Sierra Leone parliamentarians failing to account for millions of dollars received annually

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 July 2016

Sierra Leone Parliament

Few people in Sierra Leone trust their elected representatives. The reasons – dereliction of duty, corruption, misappropriation of funds and abuse of power.

Never before has confidence in the country’s public officials generally dropped so low.

While this view may be one of perception rather than reality, the fact remains that elected politicians in Sierra Leone are failing to project a positive image, based on the principles of transparency, accountability, probity, openness and trustworthiness.

Critics are accusing the country’s parliamentarians of putting themselves above the constitution and the laws of the land. Parliamentarians say they are self-regulated.

But how does the process of parliamentary self-regulation and accountability work in Sierra Leone? Who monitors the standards of behaviour of the elected representatives in public life? Who is responsible for policing the law makers?

Many in Sierra Leone would say that the majority of people in the country are far too poor and illiterate to understand, appreciate and prioritise the importance of holding parliamentarians accountable.

While this may partly explain the reasons for parliament’s lack of accountability, perhaps one of the most crucial factors is the relationship between the majority ruling party elected members and their opposition counterparts.

Is there an overt cross-party conspiracy by parliamentarians to hoodwink the electorate, while enriching themselves, rather than work assiduously to improve the well-being and prosperity of the people?

Rights group – Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is calling on the parliament of Sierra Leone to release documents regarding MPs’ expenses. They are demanding explanation as to how its members (MPs) are spending their allocated community development funds paid by the taxpayer. They want this information to be made public.

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New corruption allegations in Sierra Leone implicate timbergate indictee – Momoh Konte

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 July 2016

Momoh-Conteh 4A letter believed to have been sent to Sierra Leone’s speaker of parliament for investigation, is accusing the chairman of the commission responsible for monitoring and supervision of the country’s telecommunication industry – Momoh Konte (Photo), of massive corruption.

If these allegations are true, they will merely add to the grotesque catalogue of corruption scandals president Koroma is unwilling to address, for political and self-preservation reasons.

Rather than catch and punish the sacred cows that are destroying the country, it is public servants at the bottom of the food chain that are being scapegoated by the Ant-Corruption Commission, say critics.

The damning letter to the speaker of parliament alleges that millions of dollars meant for the provision of telecommunication networks in very poor and deprived communities that can least afford mobile and internet technology and connectivity, have been misappropriated by Momoh Konte and his political cronies.

In 2011, Momoh Konte was at the centre of a timber exporting corruption scandal which, because of political interference from above was killed by the country’s justice system.

Despite being caught with his fingers in the cookie jar by undercover journalists working for Al Jazeera TV, Momoh Konte was aided by the powers above to avoid justice, in what was dubbed by the Sierra Leone Telegraph as the Timbergate corruption affair.

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Sierra Leone Attorney General is recovering well after road accident

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 July 2016

Joseph Kamara 2016 4

Three days ago, Sierra Leone’s attorney general and minister of justice – Joseph Kamara was involved in a serious road accident on the Masiaka-Lunsar Highway, in the north of the country.

The vehicle in which he was driving from the capital Freetown to Makeni, collided head on with a commercial mini-van.

Joseph Kamara, his driver and bodyguard sustained minor injuries. They are now making a speedy recovery in hospital in Freetown.

This afternoon, Joseph Kamara made this personal statement from his bedside, thanking and paying tribute to his family, friends, colleagues and well wishers for their prayers and best wishes.

This is what he said.

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Gender based violence in Sierra Leone – ministry of social welfare stands firm

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 July 2016

Africa progress panel1

Sierra Leone has been classed as one of the top 50 most peaceful nations in the world, in the latest Global Peace Index report, with DenmarkAustriaPortugal, and New Zealand topping the list, whilst SyriaAfghanistanSouth SudanCentral African Republic and Iraq trail at the bottom for obvious reasons – war and civil conflict.

But with the continuing, deepening culture of violence against women, many in Sierra Leone would be perplexed by the report, ranking Sierra Leone as the 5th most peaceful in Africa and 43rd globally out of 162 countries.

60% of the population of Sierra Leone are women. Yet, women suffer disproportionately from gender based violence, because of societal values and a general acceptance that violence against women and children is fair game.

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Sierra Leone presidential aspirant – Jonathan Tengbe storms America

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 July 2016

Dr Tengbe in USA 2016 3Dr. Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe, one of Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP’s aspiring candidates for the presidency at the 2018 elections, took America by storm after landing in New York on Friday, 15th July, 2016, from Qatar where he currently works. (Photo: Grey suited Dr. Tengbe among supporters in Atlanta). 

Tengbe was in the USA to meet his supporters and the general membership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in North America, whom according to his spokesman – “were yearning to meet and interact with the dynamic and astute civil engineer, who wants to lead the SLPP to the 2018 general and presidential elections, if elected as the party’s presidential candidate”.

