Friday December 23, 2005

Sierra Leone’s Army Chief of Defence Staff, General Sam Mboma , Wednesday announced that 77 military officers who included a Brigadier General and a Second Lietenant , have been fired from the force. The affected soldiers will be told the details of their retirement before their firing takes effect in January next year.

But the firing of the 77 officers has been described as ill-timed and disturbing by many Sierra Leoneans interviewed by COCORIOKO  yesterday. With the United Nations Peacekeeping Force gone finally just this month, the security concerns caused by the bumping off of military officers have been articulated by Sierra Leoneans.

Though Mboma took his time to assure the nation through the press that the dismissal of the army officers had nothing to do with a witch hunt, there were doubts in Sierra Leonean circles in New Jersey yesterday whether the action was not ill-conceived. Mboma stated that the future potentials and suitability of the soldiers had been assessed by the competent boards,  but a lot of people are not buying his argument.

Mboma further attributed the dismissals to what he described as the weak Sierra Leone economy, which he said , could not support a large army. Sierra Leone’s present military strength is 15, 000 men and people are wondering how the dismissal of 700 made any difference. But Mboma told the press that Sierra Leone wanted to cut its military strength to 10, 000 officers and 930 civilian workers by 2007.

Mboma, speaking further , said that the redundancy program was not new .He stated that in 2003, there were 1, 784 dismissals of soldiers from Privates to Lance Corporals aged 28 and 49 years. Now, the exercise is going to involve all ranks from Brigadier to Second Lieutenant.

The Sierra Leoneans interviewed yesterday said that Sierra Leone was still too fragile and unstable to have such a large number of soldiers  put out of job. They drew attention to the tribal tensions still simmering underneath and the serious crisis between Vice-President Solomon Berewa and Charles Margai on one side and Chief Norman and the SLPP  on the other.

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