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Sierra Leone army chief urges political impartiality
by Staff Writers
Freetown (AFP) Sept 21, 2011

Sierra Leone's army chief, Major General Yirra Koroma has issued a directive to soldiers in the war-ravaged country to remain "non political" in the run-up to national elections in 2012.

The directive, read to soldiers on Wednesday by Joint Forces Commander Mohamed Sesay, warned all troops to "display political maturity."

"Service personnel should not participate in any political activity including political campaigning, speaking at political meetings and under any circumstances wear party colours," the directive said.

"All service personnel, their spouses and dependents are forbidden from wearing political party dress or insignia or hosting political party meetings in the barracks," it said.

"... service personnel should not visit any political office whilst in uniform except those who are assigned to protect important personalities," the directive added.

Defence Minister Major Palo Conteh at a press conference, meanwhile, urged Sierra Leoneans "to stop politicising the army."

"Politicising the army is not good for the peace and development of the country," he added.

Koroma added there was "evidence of people trying to politicise the army, but these people should learn from the past civil war when politics got into the army."

No election date has yet been set.

Sierra Leone's army has swung in and out of power since independence in 1961. The west African nation began downsizing its military from 17,500 at the end of an 11-year rebel war and now has a force of 8,500.

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