On arrival at JFK Airport in New York, Dr. Tengbe travelled immediately to Virginia where he was greeted by members of the ‘North America Team Tengbe Campaign Committee’, including the chairman – Dr. Ambrose Jusu, his deputy – Madam Sarah Amara, the Team Tengbe global adviser – Dominic Poawui and his committee members, Musa Sesay, Madam Jestina Musa, and a host of other high profile dignitaries of the Team Tengbe campaign in North America.

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Sierra Leone Attorney General and presidential hopeful Joseph Kamara in a serious road accident

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 July 2016

joseph kamara1

A serious road accident occurred this afternoon on the Masiaka-Lunsar Highway in the north of Sierra Leone, involving the vehicle in which the country’s attorney general and minister of justice – Joseph Kamara was travelling.

It is understood that his vehicle collided head on with a commercial mini-van that was full of passengers.

Joseph Kamara, his driver and bodyguard, are reported to have sustained minor injuries and are receiving treatment in hospital in the capital Freetown.

But unconfirmed reports say that several of the passengers travelling on the mini bus are critically ill in hospital.

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Sierra Leone social welfare minister Blyden calls on police to investigate criminal conspiracy to defraud donor funds

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 July 2016

President Koroma welcomes Sylvia Blyden

Sierra Leone’s minister for social welfare and children’s affairs – Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, previously known for her investigative journalism at the Awareness Times newspaper in Freetown, is now putting her journalistic craft to work to clean up one of the most corrupt ministries in the country.

Since her appointment as head of the social welfare ministry in March this year, she has been gathering evidence involving allegation of a network of businessmen and public officials, conspiring to defraud the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars, meant for the installation and operation of computer systems across children’s services in Sierra Leone.

Based on her findings, she has this week asked the Sierra Leone police to investigate and prosecute those responsible for this serious crime.

“Armed with that information I had quietly gathered, on Friday 15th April 2016, exactly one week after I took office, I decided to undertake a whirlwind nation-wide tour of the entire country in order to elicit the reasons why a Multi-Million Dollars Donor-funded project to, among other things, provide VSAT Internet service to all district offices, was not functional despite the contract signed by Afcom SL Limited with the Ministry to provide such 12 months internet service at cost of $182,400 (One Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand, Four Hundred U.S. Dollars) alongside provide another totally different supply of Call Center equipment and configuration at $17,600 (Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred U.S. Dollars) for a grand total of $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars),” says Dr. Blyden.

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Sierra Leone agriculture minister rationalising government’s farming strategy

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 July 2016

Professor Monty Jones10

Sierra Leone’s minister of agriculture, forestry and food security – professor Monty Jones, this week addressed local media in Freetown, about his plans to transform the country’s politically controversial Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs).

According to the ministry’s communication unit, the minister outlined some of the key issues facing the ABCs. He spoke about the need to align them to the government’s objectives as part of the country’s post Ebola reconstruction programme.

A Key challenge for the ministry of agriculture is to create 10,000 jobs for young people across the agriculture value chain.

Professor Jones told the media that during the past one month, the ministry and its partners have looked at the ABCs, the purpose of their creation and their contribution to the country’s agricultural development and prosperity. This is what he said:

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An open letter to the leaders of the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP – a rejoinder

Alan Luke

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 July 2016

Yumkella Keili and kabba

The ‘All Aspirants Alliance’ plays an important role in unifying the SLPP and establishing the idea that aspirants can work together without meting out the kind of violence, abuse and threats against each other as they have encountered from Julius Maada Bio’s thugs.

It has also played an important role in ensuring that the governance arrangements within the party, so badly impaired, are not dismantled by these clandestine operatives.

However, Yankuba Kai Samba deals with the “elephant in the room”, which at some point and well before the convention, would need to be addressed head on by the Alliance.

It is important though to recognise that notwithstanding the violence and abuse, the anti-Bio block within the SLPP is increasing and the 2011 flagbearer election outcome, which posted 60% of votes against Bio, has moved significantly since then.

A lot has happened since 2011, and SLPP members and voters are aware of the developments.

They know that during 2013 and 2014, when Ebola raged in Sierra Leone, Bio was resident in the UK and only surfaced in Sierra Leone at the end of the Ebola crisis, to undertake an Ebola Sensitisation Campaign.

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Opposition SLPP to carry out re-run of several zonal and sectional elections

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 July 2016

SLPP

Sierra Leone’s Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) has today, Tuesday, 19th July, 2016, advised the leadership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to carry out a re-run of zonal and sectional elections, recently held in thirty-two constituencies.

This will affect almost thirty-percent of all one hundred and twelve Constituencies across the country.

