The Sierra Leone army says three “major arms and ammunition investigations” are currently ongoing involving its members.
A board of inquiry is looking into one, the Ministry of Defence and the police are looking into two other separate ones.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence, one of the investigations concerns the “serious shortage” of arms and ammunition assigned to the presidential guards unit of former president Ernest Bai Koroma.
Even though they would not give details of the arms and ammunition that are unaccounted for, the shortage was discovered during stock checking exercise by the current Commander of Joint Logistics Unit, Colonel Albert Bockarie.
For this, the commander of the former presidential guard unit, Brigadier General Albert Kargbo has been suspended, while the Officer Commanding, Captain Patrick Kamara is under detention.
A second incident being investigated by the police concerns the discovery at the President’s Lodge of “a large cache of ammunition which appeared to have been dumped in a cesspit sucker-way”, according to a statement from defence headquarters.
The ammunition included 178 rounds of 12.7mm Chinese and 1,606 rounds of 14.5mm Chinese, retrieved in the presence of various security agencies weeks after the March presidential election.
To this, four senior military officers were released to the police for investigations. They are Brigadier General Albert Kargbo (Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Gender and Equal Opportunities), Brigadier General Ronnie Harleston (Brigade Commander of 5 Infantry Brigade), Colonel George Bangura (Commandant of Peace Mission Training Centre or PMTC) and Lieutenant Colonel Sheku Tejan Sesay (Military Plans and Operations Officer at AU Headquarters in Ethiopia) who is yet to report.
They are being interrogated, say the army, “because of their previous roles and responsibilities, which could have connections with the discovered ammunition”. None of them have been arrested.
Brigadier Harleston commanded the Presidential Guards 2014 – 2016, Brigadier Kargbo took over from him and served until May this year. Lieutenant Colonel Sesay served as ADC to President Koroma.
Meanwhile the third matter involves the discovery on 7 July of two bundles of combat tents and 12 empty ammunition boxes at the residence of former defence and internal affairs minister Major (Rtd) Pallo Conteh. Police say they made the discovery acting on a tip off, but Conteh has denied any sinister intentions.