The Sierra Leone Web



24 JULY 2001


This is the eighth in the series of training programmes for the Sierra Leone Army conducted by the British Short Term Training Team. It is as important as each of the seven others we have had over the past several months. As I stand before you today, I feel the same as when I addressed the first group of trainees. Once again, I am overwhelmed with joy and pride, not only as Commander-in-Chief, but also as a citizen of Sierra Leone. I am proud to witness and address another passing out parade of some of the finest professionals any country can boast of.

You have worked very hard and produced impressive results. You are now equipped with the basic, but essential skills required for you to take your places as trained members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. I congratulate you on your achievement, and on your smart turn out at this parade. I should also at the outset, commend all those who made this colourful event possible, the instructors – officers and men of the 2nd Battalion the Light Infantry, and those of the Sierra Leone Army who have been at the forefront of the training exercise.

As I mentioned, this is the eighth in a series. However, I believe it is necessary to remind ourselves of three principal objectives of the whole process. First, to establish the basic acceptable professional standard for members of our Armed Forces. Second, to develop and strengthen the foundation on which Government can build a dependable, professional and loyal Force that is loyal and accountable to the Government and people; and third, to re-orient each serviceman or woman towards his or her sacred duty to defend the nation.

I should take this opportunity to stress that training and retraining are, and will remain the cornerstone of our national defence policy. In addition to the eight basic courses, there are local and overseas post-basic courses already in progress. A number of officers, warrant and NCOs, as well as lower rank servicemen and women have already attended or are currently attending post-basic training courses, both at home and abroad.

So, the exercise that you have just successfully completed is not the end. You must therefore be ready to participate in and meet further training schedules in the months and years ahead. This is the best means of maintaining your status as members of a professional, reliable and accountable defence force.

In this regard, I should congratulate Defence Headquarters, the Ministry of Defence, and the Benguema Training Centre, for mapping out the entire range of training for all ranks in the Army, Navy and the Air components of our Armed Forces. Of course, we cannot over-emphasize the leading role that the Government and people of the United Kingdom have played and continue to play at this crucial stage of our country's history. On your behalf, and on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, I thank them for their assistance. I believe that the best way you can show appreciation for their assistance is to remain loyal and use the skills you have acquired faithfully, not for self, but in the interest of the nation as a whole.

Of course while training is absolutely essential, it is certainly not enough. If we are to mould and sustain a truly Sierra Leonean Armed Force capable and proud to play their part in the development of this nation, and when necessary, to contribute to international peacekeeping, we have to seek the welfare of our service men and women.

I would therefore like to assure you that what you and other service comrades have achieved so far, has inspired and encouraged me, as Commander-in-Chief, to re-double my effort to enhance the welfare of the Armed Forces. Every effort will be made to provide proper housing facilities and working environment will be provided for all ranks. But that's not all. We care about your general welfare, but we also care about your families. So, we shall continue to ensure that in addition to training and retraining, you will also be given the capacity to help meet your obligations to your families.

This, therefore, means that the challenges to peace are considerable. The Armed Forces would be required to support the process in every way they can. Patience would be necessary, supporting the mission of UNAMSIL, accepting the renunciation of violence, and heading the plea for reconciliation with your former enemy.

The Military Reintegration Programme is part of the rebuilding process. It offers no threat to those now serving within the Armed Forces, rather it offers the opportunity for reconciliation and the building of an army that remains fully representative of all the people.

Elections will also present a challenge. Helping to promote a secure and safe environment for everyone to exercise their democratic rights. The members of the Armed Forces are not allowed to engage in partisan politics. Their neutrality and impartiality in this matter should be above board. Their loyalty should be to the State and institutions of the State.

The key to future success is the pride and professional standard displayed by the Armed Forces. We have come a long way in the last year, but there is still a very long way to go, with many difficulties. Confident that we are up to the challenge, and that with our new-found confidence, the Armed Forces will play an appropriate part in rebuilding this country.

I would like to remind you and your comrades that every single soldier, sailor, or air personnel has an identity, an identity unique to that individual. You therefore have an obligation to maintain it within the records of the Armed Forces Personnel Centre, and other state institutions.

The Armed Forces, like every profession has its own set of rules and code of conduct. I should also remind you that those who deviate from the professional code will have only himself to blame for the consequences on your identity and person. On the other hand, those who remain true military professionals, loyal to the Government and people of Sierra Leone, and obey all lawful command, will always reap the benefits of membership in this noble institution.

Once again I congratulate you, and wish you well in all your future endeavours. Congratulations!