Over 500 demobilised wounded-in-action (WAI) soldiers of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces yesterday stormed Ministry of Defense headquarters demanding document detailing payment of their terminal benefits.
The men threatened to create mayhem should Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Lt. Gen. Samuel Omar Williams fails to avail the documents to them.
The 11 years civil war left many soldiers gravely wounded. Many were forced to retire from the army after they were declared physically and mentally unfit to continue serving.
Speaking to Concord Times in an interview at the Civil Service Training College, Tower Hill, in Freetown, chairman of the aggrieved WAI ex-servicemen, Mohamed Musa, said they had met with both the Chief of Defense Staff and President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House last December, adding that they discussed issues ranging from their pension, medical welfare and scholarship for their children.
He said President Koroma ordered the Chief of Defense Staff to work on their benefits and the other facilities.
He said the Chief of Defense Staff later informed them that he had worked on the documents and presented them to the president for his signature.
However, chairman Musa alleged that the Chief of Defense Staff had refused to make the document available to them, despite persistent pleas from them.
He said the Chief of Defense Staff instead referred them to the Director of Personnel, one Colonel Yanka, who in turn referred them to other officer.
He said they decided to stage a protest after several fruitless efforts to get the military top brass to avail the document to them.
Another aggrieved member of the group, Vincent Koroma, expressed frustration over the delayed payment of their terminal benefits. “I was a complete human being before the war. I lost one of my hands fighting the eleven year civil war. Today we are here not to collect our benefit but to get a copy of our document detailing our benefits and other facilities; we will not leave without that document. We promised that if we don’t get the document there will be no work here tomorrow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CDS assured the protesters that he had forwarded the documents to officials at the Ministry of Finance to process the severance payment, and pleaded with the men to exercise patience.