By Titus Boye-Thompson (Communications Consultant)…..
The announcement of changes to the security sector over the past weekend rang bells everywhere within an environment where the slightest change of personnel could have grave significance for sustaining the peace and security of the nation.
In the event, the changes announced were of such a strategic nature and they signify the need to consolidate security expectations as the country moves on to its national elections calendar in March 2018. The changes reflected driving concerns on national security and hence touched on the Office for National Security where Ansumana M. Idriss was designated as Deputy National Security Coordinator (DNSCOORD) and Capt. Rtd Saio S. Marah was moved to the strategic management at the Central Intelligence and Security Unit (CISU) as Director General with Maj Rtd Mathew Kamara designated as his Deputy Director General. The personnel who moved over to these institutions are practiced security sector professionals and when combined with the changes at the Military Defence Staff with Maj. Gen. Brima Sesay going in as Chief of Defence Staff and Brig Gen David Taluva designated as Deputy CDS becomes consequential to the necessity to plan for any eventuality of a security breach arising from the dynamics of the forthcoming elections.
Government cannot be blind to the pronouncements and the tempo of the largest opposition Party whose senior activists and post holders have on various occasions threatened the use of force or violence if they are to be defeated at the polls. Such rancid utterances have for some time been a cause for concern as citizens have on several incidents called on government to act decisively to curb such veiled threats in a country so volatile and susceptible to violence. Some observers have been quick to point out that the changes at the ONS and CISU are deliberate changes designed to address some of the lapses that these institutions may have been experiencing but have not thus far been able to handle effectively. With these changes, Lt Gen John Milton was moved to Nigeria as Deputy High Commissioner and Maj. Gen. Mohamed M. Keita assuming the position as Deputy High Commissioner in the Republic of Gambia.
The Sierra Leone Police came in for an intensive change with the former Inspector General, Francis Alieu Munu being sent off to Liberia as Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary while his former Deputy Dr Richard Moigbe moved up to the substantive post of Inspector General and the Director of Operations, Dr. Al-Shek Kamara moving over to the position of Deputy Inspector General. The Sierra Leone Police has been embattled for some time with an Inspector General bent on redesigning the force to a more professional outfit and with an Executive Management Board alongside who also were tied to the commitment to improve the image of policing. The institution of community policing was a marked departure from the one size fits all type of policing strategy and this gave the Police a better engagement with their local communities with the introduction n of Local Police Partnership Boards and the establishment of Family Support Units as an integral department in delivering policing outcomes to communities going through episodes of domestic violence and child abuse issues. Notwithstanding the Police being at the coalface of community engagement, there are many who commend the tenure of IG Francis Alieu Munu as a stabilising period for the Sierra Leone Police with the fundamentals of a dynamic and resilient force that is poised for further growth being put in place by his style of consultative leadership.
The prospect for a change in the focus for internal security will now be marked by the new vigour that these strategic individuals will bring to their respective positions. Saio Marah is a deep thinker on security issues and thus will be expected to handle issues of state security, terrorism and the trans-national organized crime with much more dispassionate interest than previously obtained. It is also expected that a synchronization of Military Intelligence and Police Criminal Investigation would yield a closer collaboration of the joint security command and the ratification of MAC type policing and Military collaboration.
The need for closer examination of the security needs of this country cannot be over emphasized. The challenge for the security sector now is one of rebranding and meeting the expectations of a hesitant public. Many see the coming elections as a time of great uncertainty and it is the effective management of security concerns that would provide the environment for achieving a free and fair election. Strategic security policy planners and policing experts are now going to be on alert to meet the challenges that the sector faces. The new leadership at the Sierra Leone Police augurs well for a redefined policing strategy that will have heed for the strategies of the past, especially where joint responsibility is accepted for the policing strategies of the past. Some would argue that the new IGPs job would be cut out in the areas of managing the damaged reputation of the Police but with a massive intake in the force of over 1,000 personnel going through their paces, it is likely that the new dispensation would have the necessary space to handle matters of personnel shortages and high attrition rate in a force which has done its best to be a formidable policing institution.
The Sierra Leone Police has excelled as a core partner in international peacekeeping operations with many of its senior cadres having been exposed to Mission experience serving at UN, ECOWAS and AU Missions in places like Darfur, Somalia, and other posts in New York and Haiti. This experience of stellar service has resulted in a cadre of middle and senior management personnel with wide exposure in the Police and an increase in the number of Police personnel seeking and attaining university degrees and further specialist academic and practical courses. In this context, the fact that the first two positions are now occupied by Doctorate degree holders speaks volumes for the respect that the modern day Sierra Leone Police has for higher and further education.
As these new changes take shape, it can be expected that some internal re-deployments at both the Office of Defence Staff and the Sierra Leone Police would be necessary as personnel are re-arranged to meet the new command structures that would of necessity have to be put in place. In the case of the Sierra Leone Police, there are expectations of a more operations oriented policy with greater emphasis on intelligence gathering and communications. In the Defence Staff, experts predict a consolidation of border patrol and an expansion of joint security exercise between the ONS, Police and the Military.
The future for national security is made better by these changes and the expectations of a secure and firm but fair management of the election period and events anticipated can be better left to the strategic implementation of the security sector preparedness plans but a key element of the times to come would be an expanded attention to community engagement and communication between the sector and the public so that people are clear about the ramifications for keeping the peace and for seeking peaceful outcomes to events rather than to attempt to take to the streets in chaos and lawlessness.
The expectation of violence or even the threat of violence that has thus far come from a petrified opposition who are hell bent on assuming political power by force must never be taken lightly. The Military and the wider security sector should retain their highest operational preparedness to identify and draw out those who may espouse the tendency to violence while at the same time, effective border control by land air and sea must be the most vigilant defence of the territorial integrity of this nation. The assurances of continuity in building a more resilient police force is guaranteed by the previous engagement at strategic levels of the force by the new IGP Richard Moigbe and his Deputy IGP Al-Shek Kamara and knowing the determination for modernity that these two share, it is clear that the Sierra Leone Police stands well poised to build on from where Francis Alieu Munu, one of the longer served Inspector Generals of Police has left it.