President Ernest Bai Koroma was on hand Monday to bid farewell to the troops in their “historic expedition to Somalia”.
Back in December 2010, the government had pledged
to contribute an infantry battalion comprising 850 soldiers to the
UN-backed Amisom force that is fighting Islamist Al-Shabaab forces.
That was followed by the signing of an memorandum
of understanding with the AU a year later. The MoU also committed the
continental bloc through the UN to help with the necessary logistics.
“Today, after more than 12 months of rigorous
training and logistical preparation, the gallant [Sierra] Leone
Battalion 1 is adequately prepared and ready to deploy. We applaud the
governments of the United States and the UK for their invaluable support
to making this possible,” President Koroma, clad in full military
fatigue, told the soldiers.
The troops are scheduled to depart next Tuesday.
The Sierra Leonean contingent has been preparing for the mission since 2011, with the US providing training and equipment.
The President urged the soldiers to maintain decorum while on their assignment, saying the eyes of the world were on them.
Said he: “Our country is now a force for peace in
the world. This is an achievement we must sustain. The RSLAF [Republic
of Sierra Leone Armed Forces] have showcased professionalism and have
gained enviable international admiration and reputation. I implore you
to guard this enviable reputation.”