The Armed Forces Day has become a spectacular hallmark of Sierra Leone’s national calendar; it has become part of our history and our heritage.
It is a day we have set aside to reflect on the role of our military in global peace, it’s a day we have chosen to remember and to celebrate the gallantry of our men and women in uniform. We do this for good reason; your relentless sacrifice is legendary and remains the centerpiece of the peace we continue to enjoy today. This is why as your Commander-in-Chief; I always look forward to this special day to address the troops of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the story of our armed forces has been bittersweet – long and tedious – characterized by low and high moments. But in the recent past, the RSLAF has gone through tremendous transformations; especially in the areas of training, operation and discipline, resulting in its current high standards of professionalism. Sierra Leoneans can now be proud of a military that is disciplined, well trained and democratically accountable. Both as Staff Officers and Formed Troops, our men and women in uniform continue to excel in Peace Support Operations; contributing in no small measure to the international efforts in bringing peace to the peoples of Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Haiti, Lebanon and Nepal.
Our officers are serving in various AU/UN Missions around the world and to further enhance their professionalism and owing to the demand for their services; I have put at the disposal of the UN two infantry battalions. My Government and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) are working assiduously to make this happen within the shortest possible time. Plans are far advanced in the acquisition of major equipment, uniforms and other logistics. I am confident that RSLAF will create the desired impact expected of a professional force.
RSLAF is also contributing to national development. I have just returned from commissioning a new hospital complex and a primary school built by the Army Engineers in Daru in the Eastern Region. With these initiatives, the RSLAF is demonstrating strong leadership and foresight. With the construction of schools; they are ensuring a continuum of the current standards and by building new hospitals; our military is aligning to our national development agenda, particularly our aspiration to strengthen our health system. I encourage you to do more in this laudable direction.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, these efforts clearly resonate with the substance of the performance contract signed with the Deputy Minister and the Chief of Defense Staff. The Joint Medical Unit; the Engineer Regiment; the Armed Forces Agricultural Unit; the Peace Support Operations, accommodation and welfare of troops are amongst my directives highlighted as deserving paramount and appropriate attention and I am heartened by the actions being taken so far. The Army Engineers have also demonstrated their determination and capacity by transforming this Hockey Pitch to a more comfortable venue. Work will soon start on the Phase One of the Kambia Barracks Project this year. Phase Two of Gondama will be completed this year as well as the Wilberforce Barracks project and more barracks accommodation will be provided in due course.
Lots of training opportunities are also now open to members of the RSLAF across all ranks. To narrow the gender gap in the Military, the MOD is insisting on equal opportunity for women to be enlisted both as officers and other ranks and to be able to compete with their male counterparts. I am informed that the French language has been included in not only the recruitment training package but has also been extended to all internal trainings and short courses. This is a laudable effort and will undoubtedly enhance your professional interaction as you go on Global Peace Keeping operations.
No doubt, a great deal of energy, commitment and resources have been invested in this great transformation. And your outstanding performance here at home and abroad has strengthened your popularity with the general populace. I urge you to keep it up, especially as we gradually approach the general elections period. As a professional force, you must be guided against complacency and any dishonorable acts that will soil your good image so ably cultivated. You must refrain from any acts that will bring back bitter memories; and you must insist on those great principles of service and the shining examples of a disciplined and patriotic force which you have so admirably and consistently demonstrated during previous elections.
As we commemorate this 8th Armed Forces Day, let me once again assure you that my Government will continue to capacitate the RSLAF to meet your welfare needs, to meet international standards and the growing demands relating to national peace and security.
Finally, I applaud you for the wonderful display by the Reconnaissance Unit, the Martial Arts team and the Armed Forces Regimental Band.Thank you all for being part of this memorable celebration.
God bless RSLAF and God bless Sierra Leone!