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Armed Forces Day A Sham!

Armed Forces Day A Sham!

President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma seven years ago recognized the role the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) played in the eleven-year civil conflict in the country by declaring February 18 as Armed Forces Day, the day the late former President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah officially declared the war over in 2002 ahead of that year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Since the President’s declaration of the Armed Forces Day as public holiday, the RSLAF had always celebrated it in grand style until last year when it was put to a halt due to the Ebola outbreak. So one would have thought that yesterday’s celebrations would have been observed by the general public to reflect their minds on the war years and their loved ones who passed away during that period, but the Armed Forces Day was just an ordinary day with full blown business activities in the Central Business District (CBD) of Freetown and the provincial cities and towns.

The public holiday was only observed by public institutions, private schools and colleges, diplomatic missions, reputable international institutions, organizations and agencies, while the entire business community snubbed the holiday with apparent impunity. Why that should happen after the President had declared the Armed Forces Day a public holiday? Did the President actually make the declaration in recognition of the RSLAF’s role in the civil conflict or to just make mockery of them by not enforcing it as other public holidays? When the President, for instance, pronounced that the no-trade regulation should be maintained after the Ebola fight, no trader had defied his pronouncement because it is fully enforced by the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). Similarly, if the President had called for the enforcement of the Armed Forces Day as public holiday, the RSLAF soldiers and officers would have been all over the place to ensure there was no public trading yesterday.

If President Koroma actually declared the Armed Forces Day as public holiday in recognition of the gallantry of our RSLAF soldiers and officers during the civil conflict, then it is incumbent upon not only public institutions, diplomatic missions and reputable international organizations and agencies to observe the holiday, but also all citizens and non-citizens residing in Sierra Leone. If only we are human and thankful for the role our soldiers and officers played in the civil conflict, sacrificing a day in commemoration of what they went through instead of going out to do business could be seen as sign of appreciation and patriotism.

As Sierra Leoneans and non-citizens residing in Sierra Leone, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize the Armed Forces Day as a public holiday as pronounced by President Koroma seven years ago. It was therefore a shame on the entire business community that it deliberately failed to observe yesterday as a public holiday, especially business houses operated by non-citizens who are in the majority, and the petty traders. Only extremely few business houses were not open to the public yesterday while majority in the CBD of Freetown transacted their businesses like any normal day.

Until Government strictly enforces the Armed Forces Day as public holiday in Sierra Leone, it will remain a sham and will not be seriously treated by the general public.

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