Two weeks ago, Sierra Leone’s Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Samuel Omar Williams announced that the Liberian government would send a Military Attaché to China. Beijing and Freetown already share defence ties – the General said that what the Chinese military offers is “so important” that a direct liaison is needed to facilitate cooperation between the two militaries.
Sierra Leone soldiers have been awarded annual scholarships by the Chinese government to receive military education and training in China. The Chief of Defence Staff added that Sierra Leone is aiming at acquiring Chinese equipment to reinforce their capabilities. He was not entirely exaggerating when he mentioned the longstanding fruitful bilateral relationship between the two nations. And as China has been discretely but increasingly active in Africa over the last two decades, Sierra Leone has not been left behind. The two countries, which established diplomatic ties in 1971, have been undertaking South-South cooperation under the framework of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), created in 2000.
The relationship is unbalanced: China massively invests in Sierra Leone through infrastructure projects or land acquisition, as Freetown awarded China Hainan Rubber Group a $1.2bn contract for the development of a 35,000 hectare rubber plantation and a 100,000 hectare rice farm in 2012, and other sectors. The 2014-2015 Ebola virus crisis opened a new field of cooperation: Beijing dispatched 426 medical personal, provided food supply, $1.5mn direct aid and $11mn through the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund. It was no coincidence if, on Aug. 2015, both countries’ Foreign Ministers agreed on a “Post-Ebola Era” cooperation agreement, enhancing cooperation in health care, mining, agriculture, infrastructure and human resources… and defence.
Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.