Freetown was close to going up in political flames – where was the president and his senior ministers?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 April 2016

Sierra Leone police3Whilst large numbers of unemployed and disaffected youths and supporters of the Koroma government were drowning their sorrows of poverty and joblessness, by dancing in the streets of Freetown on Independence celebration day, a brutal carnage was being unleashed by the police on members and supporters of the country’s main opposition SLPP in their party office.

Those old enough to remember their history will take note that this was the same political tactics used by the former ruling APC party dictator – president Siaka Stevens against the opposition SLPP to muzzle and take away their civil liberty, which led to the declaration of a One Party State in the 1970s.

It was not just the brutality of the Internal Security Unit (ISU) of president Stevens that was the only worrying concern for human rights activists back then.

It was the president’s Machiavellian manner with which he plotted against and trapped the opposition into reacting, which then prompted his deadly security apparatus to unleash violence on unarmed citizens.

As a result of the widespread civil disturbance and violence that ensued, president Stevens was able to take advantage of this breakdown in law and order to declare a state of emergency – effectively a police state under his direct command.

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Sierra Leone police version of ugly events at SLPP party office in Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 April 2016

SLPP party bosses at party anniversary celebrations 27 April 2016

All was calm and peaceful at the SLPP party offices yesterday morning it seemed, with party bosses and aspiring candidates for the country’s presidency getting ready to celebrate their party’s anniversary.

Among those meeting inside the party offices yesterday were; Chairman and Leader Kapen, Alie Kabba, Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, Ernest Ndomahina, Bai Kabia, and Ambassador Daboh (Photo).

Then came the ugly and violent scenes outside the offices – heavily armed police firing shots and tear gas on crowds of party supporters and their masquerades.

Something horrible must have gone seriously wrong somewhere, for the police to take such drastic action, breaching all standards for the protection of civil rights and the police codes of conduct, against unarmed citizens.

Dozens of people who were inside the SLPP offices were arrested and detained by the police, including some senior party officers. What truly happened?

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Opposition SLPP party offices in Freetown stormed by police

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2016

Sierra Leone policeThere are reports from Freetown this afternoon of police storming the offices of Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP party in Freetown.

Eye witness report speaks of live bullets and tears gas being fired.

Hundreds of party supporters gathered at the offices to celebrate the party’s birthday, which coincides with the country’s independence anniversary, are believed to be trapped inside the building, afraid to come out, with heavily armed security forces blocking the entrance.

Reporting for the BBC, Umaru Fofana said: “I can see people being dragged out of the opposition headquarters. Some look well dressed. I can also see police firing inside the building. Becoming very very unsafe to be around here. So I’m leaving.”

This is an official account of what started the police attack, by Lahai Lawrence Leema – the party’s Acting National Public Relations Officer, who is also trapped in the building:

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Sierra Leone is 55 years old today – president Koroma speaks to the people

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2016   

salone is 55President Koroma of Sierra Leone and his senior ministers are not in a happy place today, as the government has been forced by lack of cash, to cancel all official celebrations of the country’s independence.

The annual State House beer, champagne, wine and feast party is off the agenda.

The annual awarding of superfluous titles and medals by the president to friends, family, political allies and cronies, is also off the menu for today.

Poverty is hurting far too many people in Sierra Leone, and there seems to be no end in sight of this relentless suffering, caused by human folly, greed, lack of compassion and ineptitude.

Pictures of girls as young as 11 years old, some pregnant – forced into prostitution in order to pay their school fees; as well as pictures and the awful story of young, former child soldiers being sold to private companies to go and fight in Iraq – with the approval of the Koroma government, make for unpleasant reading.

The persistent and crippling water crisis in the capital Freetown, and the appalling state of the country’s electricity supply, cannot be good for the president’s morale, nor that of his senior ministers.

But it seems the government is helpless, clueless and lacking a sense of clear direction and leadership, needed to tackle these perennial problems that are causing immense suffering across the country.

It is therefore not surprising that the president has today cancelled all official and state sponsored celebrations, marking the country’s 55th independence anniversary. The government of Sierra Leone is struggling to meet its financial and budgetary obligations, especially to creditors and public sector workers.

But president Koroma is quite bullish and confident about the future – a future which, he no longer has much time left to direct as president.

This is what he told the people of Sierra Leone today in his state broadcast:

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Sierra Leone celebrates 55 Years of Independence

27 APRIL 1961 – 27 APRIL 2016

Happy 55 independence mama salone

 

Congratulations to the people of Sierra Leone on your 55th Independence Anniversary.

Happy Birthday to You Mama Salone and God Bless you as Always – Wishing you a much brighter future.

Sierra Leone is 55 Years Old Today – A trip down memory lane with the help of BBC News Archive:

Sierra Leone has become the latest West African state to win independence, after more than 150 years of British colonial rule.

