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NEWS : Local News  

For Unfair Treatment, Ex-Soldiers go Hay-wire in Sierra Leone
By Augustine Samba
Dec 3, 2008, 17:26
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Over three hundred ex-soldiers who were retired for various reasons ranging from physical incapacity to mental illness on Monday 1st December 2008 held wild protests at the Cockeril Military Headquarters in Freetown. The protests interrupted normal business and vehicular traffic for several hours along the Wilkinson Road and its environs. The situation would have gone out of control had the Minister of Defence, Paolo Conteh not swiftly intervened to calm the protesters. They alleged that the retirement procedure was improper and very harsh.

One of the aggrieved ex-soldiers who spoke to the Awareness Times, Private Conteh A. expressed dismay over what he referred to as their forceful retirement from the army since August, coupled with the refusal of authorities concerned to expedite their payment and other packages due them. He was particularly bitter for their batch being singled out for mistreatment as according to him those earlier discharged from service were appropriately attended to.

"We were faked into accepting bogus ID cards to be taken to the bank this morning for payment but we stoutly rejected the offer on grounds that the cards in question had no indication of account numbers or amounts to be paid," he informed.

In fact some of the aggrieved ex-service men vowed to resort to vile means of survival if their bona fide entitlements were not paid on time.

A serving officer who pleaded for anonymity expressed worry as to what would be their fate when they shall have reached retirement age if their retired colleagues are treated thus.

The aggrieved ex-soldiers lambasted the institution as the most unreasonable and callous establishment in Sierra Leone. "I was very healthy when I joined the army but I lost my eye sight during the war, now I have been rejected," one Francess Kanu, a retiree stated in tears. She even disclosed that sometime in 1999 she was deprived of a package meant for travel abroad for medical attention but that her bosses sliced the amount which made her to be sent to Liberia instead where she was abandoned for two years.

Meanwhile, in a short address to the striking soldiers, the minister made a faithful promise to meet with them at Hockey Pitch, Wilberforce to put modalities in place as soon as possible.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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