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Sierra Leone evicts civilians from crowded army barracks

by Staff Writers
Freetown (AFP) Jan 17, 2011
Sierre Leone's army said on Monday it has begun evicting civilians over 18 from military barracks because of massive overcrowding, with relatives of troops among those to be forced out.

The country's barracks were built to house 500 people but are occupied by around 10,000, many of whom are civilians, with some soldiers suspected of sub-letting their rooms to civilians.

In many cases, shacks have been built around military quarters to house the overflow.

"All civilians above the age of 18 who are not service personnel are no longer allowed to stay in barracks even if they are related to soldiers," military media officer Captain Ken Jabbie told AFP.

"We have only made one exception and that is for students in recognised tertiary and educational institutions. They will be allowed to stay after proven identification."

Jabbie said: "The army has taken the decision to curtail most of the social problem that is linked with overcrowding, and services meant for serving officers are overstretched."

While the army's battle strength was not even 3,000 about 20 years ago, urgent recruitment during the decade-long civil war that ended in 2002 saw the military bloat to 20,000, he said.

"For the past eight years we have been downsizing to the current size of 8,500," he said.

Sources said some 2,000 civilians suspected to be living in the various barracks have already been questioned by police.

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