Defence Ministry Strives to Correct ‘Misinformation’ on Sierra Leone Troops at Somalia Peace Keeping Mission
The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) has in a press statement issued yesterday 20th November 2013 damned what they described as a fake and unfounded report aired on the notorious Monologue radio programme moderated by David Tam Baryoh recently. The statement recalled that a certain individual claiming to have called from Somalia was captured live on the Saturday Monologue programme where he made some allegations bordering on the “Welfare of RSLAF troops deployed on peacekeeping with the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)”. The statement went on that some media houses still continue to publish the wrong information on the same issues without recourse to earlier clarifications and without cross-checking with the professional force. “We take this matter very seriously because it has the tendency to unnecessarily incite soldiers against their authorities” the release noted, whilst admonishing journalists to ensure they cross check their stories before airing or publishing them.
Please see below for the complete press statement from the Ministry of Defense.
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
It could be recalled that a certain individual claiming to have called from Somalia was captured live on the widely popular Saturday Monologue Programme where he made some allegations bordering on the “Welfare of RSLAF troops deployed on peacekeeping with the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).” It could also be recalled that the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) attempted to adequately clear the air on issues raised by the caller.
However, some media houses including ‘The Voice Newspaper’ still continue to publish the wrong information on the same issues without recource to earlier clarifications and without cross-checking with us. We take this matter very seriously because it has the tendency to unnecessarily incite soldiers against their authorities. This office therefore wishes to provide the final explanation to the public and fully hopes that this matter will be finally laid to rest.
The following points will serve to enlighten the public more on the issues:
1. The annual Defence Budget provided by the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) does not cover any funding for peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping is self-funding and self-sustaining. Savings made in one mission is used to launch troops into the subsequent mission. The Somalia mission was launched through the savings made in the Sudan mission.
2. Since our full deployment in Somalia 7 months ago, only five (5) months reimbursement has been received from the AU, whilst the MoD has already paid to the troops up to 9 months stipend (USD 100 per month) covering up to December 2013.
3. In the democratic dispensation, the military is no longer a sacred institution but totally under democratic civilian control and therefore very transparent and accountable. Infact, our current MoD structure is so unique in Africa such that it is jointly staffed by both civilian and military officials; with the Director General (DG) as the sole vote controller of the Defence Budget and not the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
4. There are 2 signatories to the peacekeeping account: the Accountant General or Director of Budget from the MoFED and the DG Defence or the CDS from the MoD. Therefore, no withdrawal is possible without the knowledge of the MoFED; and the account is audited quarterly by the Government Central Audit Office.
5. Any expenditure from the peacekeeping account for purposes other than peacekeeping must be authorized by HE the President.
6. Article 6 (para 6.1) of the MoU between the AU and the GoSL states: “the AU shall reimburse the GoSL in respect of the personnel provided at the rate of USD 1,028 per uniformed person per month, of which an amount to be determined shall be retained by the Government.” Thus, the amount deducted from each soldier is purely at the discretion of the Government and does not require any agreement or negotiation.
7. For soldiers on peacekeeping in Somalia, the GoSL decided to deduct USD 200 per soldier per month in order to reimburse previous savings earlier utilized to fund their special peacekeeping training, conduct of medical screening, purchase of vaccines, local foodstuff, medical and communication equipment, payment of stipend to troops in advance, monthly running cost for the battalion in theatre, purchase of 16 containers (40feet) , etc. Training expenditure includes: feeding, purchase of training ammunition, fuel, lubricants and equipment, rehabilitation of training sheds etc.
8. Lastly, nobody in the MoD/RSLAF is extorting any money from soldiers going on peacekeeping missions as claimed by ‘The Voice Newspaper of 7th November 2013. Our only means of screening is through medical/physical fitness and training proficiency. We have no such arrangement whereby peacekeepers salaries or allowances are being deducted illegally: and nobody from this newspaper made any effort to cross-check with us.
Director of Public Relations and Information
By Aruna Turay