By State House Communications Unit :
The Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Friday 18th July turned the sod for the construction of 8 modern accommodation blocks of 6 apartments each for soldiers and their families at the Wilberforce Barracks.
President Koroma in his keynote address reiterated government’s commitment to commission development projects aimed at improving the welfare of the officers and men of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
President Koroma also disclosed that a total of 126 Military vehicles have arrived to facilitate the mobility of the troops in the discharge of their duties. He pledged to continue to capacitate the RSLAF to meet emerging security challenges of the 21st century.
The President reminded RSLAF personnel of their obligation to remain disciplined consistent with military professionalism.
“At the passing-out ceremony of 23rd May, 2014, I made it categorically clear that I shall spare no efforts in ensuring that our security forces live a better life. I therefore directed that a reasonable portion of our national resources be utilized to enhance the well-being and operational effectiveness of the RSLAF,” the President recalled.
He revealed that there is a four year plan in place to construct one battalion sized modern barracks in four different locations, adding that government would start with the 11th Battalion in Kambia district for which the required procurement process is currently on-going with project execution expected to commence in October this year.
President Koroma pointed out that the on-going construction of accommodation blocks at the Gondama Barracks in Bo district which is nearing completion as well as the rehabilitation work at Wilberforce and Daru Barracks are clear testimonies of government’s commitment to address the welfare of the security forces.
“As a government, we are not oblivious of the daunting task ahead but they say a journey of a thousand miles start with the first step,” President Koroma said and emphasized that these projects represent the first steps, and assured that government will do more as “Action Pass Intention” amidst rapturous applause.
Minister of Defence, Major (Rtd) Alfred Paolo Conteh gowned in immaculate white described the ceremony not only as a landmark achievement in the history of the transformation of the RSLAF, but also a testimony of government’s commitment to improving the living conditions of service personnel.
Minister Conteh explained that since the end of the colonial era, modern structures in the Barracks were constructed during the reigns of the APC in the mid-1970s onto the late 1980s. “Since then, no further improvement on the Barracks has ever taken place, save for the Indian gifted prefabricated structures constructed in 2008.”
He maintained that the RSLAF has gone through rapid transformation over the past 6 years culminating into a professional and disciplined force that is now matched with others in the sub-region. “Our contribution to international peace and security has been tremendous, and is much acclaimed in international circles,” the Defence Minister confidently stated.
RSLAF Chief of Defence Staff, Major General S.O.Williams said Wilberforce is the oldest and largest military barracks in the country built during the colonial era to accommodate the infantry personnel, but however noted that the barracks is now over one thousand personnel and relatives.
He said that a barracks is a discrete military accommodation that is conducive for the enforcement of discipline, promotion of military proficiency and cohesion of a force. It should be a restricted zone to outsiders who are neither service personnel nor families of service personnel.
Major General Williams disclosed that the Gondama Barracks is 90% completed, whilst Daru Barracks hospital is undergoing a facelift for which he lauded the C.I.C. for raising the moral of the troops.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament representing Constituency 110, Hon. Chernoh R.M Bah, said Wilberforce is synonymous with the military, adding that the army has a special place in his heart. The Deputy Speaker noted that loyalty and discipline in the forces are on the increase under the astute leadership of President Koroma, and encouraged RSLAF personnel to continue to be patriotic. He also called on all to heed the advice proffered by health workers on prevention and cure of the Ebola disease.
Joint Force Commander, Brigadier General Brima Sesay in his welcome address said the history of RSLAF cannot be complete without Wilberforce Barracks, and pleaded that the barracks be given a new look to try to regain its lost luster.
Brigadier General Sesay said the best response the army will give in appreciation of the tremendous work government is doing for them is to remain loyal, disciplined and perform their constitutional role with all vigor and commitment be it on land, sea and in the air, come rain or shine.