President Ernest Koroma has reminded the rank and file of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces to remain apolitical as the 2012 elections approaches.
The President made this comment during his maiden duty as Reviewing Officer at the passing out parade of two newly commissioned Specialist Officers and 157 recruits, last Friday at the Armed Forces Training Centre (AFTC) at Benguema.
President Koroma affirmed that they should be neutral in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility when called upon to provide Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) for the preservation of peace and security of the country.
He told his audience that, “my administration is also determined to ensure that the RSLAF serves the cause of international peace and stability, stressing that “members of the RSLAF are now deployed on various UN missions and also taking part in the African Contingent Training Assistance (ACOTA) offered by the government of the United States of America to enhance their effective participation in peacekeeping and related activities within and outside the sub region.”
President Koroma also stated “I am pleased to inform you that Sierra Leone has made a pledge of Battalion strength to participate in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission and a Company in the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF).”
He stressed, “I strongly believe with continued professionalism and loyalty to your country, your careers will take you far beyond your service to the RSLAF, just like the Nigerian, Indian, Pakistani, Kenyan and Ghanaian Military Officers. You too can become heads of peace keeping operations anywhere in the world and later go on to hold high-ranking civilian positions both in Sierra Leone and abroad.”
To the two specialist officer cadets and 157 recruits, the President said, “I strongly urge you to uphold the pledge and oath you have taken and brace yourself for meeting the challenges of your profession,” stressing that there are many challenges as well as opportunities awaiting them in their new career.
Earlier in his welcome statement the Commandant of AFTC, Colonel John Jah-Tucker made a passionate plea to the President for the tarring and fencing of the drill square, indicating that “as it is today, and speaking of this unit being the RSLAF centre of excellence, much is expected.”
Col. Jah-Tucker went on “I wish this modest appeal of ours could materialize before your second visit to this barracks, to review commissioning ceremony of the officer cadets”. He then lauded the Chief of Defence Staff Maj. Gen. Nelson-Williams and his able deputies for improving the dam’s capacity and replacing the damaged pipes.
On energy supply to the training centre the Commandant lamented saying “the personnel have long been promised to be connected to the national grid but we still live in total darkness,” stressing “Sir, we earnestly look forward to your fatherly support.”
He also appealed for pledges towards the construction of a multi purpose sports complex that will enhance competition within the rural District.
Inspiring formations by the recruits and a weapons display kept dignitaries’ palms warm.