ACHIEVEMENTS AND TOP ISSUES OF THE SIERRA LEONE ARMED FORCES...
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE RSLAF:ECOMOG Operations
Between 1991 and 1998, RSLAF troops participated in the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) operations as part of Sierra Leone’s
contribution to ECOWAS effort in bringing peace to neighboring LIBERIA during their bloody civil war waged by Charles Gangay Taylor in 1989.
Three successive battalions were rotated during this period. Our troops fought bravely in that operation and they were highly commended.
The first contingent was among the force that prevented Charles Taylor from taking over Monrovia. The last contingent returned home after the 1997 AFRC Coup.
UNAMID (SRC 1 – 5)
In Darfur (Sudan), the RSLAF rotated 5 Sector Reconnaissance Companies (SRCs) which served with the United Nations - African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
The SRCs were complimenting UNAMID’s effort to bring peace to that part of SUDAN. The first SRC was deployed in 2010 and the fifth and last SRC in the mission returned home in 2012.
However, RSLAF officers continue to serve with UNAMID as Military Observers (MILOBs) and Staff Officers (SOs). This same RSLAF presence is being maintained in the United Nations Mission in
South SUDAN (UNMISS).
AMISOM (LEOBATT 1)
The RSLAF also deployed a Motorized Infantry Battalion with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in order to bring peace to Somalia which initially disintegrated into a failed state.
The deployment of the battalion commenced in April 2013 and completed in June 2013. The battalion, operating under the Kenyan Sector, has been held to high esteem for its professionalism and
operational effectiveness. This has given confidence to the mission to allocate a whole sector (Sector KISMAYO) to the Sierra Leone Contingent commanded by a Sierra Leonean officer, Brig Gen TR Allieu.
The first Sierra Leone Contingent (LEOBATT 1) in Somalia will be rotated in June 2014 after completing one year in the mission. There are also 6 RSLAF Officers serving in staff appointments at the AMISOM Force Headquarters in Mogadishu.
MINUSMA (3 + 2 Pers)
The RSLAF deployed 3 officers and 2 senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) initially with the African Union Integrated Security Mission in Mali (AFISMA) in February 2013. These personnel were serving in various staff appointments at the AFISMA HQ.
When the mission was transformed into the United Nations Security Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in June 2013, these officers and SNCOs were also rebadged into MINUSMA.
Joint Surveillance Operations with US Coastguard Legarde(LEGARE)
The United States Government and the Sierra Leone Government are engaged in a joint surveillance operation known as Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP). The US Coastguard (USCG) Cutter named ‘Legarde’ is the main operational
platform used to jointly patrol Sierra Leone EEZ with the view to generate a clear maritime picture to the Government of Sierra Leone. This operation provides training opportunities to S/Leone Maritime Stakeholders on law enforcement
capabilities. S/Leone’s declining influence to effectively patrol her EEZ beyond the limits of 70nm due to lack of suitable sea-going chattels provides a sanctuary to rogue operatives; hence the increase in transnational organized crimes
which is a concern to our development partners, especially the US.
USCG Legarde sails to high seas and conduct EEZ surveillance operations. Our patrol boat PB 105 Sir Milton sails to a central position along SL coastline and lie in wait to support ‘Legarde’ on call. In the event of an arrest by Legarde,
PB 105 is used to escort arrested vessels to a position where they will be taken over by the nearest Forward Operational Base (FOB), and the subsequent escort to port. Both Legarde and PB 105 remain at sea throughout the period of operations,
and the Communication Centre of the Joint Maritime Committee (JMC) remains under operational control throughout the operations.
Antipiracy Operations are part of the specific standing operational tasks of our Maritime Wing as a fighting force. Though piracy is not common in the Territorial Waters of SL, Armed Robbery at sea is a concern. One such incident occurred in
2008 when men clad in Guinean security outfits entered SL Waters, attacked some fishing trawlers and tried to loot both their catch and their possessions worth millions of leones. However, in a coordinated operation they were prevented from achieving
Search and Rescue Operations
Search and Rescue is a major responsibility of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA), and therefore an implied task for the Maritime Wing, as we are deployed in five (5) locations along the coastline of Sierra Leone. Search and Rescue (SAR)
services can be referred to as the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger at sea. SAR involves the collective efforts and expertise of individuals, agencies and government to effectively manage disasters when
they occur, as witnessed in the December 2013 sea collision which claimed the lives of 19 persons. One lesson identified in this incident was that an effective maritime disaster management cannot be handled by one organization alone. This is the
very reason for the establishment of the Joint Maritime Committee (JMC), which should be an umbrella body to coordinate all activities within the maritime domain.
