China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone has presented US$4 million worth of small arms, rockets and artillery to the African nation to strengthen ties between the two countries and boost Sierra Leone’s defence capabilities.
Early this month Chinese ambassador Kuang Weilin presented the weapons at a handover ceremony at the Joint Forces Command Headquarters in Cockrill, Freetown, AFP reports. The arms include assault rifles, rocket launchers, mortars and anti-aircraft artillery, together with ammunition. “China will continue to enhance the defence capability of the Sierra Leone military,” he said.
According to Weilin, the hardware arrived in the capital Freetown in the middle of last month together with a six-man contingent that trained a number of Sierra Leone military personnel in the use of the weapons.
Foreign Minister Joseph Dauda said that eleven Sierra Leone military officers were being trained in China.
According to Sierra Leone’s Defence Minister Paolo Conteh, the value of the military equipment is some 25 million yuan (US$4 million). “This is part of the agenda to reform the military in Sierra Leone to make it a force capable of performing its mission and tasks,” he said.
China has maintained good relations with Sierra Leone for decades and has contributed to its military since 1987 when it provided two offshore patrol boats. These later formed the nucleus of the Sierra Leone Navy and were used to combat piracy, poaching and smuggling, AFP reports.
Minister of Defence, Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh, said that in November last year he visited his counterpart in China, who announced that the Asian nation would give Sierra Leone funding for a battery of six 122 millimetre howitzers. The Awoko newspaper quotes him as saying the weapons were helping transform the RSLAF into a capable force better able to perform its duties.