There is only one word for Sierra Leone’s Defence Minister, AlfredÂ Paolo Conteh: ‘Reckless’. Â When you are appointed to a position of authority that is meant to serve the people, and in Conteh’s case military men and women, you must do so with fairness and without favour or prejudice. But the daft former Head of Sierra Leone’s Military police, who in 2007 was catapulted from nowhere to become the country’s Defence Minister when Ernest Bai Koroma took over as leader, has been Â nothing but controversial, as scandal after scandal hits his tenure, from reckless womanizing, to disrupting the efficient running of the country’s armed forces, Paolo has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
To serve in the military in any country is a massive personal sacrifice for any individual. And for all that to be ended suddenly by the selfish and personal vendetta of one man because he is in a position to do so, is indeed disgraceful. What is more shocking is when that individual does so with punitive chastisement and gets away with it and no recourse to accountability. I don’t know who and who make up the Defence Council of Sierra Leone, but they must all be lunkheads who when faced with recommendations to dismiss senior military officials do not call for a thorough investigation, but instead take arbitrary action with no recourse to justice by those affected. Those who were sacked or dismissed with a camouflaged rebuke were not even given the opportunity to have a say on their dismissal. A serious abuse of their human and employment rights.
Outstanding individuals, some who have played a huge part in international peace keeping efforts as commanders, were dubiously relieved of their jobs with total dishonour and excuses that have no foundation and that cannot withstand the democratic due process of the law in any other country where respect for the rule of law firmly resides.
When you appoint someone as Defence Minister in a government, they must be of impeccable character and a dignified reputation. They should be an example to the men and women who serve their country and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice. But Conteh’s reputation has been up for consumption, from local print tabloids to online rag-sheets some have taken turns to mull over the sometimes distasteful lifestyle of someone who is supposed to be the custodian of the country’s military services.
Gallant officers with remarkable public service likeÂ Â Brigadier General Komba Mondeh, Major F Gevao, Â Major PC Combay, Major B Kargbo, Captain P Fefegula, Lieutenant L Â Leema , Lieutenant V Muana, Â and Lieutenant BB Byle, were all subject to the humiliation of unexplained and unwarranted compulsory dismissals, despite all Â being under the retirement age.
When questioned about his rather hawkish actions, the Defense Minister gave the flimsy excuse that the decision of the Defence Council cannot be revealed “The third schedule of the 1991 Constitution states that every member of the Defense Council must take an oath of secrecy so whatever transpires there will not be disclosed to the publicâ€ť he shamefully quipped.
It is rather obvious that Conteh had a personal vendetta, one that can only be translated into an unholy war against those he considers his enemies; Â those who may have faced up to his reckless administration of the military; those he considered threats in his quest to divert funds meant for the welfare of military men and women; and those who may have refused to dance to his tune as he plays the tribal card to ensure his tribesmen make up the helm of the military hierarchy.
The cabinet line-up of the Koroma administration is mostly made up of individuals with no administrative competence, apart from a few who have excelled in their jobs and have done remarkably well. Cabinet appointments should not be made because of party affiliation or out of sentiments. Those in authority to man important departments like the military must posses the unquestionable character of doing so efficiently and without prejudice. To dismiss senior army officers who have given so much to country because of personal reasons, is simply a disgrace and unacceptable. The Head of State must review these unwarranted dismissals if the reputation of the Defence Council is to be restored. Â Paolo Conteh has shown that he is simply unfit for purpose and should be relieved of his position. But considering how people are rewarded in Sierra Leone, there is little hope that such actions will become inevitable.
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