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In Sierra Leone, Defence Minister Declares War against Army Dream Team
By Aruna Turay
Feb 3, 2009, 17:16
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In response to an open letter addressed to His Excellency the President and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, by a group of seeming disgruntled military officers calling themselves the ‘Detective Reconnaissance Emergency Action Mission Team (DREAM Team), the Minister of Defence, Rtd. Major Paolo Conteh, has maintained that the military will react unkindly to any group of persons that are bent on sabotaging the peace and quiet we are currently enjoying as a nation.

It could be noted that few days ago, the DREAM Team which is said to be comprising of a network of over 850 officers and men in all military bases across the country, sent a letter to His Excellency the President highlighting series of issues they said they are displeased with within the military.

The said letter is dated 1st January 2009 and captioned "Grievances in the Sierra Leone Army: Another war is possible".

Because of the seriousness of the content of the said letter and taking into consideration the fact that Sierra Leone just emerged from a bloody civil war that left several thousands killed and thousands more mutilated or rendered displaced, the Government yesterday thought it fit to summon an emergency press conference to respond to some of the allegations contained in the letter.

Chaired by no less a person than the Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo, the press conference was meant to allay the fears of the ordinary citizenry and to send out a clear message to the drafters of the letter that the Government is not treating the threats contained therein lightly.

Officially responding to the letter, Defence Minister Paolo Conteh stated that the military will deal decisively with any attempt by whatever group to jeopardize the peace and tranquility in the country.

"It is good that I don’t know any member of the so called DREAM Team, because if I had known any, I would have swung him by the balls", the Defence Minister threatened.

He said when he received the letter through an email message, he wasted no time to communicate it to the Chief of Defence Staff of the RSLAF, Major General Nelson Williams, to get his men on the alert.

He further stated that all the allegations highlighted in the letter were false, unfounded and unimaginable.

Responding to the specific allegations, the Defence Minister informed that in the team of cadet officers sent to Tanzania, two are Creoles, one Temne, one Fullah, one Loko, one Susu, two Mendes and two Limbas. He said the team also includes a reserve batch of four officers, among whom are two Mendes and two Temnes, all of whom he said went through the normal procedures and guidelines set by the army.

He also stated that 673 officers have been listed for various international training programmes, out of which 36% are Mendes, 17% are Temnes, 11% are Limbas, 2% are Kissys, 6% are Konos, 6% are Korankos, 4% are Madingos and 1% are members of other tribes, adding that the military has 229 captains of which 84% are Mendes, 40% are Temnes and 17% are Limbas. Out of 271 Lieutenants, he said the majority are Mendes, followed by Temnes and Limbas respectively.

He therefore stated that with this, he does not see where a case of tribalism arises.

The said letter complains of tribalism and nepotism in the military, something the authors of the letter said is a recipe for another bloody encounter in the country. The letter also spoke about unfair treatment meted out on junior officers by their superiors, with allegations that monies due junior officers are siphoned by their bosses. Unfair distribution of promotions and courses allocation are also said to have been of concern to the drafters of the letter which has suddenly become the talk of town.

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

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