By: Zacharia Jalloh, Strategic Communications Unit, MIC.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has unequivocally condemned CHRDI’s latest report on the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) at the weekly
government press briefing in the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications on 6th January 2022.
The report which was issued a couple of days ago by the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International, accusing the RSLAF of corruption, gender based violence and sexual harassment, among others, has been described by the MoD as fallacious, unfounded and an effort to dent the integrity of the Army.
Assistant Chief of Defense (ACDS) Operations and Plans, Brig. Gen. R. B. Harleston expressed total dissatisfaction with CHRDI for such outright misinformation about the RSLAF particularly when according to him CHRDI failed to reach out to the senior management of the Army before publishing such a damaging report against the institution.
“Management believes that those issues raised by CHRDI are not well researched. If CHRDI has any issue that has to do with the MoD/RSLAF, let them approach the MoD/RSLAF senior management for access to credible information that will be accurate and balanced,” he admonished.
Brig. Gen. Harleston in rubbishing CHRDI’s claim of sexual harassment maintained that the RSLAF has policies on sexual harassment and gender based violence.
According to him, RSLAF’s history is littered with stringent actions taken against defaulters of these policies. He gave example of a Warrant Officer who was demoted for committing gender based violence against his wife. Senior Officers, he went on, have also been dismissed from the military for going against the Sexual Harassment and GBV Policies.
Colonel M.S Fofanah, the Director of Gender and Equal Opportunities at the MoD, said they don’t discriminate in the Army, emphasizing that recruitments and promotions are purely based on merit.
He further made mention of the military’s zero-tolerance on gender based violence, adding that the Army has been very encouraging especially for women. “In 2019 an all female recruitment was done and they were given equal opportunities for scholarships and promotions. We don’t discriminate here,” he stressed.
The Commanding Officer of the Joint Medical Unit (JMU), Dr. Stephen Sevilie, outlined the many reforms they have undertaken at the 34 Military Hospital.
On the allegation by CHRDI that patients at the hospital are sent to other hospitals for scanning, Dr. Sevilie said it is the prudent thing to do in a situation where a patient needs MRI and CT scan which the hospital don’t currently have.
He called on CHRDI to visit the hospital for credible information, saying their doors are always open.
The MoD did not however deliberate on the issue of the $290,000 received by the RSLAF from the Norwegian Government because the matter is with the Anti Corruption Commission and they do not want to prejudice it.
Squashing claims by CHRDI that donors are dissatisfied with the implementation of the project, the Army asked why the institution has just benefited from another project with Canadian funding – ELsie Foundation – to conduct a barrier assessment for the RSLAF. “The Army is conducting a comprehensive assessment of the barrier to increase participation of women in the RSLAF and to propose clear path on how to make progress in the deployment of women to multinational UN peacekeeping operations. The project costs $184,676,79,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense is encouraging the press or any organization to visit their website for credible and balanced information in order to avoid misinformation that has the potential to destroy the integrity of the Army.
CHRDI CONDEMNS CORRUPTION, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE ARMED FORCES (RSLAF)