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Cablegate: Demonstration at Barracks Forces Hiv/Aids Event

VZCZCXRO8198
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0566 3390845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040845Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2336
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000566

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (JHUNTER/ESPRUILL)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MCAP PGOV SL
SUBJECT: DEMONSTRATION AT BARRACKS FORCES HIV/AIDS EVENT
CANCELLATION

1. (U) Summary: On December 3, an embassy-sponsored HIV/AIDS
outreach event at the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces'
(RSLAF) Wilberforce Barracks was postponed due to
demonstrations by a group of discharged soldiers angry about
their limited compensation. PAE Depot representatives
handling logistical arrangements for the event decided to
leave the scene due to security concerns. Though the
protesters were quieted by the Ministry of Defense (MOD),
Emboffs determined that the event should be delayed until
December 10, to be certain that it would not be disrupted.
End Summary.

2. (U) Classified as "chronically ill persons," the
demonstrating soldiers were relieved of their duties as part
of the RSLAF's downsizing exercise, which also includes
retirement-age soldiers and those considered "wounded in
action." The UK and Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL)
collaborated on the downsizing exercise, with the UK
sponsoring buy-out packages for certain classifications of
soldiers, and the GoSL responsible for the others. This
demonstration was a protest against the GoSL's limited
buy-out funding, and the fact that the wounded in action are
receiving considerably more from the UK. The MOD met with the
demonstrators, and promised to review their situation.

3. (SBU) Comment: The MOD's attempts to appease the former
soldiers are likely a delaying tactic, since there is no
funding available to supplement the packages currently being
offered. The downsizing exercise, though seen by many as
needed to streamline the force and make its numbers
appropriate given the country's relatively peaceful state, is
a hard-sell to the soldiers that rely on the RSLAF for their
employment. Many are unskilled as civilians, and have few
prospects for employment. The inequity between packages adds
to this controversy. End Comment.
PERRY

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