During the October 2000 Conference of International Maritime Organisations (IMO) and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) on Search and Rescue in Florence - Italy, it was recommended that there should be a regional approach to the
provision of SAR services in Western, Southern and Eastern parts of Africa. Thus, 5 countries in Africa were designated as Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centres (MRCC): Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Liberia and Morocco.
Each centre is to have its own network of associated sub-centres; Sierra Leone falls under the MRCC of Liberia. For the period 2013 to date, 32 SAR Operations have been conducted and 414 lives have been saved.
The RSLAF contributed MILOBs and Staff Officers to other UN missions in NEPAL and EAST TIMOR between 2006 and 2012. Those missions have long closed down. However, the RSLAF continues to contribute Staff Officers to serve with the United Nations Integrated
Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Also RSLAF officers currently serve in various appointments with the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) Headquarters in ABUJA, Nigeria.
TOP ISSUES OF THE RSLAF:National Security
Consequent upon the establishment of the new national security architecture as part of the security sector reform (SSR) in 2000, the Office of National Security (ONS) was placed on top in a coordinating role over all major security agencies and the
roles of the military and the police in national security were further clarified. Whilst the RSLAF is constitutionally responsible to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) is responsible for
maintaining internal security (IS) and enforcement of law and order. Eventhough the SLP has primacy in IS, there are certain situations beyond police control where the RSLAF may be required to intervene in support of the SLP. The mode of such intervention
is defined in a document known as the Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) document.
However, since MACP is specifically focuses on RSLAF assistance to the police and precludes any other assistance to other government MDAs, it has been deemed necessary to draft a document which covers a whole range of all assistance that may be required
from the military to all MDAs including the police, which is referred to as the Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA) document. This is an overarching document that, when adopted, will cover MACP, Military Aid to Civil Community (MACC) and Military Aid to Other
Government Departments (MAGD).
MACP with SL Marine Police
The Maritime Wing (MW) of the RSLAF, as the only capable body within Sierra Leone to operate at sea, is closely involved in operations which on land would be regarded as policing tasks. All MW tasks are under the operational control of the JMC which decides
and plans the levels of maritime activity dependent on the threat and availability of resources. Anti-smuggling/piracy policing is conducted jointly by the SL Police and MW under the JMC. Fishery Protection (FP) is conducted jointly with the Ministry of
Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). The sea environment is very different from shore operations. It affords only limited human interaction opportunities unlike those generated by the SLP in the daily conduct of their duties ashore.
In sum, the MW will normally provide and command the platform from which the relevant experts from either the SLP or MFMR will conduct any necessary arrests.
The JMC is currently only established in the Freetown area. It will however expand as assets become available, to the Northern and Southern sea boundaries. Operating from Freetown and from the FOBs for short periods, the SLP members in the JMC will provide
the necessary expertise to conduct customs type operations under the authority of the JMC. All contraband and confiscated goods or equipment will, once ashore, become an SLP responsibility.
All MW shore-side locations will have access to fisheries boarding officers from the MFMR who will together with designated members of local communities accompany the MW on FP patrols. These fisheries officers will, where necessary, act as the arresting
officers whenever an offence is detected. Should RSLAF maritime assets on other tasks discover any unauthorized activity, then where practicable they are to apprehend those responsible and hand them over to the SLP as soon as possible.
Arrested fishing vessels are to become the responsibility of the MFMR on return to port..
With all of these, it should be borne in mind that the MW is the sea-borne security outfit of the RSLAF, and therefore such arrangements should in no way dissuade her from her statutory responsibility of safeguarding and protecting SL marine resources
and her sea lanes of communication for economic growth and development. It is for this reason that this whole concept of the Joint Maritime Committee needs to reviewed, especially in relation to the UN Convention and Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS); on its
provisions on how the sea is legislatively portioned and who has jurisdiction in each area..
MACP with SLP at Land Borders
At the border areas, our soldiers are deployed at Forward Patrol Bases (FPBs) close to the SLP deployments. Major border crossings are jointly manned by both RSLAF and SLP. They both undertake regular joint robust border patrols to gather
intelligence and deter any adversaries. In the event of any arrest of a suspect, the police take full control. However, there are certain occasions where there is no police presence and an arrest is deemed necessary to avert grave incidents.
The military may effect the arrest not in their capacity as military personnel but in exercise of their right as citizens to avert danger. Even when such an arrest is made, the suspect must be handed over to the nearest police post.
Therefore, even at the border areas there is police primacy until an armed aggression is takes place or is about to take place before the military can fully intervene without any waste of time.