The new nation was born at the stroke of midnight, when it’s green, white and blue flag was unfurled. A huge crowd, gathered at Brookfields Playground in Freetown to watch the historic moment, broke into tumultuous cheering.

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Sierra Leone is 55 years old today

Dr Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe – SLPP Flagbearer Aspirant 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2016

HAPPY INDEPENDENCEOur country Sierra Leone is today celebrating its 55th Anniversary, after gaining independence from Great Britain on 27th April 1961.

This was a remarkable achievement for the simple fact that, we attained independence and by default put an end to colonialism without a single loss of life, when countries like Kenya went through a difficult war before achieving the same status.

In 1961, the intention of the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone – Sir Milton Margai, was to improve the standard of living of all Sierra Leoneans as noted in an extract from his speech on that day. He said:

“We have much to do to bring improvements to all parts of our country.  I am fully aware of this and I assure you all that my Government is determined that general progress shall be made as fast as possible”.

But there is also much that can be done by yourselves to meet your own needs, and I shall continue to support and encourage voluntary local support, whether it is directed to the building of a road, a bridge, a school, or a community centre, a sports field, water supply, or any other communal requirement”

I am sure his vision for Sierra Leone would have achieved the same level of development that is enjoyed today by Singapore, who gained independence just a few years later, if our development trajectory had stayed on that course.

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New chairman of the SLPP UK speaks about his hopes and fears for the party  

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 April 2016

SLPP - Willberforce Village welcoms Maada Bio

After his landslide victory at the polls last Saturday in London, the newly elected chairman of the official UK and Ireland branch of the opposition SLPP – Mr. Ansu Sillah, spoke to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, about his hopes and challenges ahead for the SLPP.

Mr. Sillah describes himself as a unifier, a true democrat and a strong believer in constitutionality, the rule of law and civil liberty.

Commenting on the serious rift that exists in the party here in the UK and back home in Sierra Leone, Sillah said that he intends to genuinely and assiduously reach out to all members of the UK and Ireland branch of the SLPP, so that they can all unite and work for the common goals of the party.

This is what he told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

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Sierra Leone Peoples Party UK branch elects its new executive officers

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 April 2014

Newly elected SLPP UK branch executive officers

After months of infighting and much acrimony, the UK and Ireland branch of Sierra Leone’s main opposition political party – the SLPP, yesterday elected the executives that will help the national party in Freetown, win the 2018 general elections.

But there were two ‘SLPP UK branch’ elections held in London yesterday, by two separate groups, each claiming legitimacy.

On the one hand are the Maada Bio breakaway members of the SLPP UK&I branch, who met yesterday and elected fifteen executives.  But this group is not recognised by the national executives in Freetown; hence their legitimacy has been questioned.

The group most members of the SLPP UK & I believe to be the official and legitimate branch, representing the party and recognised by the national executives in Sierra Leone, also held its election yesterday.

Confused? Well, you are not on your own. Supporters and well wishers of the opposition SLPP both at home and in the diaspora are frustrated over the party’s continuing path to self annihilation.

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This is what president Koroma of Sierra Leone calls progress

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 April 2016

Freetown Bomeh.jpg5

Another year – another independence anniversary in four days time – 27th April, except that once again, there is not much to celebrate. Sierra Leone, after 55 years of independence is almost bankrupt, and is one of the poorest nations in the world.

Despite borrowing over $1 billion to invest in the country’s infrastructure, health and education, the Koroma government says that it has no money, and is looking to the World Bank, IMF and international donors to help pay for basic services.

Where is all that money gone? Accountability is a problem in Sierra Leone.

For several months now, there is water shortage in most parts of the capital Freetown, with less than 10% of the country’s households able to access electricity. (Listen to Emmerson’s latest song below).

People are dying needlessly of poverty and disease. Less than 40% of the population can afford more than one meal a day, with inflation running at over 30%, though official sources put this at about 9%.

Since Koroma came to power in 2007, the price of a bag of rice – the country’s staple food, has gone up by almost 200%. Average daily income is less than $1.50, with unemployment running at over 70%.

Yet, president Koroma and his supporters say that his government is making good progress in tackling poverty.

Almost all of the previous and present ministers and senior officials in the Koroma government, have become filthy rich, in less than ten years of the ruling party being in power.

None has ever properly declared their assets as required by Law, not even the president, says critics.

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Presidential hopeful Jonathan Tengbe endorses outcome of SLPP constitutional petition

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2016

Dr Jonathan Tengbe 1One of the aspirants for the presidential flagbearership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Dr. Jonathan BonophaTengbe (Photo), last weekend expressed his satisfaction over the peaceful settlement of the long drawn petition case between the National Executive of the party and some aggrieved members, who objected to the newly drafted by-laws that the National Executive Council approved some months ago.

