By Amin Kef, Guest Writer, Freetown.
An alleged scene involving a number of Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and Sierra Leone Police (SLP) personnel has awakened passionate reactions and explanations putting SLP in a bad light and blaming the RSLAF of highhandedness.
However, eye witnesses of a fracas between soldiers and police at Ross Road Police Station in Freetown, say that, whenever a military personnel is suspected of committing a crime, police personnel have been known to provoke the situation by demonizing the suspect military officer and even allowing members of the public to verbally or physically abuse the suspect military personnel.
A case in point is an incident which took place at Ross Road Police Station between some RSLAF and SLP personnel. Police from this station allegedly intercepted one Major AB Kanu and Private Mohamed Foreka while they were riding a private motorcycle going about their private business within the Central Business District (CBD). The rider, Private Mohamed Foreka and pillion (motorcycle passenger) Major AB Kanu were stopped, arrested and later detained at the police cell on allegation that they were reeking of alcohol.
While in police custody, Major AB Kanu contacted the Artillery Unit at Benguema to come to their aid and they responded. However, it should be noted that whenever military personnel find themselves in the hands of the police, they are most times molested, abused, maltreated and badly treated in many other ways which has been very bad behaviour for police-military relations over the years.
Furthermore, it should also be noted that the RSLAF is an autonomous body which can sue and be sued; same like the SLP. So therefore, because it is the right of the SLP to arrest law breakers, they should take into cognizance the fact that the RSLAF is also a trained and disciplined entity which has its own internal unit set up to deal with law breakers within their rank and file. Therefore, the SLP, whenever it arrests RSLAF personnel for whatever reason should have the courtesy to hand over military suspects to the RSLAF rather than resorting to humiliating RSLAF personnel which is definitely a very bad catalyst to destroy SLP/RSLAF relations.
Such treatment meted to military personnel by their police counterparts is not only diabolical, but also a recipe for chaos, disrespect and full-blown confrontation between RSLAF and SLP personnel at the slightest opportunity.
This issue has become one of very great concern for the average Sierra Leonean because it is feared that if this hostility and mistreatment of RSLAF personnel by SLP officers continues, it would not bode well for the future maintaintance of peace and security in this country which has had its years of violence, mayhem and confusion.
It is therefore my opinion that in the interest of peace, security and cohesion between our two principal security institutions (SLP and RSLAF), it is necessary for the SLP which is the prime custodian of internal security to see the RSLAF as partners rather than as rivals or competitors. The SLP and RSLAF should be seen as a united and not divided body when it comes to national security issues and even when they, (SLP and RSLAF) personnel are out on the streets jubilating during national holidays.
Any country which allows the relationship between its prime security forces (namely Police and Military) to degenerate into triviliaty or misconception would only have itself to blame when the chasm deepens between the two security entities. Historically, there have been occasions when police and military personnel targetted each other instead of supporting and complementing each other’s efforts for the national good. History is replete with instances of consequences, reactions and results of what happens when national security forces do not or refuse to see eye to eye.
Against this background, my advice is for the management of the above-mentioned security institutions to forge new pathways of respect, tolerance, acceptance and mutual understanding between the respective personnel.
But because we are optimistic as a nation that when we all put our efforts together we can make Sierra Leone a better place, it is incumbent on the RSLAF and the SLP to support and respect each other.