– Says President Koroma
By Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States
His Excellency, the President and Commander–in- Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), in revisiting Egypt’s pervious training support to our Military, has hailed the RSLAF as real professionals.
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma commended the RSLAF during his recent official visit to the Arab Republic of Egypt where he held a meeting with the country’s General Commander of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence and Military Production in the presence of top Generals of the Egyptian Army at the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Defence.
As Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council, President Koroma was in Cairo to hold consultations with his brother and colleague, H.E Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on a range of issues bordering on bilateral relations as well as the Continent and, in particular, the United Nations (UN) reforms. The occasion further offered the opportunity to meet with some key Government officials and Private sector representatives.
Speaking to the Generals, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma touched on the prevailing global security threat, the rising spate of radicalization and the relevance of the Military to national security for increased stability and development. He dilated briefly on the national experience with respect to the aftermath of eleven years of civil conflict and strides his Government has made in improving the capacity and capability of the Military to match international standards regionally and, how this has positioned Sierra Leone as one of the African countries at the center stage of international peacekeeping operations.
He commended them on the pivotal role being played, more than ever before, in conflict resolution and the pursuit of global peace both within the framework of African Union (AU) and UN Peacekeeping initiatives.
The President told the Egyptian Army Generals that since he acceded to power nine years ago, he had worked assiduously towards creating conducive democratic environment that would enhance Military/Civil relationship in Sierra Leone’s new political dispensation than the war years when Military/Civil relationship was at the brink of collapse. The President emphasized the relevance of a strong and professional military in the furtherance of democratic governance.
He also exalted the virtues of the officers, men and women of the RSLAF in terms of how they relate with the civilian populace. He commended them for their resilience during the outbreak of the dreadful Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone in May 2014 and how they fought the menace to a logical conclusion in November 2015 with the support of development partners.
His Excellency the President also recognized the role of the Military in disaster situations such as last year’s flooding event in the Western Area and many parts of the country that took its toll on human lives and properties and left thousands of Sierra Leoneans homeless. He specifically recalled the active role the RSLAF played in the rescue mission and the heightening of maximum security for the flood victims in the capital city of Freetown and other flood affected areas.
President Koroma assured that his Government would not relent in the transformation of the RSLAF given the role Sierra Leone is playing in international peacekeeping operations globally. He therefore pleaded with the Arab Republic of Egypt through the Army Generals to assist his country with the transformation process.
In thanking Egypt for the role previously played in this endeavour, the President entreated his hosts to resume the Officer Cadet training programme and the provision of technical assistance to RSLAF in the form of material and military training courses for officers and other ranks including advanced military training.
In his capacity as Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council, he held an earlier consultation with his Egyptian counterpart on the need for Africa to continue to speak with one voice; intensify outreach on the African Common Position and, to search for creative ways to speedily achieve the objectives of the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration of 2005 and 2010 respectively.
Responding on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, General Commander of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence and Military Production, General Sidky Sobhy Sayed Sayed Ahmed praised Sierra Leone for her role in international peacekeeping operations on the African continent. The General assured that it would be of great pleasure for their country to provide military aid to Sierra Leone with a view to capacitating the RSLAF personnel especially for peacekeeping operations.
He recalled that the Government of Egypt has over the years trained military personnel from various countries in Africa, including Sierra Leone, adding that, in the not-too-distant future, Egypt would start providing military training for the Sierra Leone Army and that training would be sustainable. Egypt, the Minister disclosed, has offered one thousand military-training scholarships to African nations. The offer, he added, is part of Egypt’s overall policy of improving relations with African nations. The commitment made that Sierra Leone will benefit from the 1000 scholarships Egypt provided for African soldiers to be trained as cadets.
The Defence Minister further reaffirmed his Government’s appreciation of President Koroma’s transformation of the RSLAF that has led to his country’s contribution to international peacekeeping operations. He assured that when the time is ripe; Cairo would consider offering scholarships to deserving personnel in the RSLAF for various military courses and trainings in the numerous Military Colleges and Academies in Egypt. President Koroma’s meeting with the Egyptian Army Generals, which lasted for about an hour, was described as successful.
It could be recalled that Sierra Leone and the Arab Republic of Egypt established diplomatic relations over three decades ago and Egypt is one of the few countries that never abandoned Sierra Leone by operating its Embassy and providing both technical and logistical support during Sierra Leone’s devastating conflict.