Dr. Tengbe who is currently in Qatar, said that he was happy with the level of democratic practice within the SLPP.

But he stressed that members must not allow the true democratic spirit within the party to sway them away from the core values, ideologies and key agenda.

He thanked the petitioners and the current National Executive of the party, for finding a common ground in the interest of national unity and lasting peace.

Dr. Tengbe also thanked the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) for its relentless effort, in helping the SLPP find a lasting solution to the internal problems that have for so long plagued the party.

The engineer and politician, noted that the SLPP has been in the cold far too long as a result of individual differences. He said that this has not impacted well on the democratic process in the country, as it continues to create a platform for the ruling APC to run the country the way they want.

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An open letter to the leaders, stakeholders and executives of the SLPP

Concerned members of the SLPP

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2016

slpp musical chairsDear Sirs

A clarion call on the SLPP leadership to take action now.

We the under-mentioned registered members of the SLPP, wish to forward this message to the leadership of our great party, calling on all our leaders to come together and take immediate concrete and concerted steps towards addressing the deepening problems affecting our party, and crippling our country.

We would like to emphasise here that our use of the term “leadership” is wholly inclusive, and is meant to extend to “every single member of the SLPP National Executive Council (NEC), as well as our Members of Parliament, all aspiring Flagbearers , and any other senior stakeholder who is in a leadership position but not specifically referred to here”.

As a message from our hearts, we believe that the tone of this letter should unabashedly reflect the depth of our feelings towards the very disconcerting issues, affecting our people and our politics.

Issues which seem to be largely pouring out of the central governance pot, yet allowed to freely overflow onto our party’s political plate. Our own “internal problems” are acting as easy receptacle, if not a veritable fuel, to a growing mess from without.

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Kono descendants’ global protest against Octea mining in Sierra Leone  

Kono district descendants worldwide

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2016  

Kono Diamond FB Cvr London

Kono district descendants in the diaspora are calling for a global demonstration this Saturday, 23rd April 2016, to protest against Tiffany & Co.’s financial partnership with the Octea Group – the sole owner of Koidu Holdings Ltd, for its gross injustice against the people of Kono, in the eastern district of Sierra Leone.

Octea is the largest diamond mining company in the country.  In a recent court ruling in Sierra Leone, the high court determined that Octea is not entitled to pay taxes because the parent company is not legally registered to do business in Sierra Leone. This is an absurdity and a travesty of justice.

Furthermore, the same court determined that Koidu Holdings, though mining its diamonds in the Kono District of Sierra Leone, is exempt from paying taxes to the local community.

This ruling is an egregious affront to the ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world; and, specifically to the long suffering multi-ethnic, indigenous peoples of Kono District, which is the least developed region in the country.

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A child that says his mother is ugly is indirectly saying his father suffers from partial blindness

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2016

new ministers take oath1As I watched the sham in parliament a few weeks ago, described as the screening of nominees for exalted positions, the situation pointed to the sad reality that we are in a serious one chance saloon – one last chance with no door.

It is not enough to have a legislature. It must be driven by proven, knowledgeable and capable patriotic hands and minds, with unimpeachable integrity, not hustlers masquerading as legislathieves.

With every desecration of the hallowed chamber and the Muppet show that went on during the so called parliamentary screening of the presidential nominees, it immediately became crystal clear why we are where we are today. Why there is such an enveloping poverty in our land. Why our democracy is a charade.

A cabal of interlopers, reading from a mangled script left behind by Siaka Stevens, who laid the foundation of our present disaster, is gripping Sierra Leone by the throat and ready to squeeze the life out of us, without caring a hoot.

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Hold those in power to account but let’s keep away from tribalism

Abdul R Kabia

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2016

SLPP prepares for constituency 107 bye election 5

Challenging the APC government’s 2015 flawed census process and its incredible result, is an obligation for every conscious and non-conformist Sierra Leonean, who refuses to buy into the ruling APC political trickery.

Dr Alie Kabba as an opposition presidential hopeful, is quite rightly responding to his responsibility and obligation, by speaking up for the Sierra Leonean people. His call for an independent review of the 2015 census process is laudable.

The pressing question that follows however, is this: Where are the other SLPP opposition candidates that are vying for the presidential flagbearership, and what is their position on this thorny issue?

At a time like this, Sierra Leoneans need strong opposition leaders to publicly raise concerns about the government’s handling of the 2015 census process, and other burning national issues.

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Former child soldiers from Sierra Leone employed as mercenaries in Iraq

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2016

child-soldier

Under the watchful eye of president Ernest Bai Koroma and his cohorts, children as young as 15 have been carted away to fight a war that has nothing to do with them or their country, for as little as £10 (Le70,000) a day.

