heroism of gallant comrades during the rebel war, drawing succour from the democratic aspirations of our people, and working together with a team of international military experts, the RSLAF has, during the past ten years, gone through rigorous transformation in terms of its size, structure, attitude and psyche.

Today, we are also commemorating the endurance of all those who made this transformation possible. Today we are celebrating the fact that the present members of the armed forces are as true and loyal to this country as were the fallen officers, men and women who fought for the greater glory of our country. Today we Sierra Leoneans hold up our heads high  for having one of the most disciplined  Armed Forces in Africa; a RSLAF that is democratically accountable and more than ready to serve the nation and to keep the peace at home and abroad.

Here are some of the living testimonies to these achievements: On Peace Support Operations (PSO); we have dispatched quite recently, a Reconnaissance Company to the troubled region of Darfur. We also currently have over 30 officers serving both as Military Observers (MILOBS) and Staff officers in various UN Missions, and I am happy to note that from the reports we are getting, they are all excelling themselves in all the positions to which they have been appointed. Furthermore, I am informed that one of our naval officers on a training voyage onboard a US Naval Ship to Haiti was very instrumental in the ongoing humanitarian operations. Secondly, in the area of transparency and accountability, the RSLAF was recently rated 92% compliance with the Anti-Corruption Commission rules and procedures.

Here at home, I am delighted with the progress that is being made in the establishment of the Armed Forces Tailoring Industry and the Armed Forces Agricultural Unit. I am reliably informed that all these spectacularly smart uniforms I am seeing in front of me on parade are the handiwork of our soldiers. I am also told that the Agricultural Unit recorded a respectable harvest during the past harvest season. These are all as a result of your commitment, determination and training. I also note with satisfaction your various self-help infrastructural projects such as the facelift to the 34 Hospital, the construction of a mortuary, the barracks perimeter fencing etc, which is in line with my philosophy of “Agenda for Change”.

In the area of gender mainstreaming, the RSLAF has also moved forward. There is now a gender policy in operation. I look forward to more overseas courses and appointments to Peace Support Operations being offered not only to male officers and other ranks but also to the female ones; to ensure gender equity and women empowerment.

My Government has very good plans for the RSLAF. We are actively considering supplying a bag of rice per month to every soldier in the RSLAF in the not too distant future. This morning,  you witnessed the commissioning of 100 units of Indian donated prefabricated structures at the Wilberforce Barracks for housing purposes; more will continue to come from time to time. We will do all in our capacity to seek your welfare and improve your conditions of service. But this is obviously a gradual process.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me also use this opportunity to applaud your loyalty to the constitution, the democratically elected government, and the aspirations of our people for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation. You are on oath to be democratically accountable, to be loyal to me as your commander in chief, and to protect the lives and property of our people whose hard-earned tax payers’ money, pays for your upkeep.

We as a people, should all recognise the fact that there is no alternative to Democracy and that we must therefore all strive together to maintain it. As custodians of security, we also recognise your role in providing the enabling environment for national development, in conjunction with the Police. We recognise and commend your support to the Police particularly during Operation Solid Rock – to curb the spate of armed robbery in the entire country, Operation Black Sunday – to secure the Lungi International Airport and Pademba Prisons during the cocaine saga, Operations Provide Light – to patrol and secure the Bumbuna Hydro pylon lines and Operation Restore Hope – to forestall the problem of deforestation on our environment. I applaud you for successfully carrying out these operations; you are the pride of this nation.

You must continue to stay this course; you must continue on the path of discipline, loyalty and service to this nation which has been destined   for you. In a democratic society, the military has a unique role to play in society. It is the institution that provides  a role model of discipline for the nation.

Let me conclude by wishing the RSLAF continued success in all its endeavours and to you all who have joined me here today a happy Armed Forces Day Celebration and a very pleasant time.

I thank you all for your audience.

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