Sierra Leone's Battalion is Back in Town

Lungi, the primary airport for domestic and international travel to and from Sierra Leone, was a flurry of activity this week. On Tuesday, 116 soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces returned home after nearly two years in peacekeeping operations in Somalia.

Friday, January 16, saw another 116 soldiers arrive, with the third group returning from the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) landing Saturday morning.  The fourth batch is expected to arrive Sunday, January 18.

The troops were received at the Lungi-Freetown International Airport by Commodore Moses Miller, the assistant chief of defense staff, Lieutenant Colonel Amadu Bangura, chief of logistics, Lieutenant Colonel Sulaiman Massaquoi, chief of operations, and Director of Peacekeeping Operations Lieutenant Colonel Kemoh Sesay.

According to Colonel Michael Samura, spokesman of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the repatriation will continue until the last batch arrives on January 22nd, 2015.

850 Sierra Leone peacekeepers were deployed in Somalia between April and June in 2013 in fulfillment of international obligations to global peace and security. The troops would have been rotated in July 2014, but the Somali government rejected deployment of peacekeepers from Ebola-affected countries.

“As a result of war weariness on the troops that have long over-stayed in the East African country, the Sierra Leone government requested withdrawal of its troops,” Colonel Samura said.

Last October, a second battalion of 800 Sierra Leonean soldiers due to be sent to Somalia were placed in quarantine after one of them tested positive for the Ebola virus. The soldiers were due to relieve Sierra Leone's contingent already deployed with African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia, but were put into isolation for 21 days as a precaution against Ebola.

Col. Samura told Reuters that a member of the battalion had tested positive for Ebola. The soldier was infected after leaving without permission the military camp where the force is based, the colonel said.

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