What is poignant is that, these young children were being sold off by the very people that should have provided secure and caring, post-war rehabilitation programme to transform their lives and become active and productive citizens in Sierra Leone.

Being a body bag carrier or a soldier in any war environment at any age is bad enough. But being removed from your homeland, after losing your loved ones in a cruel war for which you were not responsible, to go and fight another man’s war in another country, is worse than slavery.

And all this – done under the watchful eye and authority of the president of Sierra Leone, who cannot pretend he knew nothing about this inhumane trafficking, taking place in the corridors of State House.

In the UK, a young person starting their first job will be paid more than £5 (Le35,000) an hour, or £40 (Le210,000) for a day’s work.

But these young Sierra Leoneans, sold off to go and fight in Iraq – one of the most dangerous countries in the world, were promised £10 (Le70,000) a day. Why? How much did ministers in the Koroma government, who signed the contract with the recruiting company receive per child?

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We need a moral reset for Sierra Leone to rise again

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 April 2016

Freetown Poverty - Courtesy of National Geographic

The one painful conclusion that came to mind during my recent visit to Sierra Leone was that the original model is beyond broken, it is shattered.

Today, we are a swelling disaster of disorder, mismanagement and corruption, impunity and hopelessness, greed and poverty, selfishness and dysfunction.

Our streets are choked with a people who have no clue as to our challenges; as well as those who see the current crop of those in power as making past leaders look like papal altar boys.

Our problems are deeper than we think. And to get out of our present predicament, Sierra Leoneans must ‘put their mouth where their money is’, because only unconventional solutions or the introduction of extra-model variables can reset the constituent aspects that we have bastardised and ruined beyond recognition.

It seems we have been held captive for so long, that Stockholm syndrome has set in. There is a semblance of unity for ethno-religious and political bias, which pushes us to protect the guilty.

How could our once glorious nation have missed the moral compass so terribly?

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Mr President what are you doing about the water crisis in Freetown? 

M. B. Kallon (National Vuvuzella)

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 April 2016

Dear Mr President,

This water crisis in the city has exceeded its elastic limit. Every nook and cranny of Freetown is filled with the weeping and wailing of citizens, because of the shortage of water.

Who else needs to be told that our women and children are at the brunt of this crisis.

Do you know what is water-for-water? This I am made to understand is the new practice of young girls selling their bodies, just to have a Jerry can filled with the indispensable God given water.

It is believed that men managing the water collection points are receiving sex from girls desperate to fetch water.

Maybe only statistics Sierra Leone can do a survey on the number of children that have lost their chastity or impregnated through this practice, just in the name of water supply, which your government is yet to provide for the city.

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Why president Koroma must resign or be impeached

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 April 2016

Freetown Poverty - Courtesy of National Geographic

It is now two days since serious allegations were made about president Koroma’s real connection with the Panama corruption papers, following the publication of information concerning Koidu Holdings by Bloomberg on its website. (Photo: Poverty-stricken Freetown suburbs).

It is alleged that president Koroma is not only serving as the president of Sierra Leone, but is also and contrary to the country’s Constitution, registered and acting as the President of Koidu Holdings – the largest diamond mining company in Sierra Leone.

Koidu Holdings is one of the companies listed in the Panama corruption papers, involved in dodgy offshore investment dealings.

The information which appeared to have been published on the Bloomberg website, but now thought to have been redacted, named three executives for Koidu Holdings SA: Jan Joubert – Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – President, and Ibrahim Kamara – Chief Communication Officer.

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Panama corruption Papers – president Koroma must be impeached immediately

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 April 2016

Mamba TV

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone may not have been personally named in the Panama Corruption papers, but corporate information believed to have been published by Bloomberg on its website is shocking. (Photo: Details of president Koroma’s involvement in the running of Koidu Holdings – courtesy of Mamba TV).

It reveals that president Koroma is not only serving as the president of Sierra Leone, but also and contrary to the country’s Constitution is registered and acting as the President of Koidu Holdings – the largest diamond mining company in Sierra Leone.

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The okada menace in Sierra Leone

Victor Ako Mengot

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 April 2106

okada riders

At last the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Internal Affairs has considered the issue of the ‘Okada Menace’ during a recent parliamentary Inquiry.

And after receiving submissions from all the stakeholders, including the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), the Police and the Okada Bike Riders Association, members of the committee ordered the SLRSA to produce Road Rules and Regulations for Commercial Bike Riders, within two weeks.

At the same time the police were also to provide rules and regulations for Commercial Bike Riders.

Laudable as this approach may be, it is the duty of members of parliament to review current legislations and amend them in accordance with changes in societal behaviour.

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