Salone News

Reports from Freetown

14 June 2007 at 17:46 | 386 views

Government approves new conditions of service for the army

Following decades of demanding improved conditions of service, the Sierra Leone Government has reportedly approved new terms of service for the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). Awoko reports the disclosure made by the Forces’ spokesman at a press briefing held at the Ministry of Defence in Freetown. Brigadier Nelson-Williams told the press that due to harsh financial reality facing the government only certain crucial aspects of the holistic package would now be implemented; and this include the increment in the rice allocation from a meager Le 41,000 to Le 65, 000 monthly (less than US$25). Accordingly, this amount and the transport allowance would be incorporated into the basic salary for all personnel in order to beef up terminal benefits. All ranks would also benefit from an annual allowance of one month net salary. In order to discourage the deployment of service personnel for domestic purposes, from Warrant Officer Class 1 to the highest rank would now be entitled to domestic allowance on monthly basis to help them hire the services of domestic assistants. On the role of the army in the forthcoming elections, the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff informed the press that RSLAF might be deployed to prop the police through the provision of specific Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP), but denied press speculations that the RSLAF would not be neutral in the discharge of their duties.

Guinean troops depart Yenga

After a protracted tussle between the neighbouring Republics of Sierra Leone and Guinea over the border town of Yenga in the east of Sierra Leone, it is reported today that the occupying Guinean forces who had claimed the area to be theirs for years, had started pulling out to Nogaowa on the Guinean side of the border. Awoko quotes the second in command of the First battalion in Kailahun as saying that “only eight Guinean personnel are currently occupying Yenga as compared to the recent past when over 200 Guinean troops were deployed there” adding that the remaining eight were only waiting to harvest their cassava farm before taking the home-going turn around. Unlike the past, the paper reports that this latest development in potential conflict situation has indeed brought solace to the hither nightmarish inhabitants of Yenga who were under siege by the Guinean troops. At a recent summit of the heads of Governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia held in the Guinean capital Conakry, the three leaders determined to peacefully resolve the issue, while out-going President Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone vowed to ensure that Yenga comes back to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of Sierra Leone before he leaves office after August this year.

No foreign troops for elections

The New Citizen newspaper today reports that the Deputy Minister of Defense, Joe Blell, has refuted the wild rumor making that Nigerian military personnel would be coming to monitor the general elections scheduled for 11 August this year. Addressing media practitioners at a press conference held at the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Freetown on Wednesday, 13 June, the paper quotes the Deputy Defense Minister as saying, “why do we need foreign troops to monitor the elections when we have our own troops who are capable enough to monitor the election process?” According to the report, Mr. Joe Blell recalled that the former UN Peacekeeping Forces (UNAMSIL) had monitored the previous elections because there was war in the country, while Brigadier Nelson Williams, Deputy Chief of Defense Staff, cautioned that though every human being is a political animal, the military should desist from active politics as they must be seen to be neutral in the execution of their constitutional mandate, the paper concludes.

Kono women mobilise for APC symbol

In what many people see as a bold attempt to correct the failure of the ruling SLPP to award party symbol to female candidates in Kono district, east of the country, women supporters of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party have mobilized their counterparts in the district to ensure that they field in women candidates for the APC symbol to represent them in Parliament. According to The Spectator quoting the Regional Leader for the Eastern Province Diana Konomani, “it is high time for the women of Kono to unite irrespective of party affiliation to ensure that Kono has women representatives in Parliament” adding that that would not only bring respect and dignity to the district, but would also ensure sustainable development. Some of the female SLPP members that were present at the meeting decried their party’s failure to promote female candidates to represent their district and commended the brilliant initiative of the regional Chair lady of the APC.

Paramount Chief accused of meddling in politics

The Paramount Chief of the amalgamated chiefdom of Marampa-Masimera, Port Loko District, in the north of the country, Bai Koblo Queen II is reported of fast becoming a “roving political chief” with no time for his subjects and his chiefdom; as he stands accused by his subjects of always being in the company of the presidential aspirant of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Vice President Solomon Berewa, on the latter’s so-called sensitization drive across the length and breath of the county, leaving his subjects in deep disputes among themselves with no traditional authority to turn to, The Spark reports today. The paper adds that subjects of the chiefdom, aware of the fact that traditional leaders should remain neutral in party politics, were planning to send a petition against the chief to the Minister of Local Government. The African Champion also alleges that Bai Koblo Queen II is intimidating suspected anti-SLPP supporters thereby flouting the recently signed Makeni Neutrality Pact of Paramount Chiefs.

Government control measure handicaps police operations as elections draws closer

A front page report in the Exclusive says the reform policy adopted by the Ministry of Finance to expedite the 2007 budget due to shortage of internal revenue and donor funds had adversely affected the operations of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). According to the report, the SLP requested for a budget of fifty billions to enable them effectively monitor the security situation and robustly police the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but this amount was halved by officials of the Ministry, citing budget constraints. Even when it was resolved in last year’s budget hearing that the police would receive half of the fifty billion they had requested, the institution is facing a stiff battle with officials of the Ministry of Finance to get the said amount. Allocations for the first quarter have not been received to date and out of the four billion Leones they were supposed to receive for the second quarter, only two billions were allocated to them. This situation has reportedly hampered the operations of the police especially the patrolling unit, with no funds to purchase fuel.

Malnutrition accounts for 46% of child mortality-Minister of Health

For di People reports that Health and Sanitation Minister, Abator Thomas, has disclosed at a ten-day regional workshop on the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in children that malnutrition accounted for 46% of all childhood deaths in the country. The Minister further described malnutrition as a chronic problem in the country, but noted that there was an improvement in the overall nutritional status of children in the country and that chronic malnutrition had dropped from 39% to 20%. UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone, Geert Cappelaere, pointed out that in Sierra Leone, compared to other countries in the region, 30% of under-five year old children were underweight, which classifies malnutrition as the single greatest case of child mortality in the country. The UNICEF Representative appealed for renowned and sustained political commitment both nationally and internationally with a view to improving the status of women and children.

Storm destroys houses and render hundreds homeless in Makeni

Hundreds of people have been rendered homeless as scores of houses were destroyed by heavy rain storms that struck the northern provincial town of Makeni. A report in the Exclusive says people had fled their homes to seek refuge in their farms and other neighboring settlements. The report states that the flow of internally displaced has overwhelmed neighbouring settlements that lack the capacity to cope with the flow of the internally displaced. Government and NGO’s have been called upon to address the situation.

(Compiled by Media Liaison Unit, PIO/UNIOSIL)