We are introducing a new column in our newspaper called IN THEIR OWN WORDS. It takes stock of how public officials, and those aspiring to so become, prevaricate, contradict, fluff and sometimes lie blatantly on issues they must be honest and consistent about. Here we go:
As a nation we appear to have reached a conclusion in the hot debate about the extent to which the Sierra Leone Police should be armed a few months to the elections or whether the government should be spending millions of dollars to buy arms and ammunition in a country where an absolute necessity like clean drinking water is a major problem.
Here we produce a sampling of what our officials said about the same issue in different places for your records. As you read, note how they approached the issue and what messages they were passing on to you.
As reported in Cocorioko newspaper and published in March 2012
Mr. Schulenberg at the Security Council Meeting in March 2012 to consider the Report of the UN Secretary General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone ( UNIPSIL ) for the past six months:
The Government has imported assault weapons worth millions of dollars in January of this year to equip a recently enlarged para-military wing of its police, the Operational Services Division (OSD) and this was of great concern. I would urge the Government to fully clarify these reports and, if true, explain the intended use of these weapons.
J.B. Dauda, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
The Minister said that it was a logical and natural thing for any country to equip its armed forces. He pointed out that Sierra Leone had an unfortunate experience 19 years ago when the armed forces were so ill-equipped that they had to abandon the battle field when rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by Foday Sankoh, invaded the country. The invasion led to an 11-year civil war that killed over 200, 000 people and left the country’s infrastructure in ruins. “We cannot wait until there is another war or threat to our national security before we arm ourselves. We have to beef up our security forces before any attack on our sovereignty “, the minister stressed.
I.G. MUNU – FRANK TOK” ON VOH 96.2 (4/3/12)
“Like in all other countries, these are security items which are not open to public debate. This is an example of people that are trying to derail our efforts so as to present us in a negative light to the public. Every patriotic Sierra Leonean should feel very safe with these items because we are trying to build the capacity of the police so as to deal with any security that may arise. The reason America is today the most powerful country in the world is because of its weaponry. Any country with heavy security and defense mechanism is rated very highly. If as a country we don’t have the means to check those who may want to subvert the security of the state, then we won’t survive as a state because there will be no country without security or defence.
The weapons are not meant for peaceful people but to handle insurrection so that people will feel safe in case certain people will want to subvert the security of the state there should be a force to counter that. We are envisaging that otherwise America should not be pilling weapons.
These weapons are not meant for elections. They were purchased in 2010 but they delayed in arriving. The police cannot use machete or knife to ward off threats; we need the wherewithal to do our work.
At the time DfID bought weapons for the police the strength was 5000 but the strength is now more than double. There is enlistment going on There are countless number of applications for police services but we can’t meet that challenge but we keep telling them to hire private security ‘because we keep telling them that part of our challenges is to meet the increasing demand – both armed and unarmed.
If you are enlightened on the security of the West African sub region, where there is a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which is largely responsible for the instability of the region, then you should know that any government, any state should have the wherewithal to provide deterrence to any threat. Now, terrorism is one of the most serious things threatening the security of nations. You know what is happening in neighboring Nigeria. How can people make mountains out of heaps as if it anything extraordinary?”
I.B. KARGBO – “QUARTER DECK” ON VOH FM 96.2 (5/4/12)
“We as politicians rely on the security advice of the people that are trained for that purpose. When the weapons arrived, we looked at it closely and decided that we don’t need all for the Operation Support Division (OSD) and will give to the army those weapons that are needed by the OSD. So the purchase of the arms wasn’t done in secret. We informed the Diplomatic Community about what we wanted to do and they gave us their technical people to look at the weapons and advise government on what is good for the police and what is good for the army. And because the weapons belong to the government, we decided that we will give to the police what is necessary for them and to the army what they need probably to be used in Darfur. So this was not something we did in secret.”
ABDULAI BAYRAYTAY – “NIGHTLINE” ON SLBC (3/4/12)
“The President doesn’t need weapons to secure a third term. People will have to judge him on the basis of his performance. People will use the premise of agenda for change to judge the President for a second term that will be uncontested. But because we are in a democracy, and that the people are concerned about the arms purchase, the government listened by saying that it has to respond to the concerns of the people with whom they have signed a contract to serve.
A technical committee was formed to look at what weapons the OSD will need and what they would not need. Based on that recommendation, the government used its executive discretion with the support of the International Community to handover some of the hardware to the military.
The situation took this dimension may be because the media played into the politicization which has been mentioned earlier. But in an election year like this where a certain political party has no issue to sell, it can capitalize on the arms issue by going around saying that the government has imported arms to fight. But at the same time, the media amplified the issue.”
MUSA TARAWALLIE – “GUD MORNING SALONE” ON RADIO DEMOCRACY FM 98.1 (28/3/12)
“We should believe in our security forces and we should know that our safety and security is the primary responsibility of the President and me as minister and the Police, who have a constitutional duty. People should understand that when the security apparatus is not equipped it is a recipe for chaos in the country and when the perpetrators understand that the security apparatus don’t have the wherewithal to stop them, they will do things with impunity. Whoever knows he/she is peaceful should not be afraid of the police because the arms are meant to enhance the police to resist chaos and violence and they should understand that. All over the world, police are fully equipped and so we should be proud of Sierra Leone when it starts supporting its security apparatus.
What I want to say is that let’s take our attention back to the 1992 military coup. Everybody knows that the late President Momoh was a quiet player that almost turned this country into a police state. When the perpetrators of the 1992 coup realized that the government has no defense and that the security apparatus was not equipped, what they did was to take AA guns at the war front to overthrow the government. And I believe that whoever wants to make a coup now, the government is equipped to stop them.
I’m not saying this because there is intelligence report but those who illegally overthrew the government in 1992 have succeeded in taking over the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP). And in this life, one has to look at precedents and events that occurred in the past and prepare so as not to be overtaken.
The government was very weak and so junior soldiers, lieutenants came and overthrew the government and led to chaos. So for the safety and security of this country, we believe that government institutions should be fully prepared to stop any unfortunate event that will lead this country to chaos.”
NOTE: PLEASE KEEP FOR YOUR RECORDS
(C): Politico Newspaper