Wilberforce Barracks, Freetown, Monday 30 December 2019 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has turned the sod for the reconstruction of the Myohaung Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters at the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown.
The project is a result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Governments of Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic China, PRC, that included military aid grants to the value of 50 million Yuan ($7.2 million US Dollars) for the construction of a five-storey building comprising 104 rooms with all modern facilities for single officers. Also, the Myohaung Officers’ Mess would be completely demolished and replaced with a brand new and expanded Officers’ Mess of two floors with ultra-modern facilities, according to the agreement.
In his keynote address, President Bio said that ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sierra Leone and China, they had continued to pursue a shared future based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal footing, common security, fairness and justice, and common development. He said that their mutual multilateral cooperation had fostered mutual political trust and fruitful cooperation between the two countries.
The President also said that the future of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, RSLAF, was in the hands of the junior officers but warned that they must be nurtured and steeped in the military’s ethos, values, and traditions which could best be accomplished in the Officer’s Mess. He noted that for some time now, the Myohaung Officer’s Mess had been inadequate in serving its purpose.
“The size of the RSLAF has quadrupled. Younger officers have not been able to identify with the structural, regimentation, morale, and historical purpose of the Myohaung Officers’ Mess and have, thus, not asserted ownership as they should. Additionally, because of inadequate housing, young officers have had to live off-premises in private accommodation. This has not enhanced that intangible but all too invaluable psychological salary for our soldiers – morale and esprit de corps.
“In line with my Government’s manifesto commitment to purposeful interventions to enhance the capacity and capability of the RSLAF, I followed initial contacts with high-level meetings on the margins of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, in late 2018 with a special focus on defence cooperation and assistance. Beyond training, the RSLAF continues to gain from key infrastructural investments from the PRC. We acknowledge the continuing engagement of the PRC in enhancing the capacity of our country’s armed forces,” he said.
Minister of Defence, Rtd. Brig. Kellie Hassan Conteh, said that the event to initiate the construction of the Myohaung Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters that would transform the facility into a new modern one was a record-breaking one. He expressed the belief that the desired outcome of the project would certainly contribute to transforming the face of the RSLAF in terms of infrastructure, military professionalism and morale.
Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hu Zhangliang, said that the project was the brainchild of President Bio and the result of friendly discussions between the two countries, adding that the gesture was a shining example of the fruitful cooperation between the two countries. He noted that after relentless efforts in communication and coordination at the earlier stages, the project was formally breaking ground.
He also mentioned that the Officers’ Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters would be brand new, the first-class complex, which when completed would go a long way in improving the living conditions of the officers of the RSLAF, bringing them a stronger sense of honour and happiness. He said it would raise the logistics support capabilities and morale of the RSLAF.
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