From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

RSLAF Should Apologise for Sycophancy
By Theophilus S. Gbenda & Sylvia O. Blyden
Apr 20, 2009, 12:50

Soldiers, dressed in combat-clad outfits, mounted not only a Guard of Honour for President Ernest Bai Koroma at the Opening Ceremony of the ruling APC’s National Convention but they also staged a colourful parade. The Military brass band played the APC’s victory song.

Sierra Leone is now at a critical stage where sycophancy and bootlicking should have no place. Sycophancy takes its toll when those supposed to the people’s keepers, instead become opportunists fighting to please the ‘Pa’ rather than uphold the National Constitution which governs us all. When civilians indulge in adulation or hero worshipping, the consequence is often bad governance but if the armed forces (ie: trained, gun wielders) get entrapped in same, the result often goes far worse than that. The whole world remembers what happened during the last Zimbabwean Elections when the Zimbabwean military generals took partisan sides with Robert Mugabe’s ZANU/PF party. Oh dear God, push that far away from Sierra Leone!

Sierra Leone, has for too long now been suffering from blind sycophancy where the vast majority of citizens have become blinded to an extent that they can no longer distinguish between wrong and right. Virtually everybody, except a patriotic few, are finding ways and means to get into the good books of the ‘Pa’. They wish to please the ‘Pa’ and damn the consequences!

Yesterday, it was the Inspector General of Police, Brima Acha Kamara, making an embarrassment of himself with his claims that women who complained of having been raped at the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) HQs by alleged associates of the APC, were liars who were never raped.

Today, it is the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) openly cavorting at what is a Partisan, highly political event; the National Delegates’ Conference of the ruling APC.

Let it be clearly stated that the general reaction now is that the military is becoming dangerously politicized. Throughout the term in office of the former democratic regime, the military was never seen staging parades at political events.

One therefore begins to wonder whether the military under the previous regime and the one now are having different mandates. Our understanding of military outfits the world over is that they should stay out of politics. It is therefore unprecedented for the RSLAF, of all forces, to become so unprofessional and sycophantic in the very eyes of IMATT which has spent time and resources restructuring it. The dangerous and serious signal sent is that the military is politicized.

Few short weeks ago, Brigadier General Nelson Williams, the APC appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), addressed men and women of the RSLAF at the Hockey Pitch at Wilberforce Barracks, strictly warning them to be professional and be resistant to political machinations. He even went to the extent of making a solemn oath that the RSLAF under his administration, will say no to political interference.

It is clear by all estimation that the parade mounted by the RSLAF at the APC convention was sanctioned by Defence Minister Paolo Conteh but what is not clear is whether the CDS Brigadier General Nelson Williams also approves of this anomaly under his watch.

Defence Minister Paolo Conteh must start to appreciate that his current designation is not one of a military man but that of the Nation’s highly respected Defence Minister. Paolo Conteh is respected worldwide for his apparent discipline and his efforts so far at revamping the physical and espirit de corps of the RSLAF; the recent Agricultural Initiative and renovating of Army buildings like the Officer’s Mess are two such laudable initiatives. Those who know Palor Conteh on a personal basis easily describe him as a soft-spoken, gentleman who, apart from his military skills and outstanding, athletic prowess, studied humanitarian Law to a high academic level. This is why it is disheartening that he forgot all of his training in Law and his years of living in two of the world’s greatest democracies (UK and USA), to let this country down so badly by parading NATIONAL soldiers at a PARTISAN event.

Although the APC says it was fashioned after the CPC of Communist China, the APC must realize that we are currently not in a Communist State during the Cold War era but in a Multiparty Democratic plurality. Sierra Leone has come a long way from the APC Siaka Stevens days. It is therefore worrying when signals of the military being used as a political tool begin to crop up. This is so because rather than promoting unity and creating a secured environment, such a biased conduct has the potential of igniting disaffection within the rank and file of the military, and mistrust among the ordinary citizenry.

It is in view of this that many people think the RSLAF should openly apologize to the people of Sierra Leone for pleasing a set of politicians, in public betrayal of the people, in public betrayal of the State and in public betrayal of the 1991 National Multi Party Constitution.

The expected Apology will make a good part of the ongoing PRIDE Week. What a beautiful Change of Attitude that will be.

So, the whole country is waiting to see if RSLAF intends to express regret that it tried to steer us towards the methods of the Robert Mugabe Zimbabwean Partisan Military when all what we need are to be steered towards the acclaimed methods of the British and Canadian military which are currently sponsoring the IMATT Project in Sierra Leone.

Over to our Defense Minister Palor Conteh and his able Chief of Defense Staff, Major General Nelson Williams. To err is human and this could have been a mistake so the Nation awaits your apologies Sirs.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.