Another Major Achievement by President Koroma Dawns:
Defence Minister talks to COCORIOKO about Yenga Confab:
Minister of Defence
As the nation waits with bated breaths for President Ernest Koroma to become the Sierra Leonean Leader that finally brings the dream of the Bumbuna Hydro-Electricity Dam to reality, the hard-working and very committed Head of State is on the threshhold of another major achievement.
Through diplomacy by President Koroma and his government , the problem of Yenga, the Sierra Leonean territory presently occupied by neighbouring Guinea, seems to be approaching a negotiated settlement.
When COCORIOKO ‘s Freetown Bureau Chief , Joseph Kamanda, hinted the paper yesterday, that there was about to be a major news break on Yenga , COCORIOKO immediately went to work and arranged an exclusive interview with the Minister of Defence, Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh. THIS WAS HOW THE INTERVIEW WENT :
COCORIOKO : Mr. Minister, thank you for responding to this interview in such a short time. A major development is going on this weekend about Yenga . Am I right or wrong ?
MINISTER CONTEH : You are right.Something is happening. A delegation from Guinea is in Freetown and negotiations have started over Yenga. The Technical Committee and experts are meeting as at now to discuss the issue of Yenga. They will report to me, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Internal Affairs. We will in turn submit a report to President Ernest Koroma .
COCORIOKO : Have the Guineans finally decided to hand over Yenga , as being rumoured this weekend ?
MINISTER CONTEH : We just started the discussions .We have not come to that yet.
COCORIOKO ; But how do things look ? Are they positive ?
MINISTER CONTEH : Yes, the Guineans are planning to cooperate with Sierra Leone
COCORIOKO : Did you notice that or are you just speculating ?
MINISTER CONTEH :There’s the willingness and honesty to cooperate with us.
COCORIKO : What prompted this latest development ?
MINISTER CONTEH : Diplomatic maneuvres by President Koroma. The President visited Guinea 3 weeks ago and held discussions with the Guinean Military leaders about Yenga.
COCORIOKO : And you think success is on the way ?
MINISTER CONTEH : We are.
COCORIOKO :This seems like a major breakthrough. How exactly can you describe the relationship between President Koroma and Guinea’s military leaders ?
MINISTER CONTEH : Very cordial, friendly and brotherly.
COCORIOKO : So serious negotiations are going on presently ?
MINISTER CONTEH : That is correct
COCORIOKO : Who are on the negotiation table on our side ?
MINISTER CONTEH : The National Security Coordinator, Brigadier Kelly Conteh , the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff responsible for Operations and Planning, Brigadier K.M.S. Mondeh and senior officials of the Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs.
COCORIOKO : Where are they holding these negotiations ?
MINISTER CONTEH : At the Kimbima Hotel at Aberdeen, Freetown.
COCORIOKO : Can you say that diplomacy seems to be making a difference ?
MINISTER CONTEH : Yes, and this has always been the point of view of government..that the Yenga issue would be better resolved by diplomacy .The diplomatic option has always been the most favourable for Sierra Leone.
COCORIOKO : The Sierra Leonean people are anxious to see Yenga liberated. What message do you have for them at this time :
MINISTER CONTEH : My only message to them at this time is let us keep our fingers crossed. We will soon solve this long-lasting problem ; all of this through the progressive leadership being provided by President Ernest Koroma.
COCORIOKO : President Koroma is really sparking and his detractors cannot keep pace with his achievements. Bumbuna, the Kenema-Kailahun Road and nowdo you think is the motivating force behind this President ?
MINISTER CONTEH : Just as I said in New Jersey recently, I have worked with three Presidents of Sierra Leone but I have never seen a more focussed , a more motivated and a more committed President in Sierra Leone like Ernest Koroma. The President is motivated by his love for the people.
COCORIOKO : Mr.Minister, there is good news all around. Even within the army, we learn that there are achievements ?
MINISTER CONTEH ; Oh, yes , the army too is doing well . 4 projects have JUST been completed within the last 2 weeks.
COCORIOKO : For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us some of these achievements ?
MINISTER CONTEH: Yes.
1. The refurbishment of the Arakan Officers’ Mess which had become so dilapedated it was an eyesore. It is for senior officers.
2. The Refurbishment of the Junior Ranks Canteen. It is for Corporals and those below.
3. The opening of the army laboratory with high-tech equipments .This is at the 34 Hospital , Wilberforce, Freetown. All these projects were accomplished through self-help. The army itself undertook these projects. We asked banks and financial houses to help us.
4. Refurbished armed forces Squash court at Wilberforce. And that’s not all.
COCORIOKO : Are you working on other projects ?
