By Pay Wahun……
Sierra Leone’s former Defence chief of Staff, Lieutenant-general Samuel Omar Williams was shot dead by unknown gunmen at his home in Freetown in the early hours of Friday, December 23, 2016, as reported by the Sierra Leone Police Force.
The military chief retired from the army in April 2016, after a snappy cabinet reshuffle by President Ernest Bai Koroma in March this year, and was replaced by his assistant John Milton.
His assassination comes just months alter the kidnapping of another former Military Chief, Major General Claude Nelson Williams in Nigeria by criminal gangs, whilst serving as Sierra Leone’s Deputy high Commissioner to Nigeria. He was later released after the government paid what was understood to be a hefty ransom of over 2 million U S dollars.
Reports of fatal gun violence on prominent public officials by criminals is rare in Sierra Leone. But with a massive rise in armed robbery in the last ten years, there are fears the use of guns may also be rising. A week ago, the residence of one of the aspiring presidential candidates for the opposition SLPP party – Alie Kabba, was attacked and looted by four masked gunmen. No one was hurt in that attack. The police are still investigating.
In July, 2012, President Koroma – who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces appointed S.O Williams as the country’s new Chief of Defence Staff.
The two most senior positions in the military – Chief of Defence Staff and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, were up to March this year, occupied by officers of Mende and Sherbro origin from the South-East.
S.O. Williams is a South-easterner of Mende/Sherbro origin, from Bonthe district. The current chief of staff John Milton is also from the south of the country.
There are no indications his assassination may have been politically motivated. In his appointment as head of the military, President Koroma told Williams: “It is your responsibility to maintain high morals in the RSLAF. You have the task of ensuring that the RSLAF conducts itself in a professional manner during and after the elections slated for November this year.” In reply, Williams said: “I am ready to protect the sovereignty of my country and make sure that the RSLAF will live up to the task.”
In June 2015, the Chief of Defence Staff S.O. Williams and three other senior officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, were promoted to various ranks. Addressing the officers, President Koroma said the day marks yet another milestone in the history of the military, as the newly promoted Lieutenant General Samuel Omar Williams has become the country’s first CDS to attain the rank, and also the 17th Defence Chief since Independence. He pointed out that what they have just witnessed manifests dedication to duty, commitment, loyalty and above all selfless sacrifice to humanity both locally and globally.
But less than ten months after his historical decoration, Williams was replaced by President Koroma at a cabinet reshuffle. His predecessors include Brigadier Blakie (1957-62), Brigadier David Lansana (1962-67), Brigadier Juxon Smith (1967-68), Brigadier John Bangura (1968-71), Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh (1971-85), Major General MS Tarawallie (1985-92), Major General Jusu Gottor (1992-94), Brigadier Kellie Conteh (1994-95), Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (1995-96), Brigadier JOY Turay (1996-96), Brigadier Hassan Conteh (1996-97), Brigadier Maxwell Mitikishi Khobe (1998-2000), Major General Tom Carew (2000-04), Major General Edwin Sam-Mbomah (2004-08), Major General Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams (2008-10) and Major General Robert Yilla Koroma (2010-12).
Police in Freetown say that they have mounted a major manhunt for the killers of Sierra Leone’s highest ranking military general.
The massive youth unemployment and rising violent crime across the country are posing serious threats to Sierra Leone’s security and stability. Early this week, President Koroma met with his cabinet to discuss national security issues, as well as to consider plans for the forthcoming elections in 2018.
The Swiss-Sierra Leonean criminologist cum teacher, Tamba Korgba-Faiduwoh outlined some investigative questions that may help the Sierra Leone Police in their investigations. “The death of S O Williams is going to greatly prove the intelligence services of the Police”, Mr Korgba-Faiduwoh argues.
“Is his death a political or military assasination? Reliable sources in Sierra Leone are pointing fingers at different directions believed to have motivated or caused to motivate this terrible act. The Sierra Leone Police is investigating. We hope they catch the offenders and leave no stones unturned. Did some disgruntled or politically-motivated elements within the SYSTEM that be carry out this cold-blooded murder on behalf of a would-be Chief of Staff? What were the last politico-socio-economic and labour relations of the victim before being gunned down? Was he assassinated with state weapons or weapons from his personal arsenal? Was this done to help a third party or third parties benefit from his disappearance?”, Mr Faiduwoh emphasised
The Sierra Leone Police Force is investigating