Army deployed near border with Liberia, Guinea

Sierra Leone's army has been deployed to the eastern district of Kailahun to ensure the security of its borders, Cecil Blake, Minister of Information and Communication, said on Monday. "We are trying to ensure our borders are protected," he told IRIN.

Blake said that soldiers were heading for the town of Koindu, located very near to Sierra Leone's borders with Liberia and Guinea, and that some companies were already in Buedu, some 20 km south of Koindu. He said the deployment was also part of an ongoing restructuring of the military, announced last week by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The restructured force, to be known as the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), will replace the existing separate army, navy and air force commmands by 1 April.

"Your deployment...is a clear manifestation that you have the capacity as the new Sierra Leone armed forces to protect and defend the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone," Reuters quoted Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Tom Carew, as telling troops at a military barracks in Daru on Sunday.

It was on Kailahun that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched its first offensive from Liberia in 1991, marking the start of a rebel war that was to last 10 years. Kabbah formally declared that the conflict had ended, at a symbolic weapons-burning ceremony on 18 January in Lungi, north of Freetown.