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President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Commander-in–Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), bade farewell to the first Sierra Leone battalion that departed the shores for peacekeeping in Somalia. (President Ernest Bai Koroma with the countrys troops who are due to join the peacekeeping mission in Somalia / Photo credit: Kemo Cham Nation Media Group)
The battalion, comprising 850 well-trained soldiers is tasked to support the operations of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Sierra Leone will join other soldiers from Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti and Burundi.
The President, the Defense Minister, and other senior military officers were among the emotionally-stricken relatives bidding farewell as they were about to depart. The Hastings Airfield became a scene of emotions as many wept seeing their loved-ones depart. The departing soldiers were well-attired in their military fatigues marching in a battle-ready mood.
According to the Chief of Defence Staff Major Gen. S.O. Williams, the battalion is named LEOBATT 1 (Sierra Leone Battalion 1) and is commanded by Lt. Col. AB Conteh. The CDS noted that since the transformation of the RSLAF, this is the first time Sierra Leone is making a contribution to a sister country in the Horn of Africa. He continued that they have decided to undertake this mission as a contribution to world peace and support to humanity.
The CDS went on that Sierra Leone remains the only West Africa Country that already has military men in the form of staff officers in AMISOM and for which every Sierra Leonean should be proud, adding that Nigeria has made police unit contribution.
The president Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma thanked the Ministry of Defense and the RSLAF for preparing the battalion. He reminded the soldiers about the challenges ahead and wished them good luck.
The president also thanked the US government for providing the RSLAF with equipment like vehicles and amour capability to facilitate the deployed the troops.
By Alhaji Saidu Kamara
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