MINISTER CONTEH ; Yes, these are the projects we are also working on presently :
1. The Agricultural Unit has taken off .We have planted 500 acres of rice at Moyamba for a start. This is for the consumption of the army.
2. We have also bought sewing machines and we are going to set up an army tailoring unit. We will be sewing our own uniforms .
3. Last week, we had a team from UNAMID ,New York. This is the result of my last visit to New York. They are on a pre-deployment visit (PDV). They are here to check on the readiness of our troops and equipments and we passed the test. We are now ready and by the end of the year, we will start deploying troops to Darfur. This is a major achievement.
4. We are in discussion with the Sierra Leone Commecial Bank. They have road construction equipments repossessed from a construction company that went broke. Government will be paying for the machines and soon, we will go into road construction too.
COCORIOKO : Mr. Minister, these achievements are really laudable. I know readers will be delighted to hear about them. Please extend our congratulations to all concerned .
MINISTER CONTEH; Thank you. As soon as there is a major break on Yenga, I will let you know.
COCORIOKO : Thank you, Mr.Minister . And thanks also for granting this interview.
MINISTER CONTEH : Thank you too for your outstanding journalism.
THE NEW REFURBISHED ARAKAN MESS WILBERFORCE
The new ARAKAN Officers Mess situated at the Wilberforce next to the mobile filling station, use to be an important and integral part of military life, where at least after work, officers go and interact, socialise and play games and have fun with each other and their civilian guests from all sections and divide in the country. This helps build the image and confidence mechanism between the citizens and their protector thereby creating an atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood. This will once again elevated the status of the army to its former integrity and glory. Congratulations to the President and Commander in Chief E B Koroma, his indefatigable Defence Minister and the CDS Brig. Nelson Williams and all those who have made this a reality.
“President Koroma said that Arakan used to be a mess with uniqueness and that it had been an ideal place, where officers used to meet and work out good ideas for the nation. He however, warned those who had actively participated in the destruction to desist from such practice and stressed that “we should not learn to destroy what the government has created”.
Written by Cocorioko Newspapers Wednesday, 22 July 2009 05:59
Sierra Leone`s Biggest and Most Widely Read Paper
PRESIDENT KOROMA OPENS OFFICERS MESS AT WILBERFORCE
The Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, His Excellency the President , Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma , Tuesday 21st 2009 reassured officers and other ranks of the RSLAF that they will soon start to wear the United Nations peacekeeping mission’s blue berets.President Koroma made the reassurance while addressing army ranks, officers of military and dignitaries present at the reopening of newly- renovated ARAKAN Officers’ Mess and the army order ranks canteen at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown.
He described the rehabilitation of the facilities as a great moment for the RSLAF and the people of Sierra Leone as the mess and canteens had a wonderful part in the lives of the soldiers . “There were days when ARAKAN Mess used to serve a very good purpose” President Koroma recalled, adding that the refurbishment of facilities at the barracks are in line with his infrastructural development agenda in the army .The President noted that “we can do it on our own as Sierra Leoneans”.
He thus congratulated the RSLAF for the sound initiative in complementing government’s effort and noted his government’s awareness about the needs of men and women of the RSLAF. Dr. Koroma used the forum to continue to restore confidence in army, as he puts it; “the welfare of army personnel is receiving my government’s consideration”. He further re-echoed plans for the deployment of personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.
Minister of Defence , Retired Major Palo Conteh, said the giving of a face lift to the Mess and canteen facilities was part of the army’s infrastructural development agenda for the whole country and was done to raise the profile of RSLAF personnel.
The Sierra Leone army, Conteh continued, is now changing face and; “our dream is to make the 34th Hospital the best not only in Sierra Leone but also in the sub-region”.
Giving a brief background history of the ARAKAN Officer’s Mess, Chairperson of the ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Kestoria Kabia, earlier recalled that the mess was a popular relaxation centre in the country as it used to bring a traditional military custom in the army.
She said that the mess was established during the Second World War and was nick named “Sisters Mess”, while it was by then a wooden structure but was later replaced with concrete and renamed ARAKAN Officers’ Mess.
Less regimental, ARAKAN Mess, she said, used to sell African dishes and attended to people from all sects of the society and was simultaneously a meeting place for all, though it was destroyed during the war.
President E B Koroma – Commander in Chief
On a conducted tour of the 34th Military Hospital, President Koroma showed heartfelt sympathy for sick personal, relatives and loved ones who were admitted at the hospital. It could be recalled that when President Koroma took up office he paid a working visit to the Wilberforce Barrack and inspected facilities at the garrison.
Culled from Patriotic Vanguard Newspaper