Politics of Rice In The Police Force

Rice supply has become a political commodity in the Sierra Leone Police since its supply was resumed in 2011 by former President Bai Koroma. A Bag of rice for a month is a precious commodity in a hunger-stricken nation such as Sierra Leone.

The supply of rice has been used over the years as ads tool to bring quality police officers. Indeed, a lot of graduates and other highly educated men have now filled the ranks of the police force partly owing to the privilege. Following the reintroduction of rice supply, some police officers had a preference for money to be added to the salaries instead of getting the actual rice.

But, government at that time was not inclined to give money to police officers since it wanted the public to see that rice is supplied monthly to police officers. Recent trends indicate that the supply of rice has been used to legitimise and demonise tenures of past and present Inspectors-General of Police. This editorial will trace a chronology of IGP’s whose tenures has been legitimised and demonised through the use of rice.

Rice Supply as mentioned earlier was reintroduced to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) just one year following the appointment in 2010 of former Inspector-General of Police, Francis Allieu Munu. The SLP personnel were elated to see the resumption of rice after it was banned ten years back by the Tejan Kabba-led government.

To them, their dignity has been restored among their wives and children from whom they now receive the greatest respect.

However, the supply was meant one bag per personnel for every month regardless of rank and status a police officer carries in the police force.

Police wives and children also jubilated in their barracks across the country as hunger in their households has been appreciably reduced.  The rice supply went on for years without any interruption or corruption.

Without any mince of words, the supply of rice enhances police zest and zeal to deliver because they have got a strong back-up to their low salaries. With the monthly supply, the former IG, Francis Munu captained the police without major hiccups. Manifestations of indiscipline and resistance to lawful orders were considerably whittled down. Government heavily cooperated with the SLP by making timely disbursement of money for the supply of rice to the police.

However, in 2016 the demise of the honeymoon between the police and government started when government staggered in the allocation of money for the supply of rice to the 10,000 strong men. At that time, the man at the helm, Francis Munu was seen as a demon as the rice supply ceased for eight months. Police disgruntlement was visible in the absence of rice and low morale persisted.

They nursed grudge but it is not police culture to vent it out. It amounts to mutiny for police officers to come together and speak out about any issue that affects their welfare.

However, accusing fingers continue to at the former IGP as the man responsible for the nightmare. Most police officers thought the former IGP had stopped the rice supply, a situation that prompted them to say it was better for government not to resume the rice supply than to start and stop it prematurely.

As the grumblings were everywhere, Francis Munu’s time for the exit of the IGP’s seat was at hand and he stood very close SLP’s exit door. In 2017, Munu was served with a retirement letter, and was honourably hauled from the Police headquarters and Barracks. Munu is no more a police officer, but his name is on the honour roll of eminent public servants who honestly and diligently served their motherland.

After the departure of the former IG, Munu’s deputy, Dr Richard Moigbeh was appointed and the rice supply started uninterrupted. A new zeal for service was again restored in police officers who now look to the future with unyielding hope. The battered image and respect they once lost among their kith and kin was restored again.  In this situation, rice was used as a tool to depopularise Munu’s tenure and legitimise Richard Moigbeh’s new regime. As rice starts to flow again uninterrupted, Dr Richard Moigbeh became the darling boy to all police officers.

But, Richard was the shortest-serving Inspector-General in post-Conflict Sierra Leone as he served just slightly above two years. Moigbeh took credit for conducting a highly contentious 2018 election that saw the rise of President Julius Maada Bio as President of Sierra Leone.

President Bio’s coming signaled a new hope in the in the new IG, Moigbeh in light of the background that he superintended an election that gave victory to the SLPP.

However, Rice was again used to smear Moigbeh’s tenure. When Richard’s Moigbeh’s mandate was ridding into the sunset, rice supply for police officers was again withheld for close to eight months. Government is quite well aware of the flare-ups of grumblings and rumblings when rice is withheld from police officers.

The former IG too might be well aware of what was happening in his institution but professionalism, diplomacy and, above all, discipline might have restrained and confined him to a tight corner. He sat and reigned, but the reign was shaky since he lacked self-confidence owing to a fear of removal from the IGP’s seat come what may and in the shortest possible time. Since the rice did not come for a long time, police again resorted to the same old grumblings.

Accusations and vilifications of the former IG, Richard Moigbeh by police officers of low cadre were rampant. They accused him as the man behind their problem of no rice for a long time in a critical moment, and they therefore had problem with him.

Time for Richard Moigbeh to leave the stage of national service was made clear when his retirement letter went viral on social media platforms. Moigbeh’s subordinate at that time, Assistant Inspector-General (AIG), Thomas Lahai was said to be responsible for the leakage.

Bad blood ensued in the midst of a terrible circumstance of no rice for the police. AIG Lahai was disciplined by transferring him to the provinces, but not too long, Richard Moigbeh was served with a letter of retirement from State House. The former IG left the police service with a huge backlog of bags of rice owed to the police. He too was similarly hauled.

It did not happen the way it happened with Richard Moigbeh who was made IG when he was DIG. Instead of DIG Foday Daboh appointed to the top job, AIG Ambrose Sovula was appointed IG, and his tenure was also legitimised through the use of rice.

Backlog of rice owed to the police was cleared upon his appointment.  Police officers once more were happy and jubilant for the move adopted by IG Sovula.

The constabulary group of the SLP saw him as a man of the moment. Most rank and file of the force, if not all, wasted no time to accuse Moigbeh as the man who has been creating problems for the police. Rice supply again comes every month uninterrupted and the police are now in top gear ready to do government bidding regardless of any illegality associated with the bidding.

Few months ago, police received three bags for a month, and they prepare to receive another five bags soon. They are happy. Probably, after the five bags of rice, IG Sovula’s Mandate will start to fade as age is no more in his favour. Surely rice would be used to smear his tenure when he starts to ride into the sunset, and rice also will be used to legitimise the regime of the new IG.

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