Today’s PPRC recommendation comes after several complaints and petitions were sent to the PPRC by some members of the SLPP, regarding the party elections which took place on Saturday, 18th June, 2016.

Speaking to a cross section of the national officers and key party stakeholders, the Chairman of the PPRC – Justice Tolla Thompson said that, as a Commission it is its duty to ensure peace and stability between and among members of political parties.

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An open letter to the leaders of the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP

Yankuba G Kai-Samba

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 July 2016

SLPP party bosses at party anniversary celebrations 27 April 2016

Fellow members of the GOP – the SLPP

I have made my opposition to the re-election of Julius Bio as our party’s flagbearer abundantly clear, as far possible as I can. I believe Bio is bad for SLPP unity, progress and election victory.

Today I want to turn my attention to the multiple aspirants and warn them of the dangers of inadvertently helping re-elect Julius Bio.

I am getting fed up with the multiple aspirants who are united by their determination to save the party, yet going their separate ways without any common strategic coherence as to how to defeat Julius Bio, who by common understanding is the major barrier to SLPP’s chances of victory.

It just does not make sense when they believe Bio is the problem and the least equipped and likely to unite the party and win a general election, yet they are not seeing the real risks of splitting the anti Bio’s votes among eleven aspirants.

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“President Koroma is an African Voice at the Global Stage” 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 July 2016

president koroma off to washington - April 2015

When president Koroma of Sierra Leone took office in 2007, there was huge national expectation for change and progress towards economic prosperity, as well as an end to impunity and corruption.

Nine years on, his performance report card, based simply on the promises he had made to the people of Sierra Leone, speaks of a different Koroma. His critics say that he has not only failed the nation, but has failed to live up to the very standards he had set for himself and his ruling party.

But his supporters, ruling party and some government officials believe otherwise. Many are now describing the president as one of the best leaders on the continent.

This is what John Baimba Sesay – the country’s press attache in China says about the president’s record in office.

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Sierra Leone presidential hopeful Alie Kabba is one step forward to achieving justice

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 July 2016

alie kabba7

The Sierra Leone Telegraph was today informed by a reliable source in Freetown, that after more than six months of being robbed of his civil liberty by the Koroma government, presidential aspirant Alie Kabba has been handed his American passport, seized by the authorities in Sierra Leone.

Details of the circumstances surrounding the handover remain undisclosed. However, it is understood that the Sierra Leone government has been under immense pressure to reinstate the civil rights of the opposition leader, after he was subjected to multiple arrests, incarceration and harassment.

Alie Kabba is yet to comment on news of the return of his passport, which is seen by many observers as a significant development in an ongoing saga.

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Sub-Sahara African countries like Sierra Leone have a long way to go before they crack food insecurity

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 July 2016

Sierra Leone Agriculture

Last week, Sierra Leone’s minister of agriculture – professor Monty Jones, told local media in the capital Freetown, that he is optimistic that Sierra Leone is on course to achieving food security before the end of president Koroma’s end of term in office in 2018.

Is this another political gimmickry or an honest and achievable ambition?

Before his appointment as agriculture minister five months ago, the ministry was engulfed in a web of corruption and misappropriation of funds, a serious concern raised in every report published by the country’s Audit Office.

As millions of dollars disappeared from the ministry’s budget, so too did the problem of poor allocation and distribution of farming seeds, fertilisers and machinery became a national scandal, leaving president Koroma’s ambition of Sierra Leone achieving food sufficiency in tatters.

Celebrating five months in office last week, minister Monty Jones – once known as the ‘African Rice Guru’, did not underestimate the challenges ahead.  But he is optimistic.

He told reporters: “Five months in office as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, I have met with farmers in every District. I have made sure that seeds to be distributed to farmers are there on time. I have attracted big private sector companies, such as Integrated Solution for Africa (ISA) that will do Poultry with 500,000 to 700,000 chickens at all times; and will produce 500,000 eggs every day; grow onions, of which we spend $12 million to import annually. Corn, cocoa and ground nut will be included too.”

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What’s needed to take African countries like Sierra Leone from Third to First World in 25 years

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2016

Poverty in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Since the turn of this Century, the debate, aspiration and expectation of many in very poor African countries like Sierra Leone, is to become a middle income country by 2025.

With daily income per capita of about $1.50 and high illiteracy, most countries on the continent are struggling to uplift their population from poverty, without massive investment in education, electricity, water supply, good health care, labour skills development, and support for technology based industries.

Until the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Sierra Leone had achieved an average annual GDP growth of at least 7% in the last ten years, to a low of 2% today.

But Ebola has long left the shores of Sierra Leone, and the heavy lifting to economic success is now the biggest challenge facing the Koroma government and its successor – post the 2018 general elections.

Sierra Leone’s economy is almost exclusively dependent upon mining exports, with agriculture and foreign aid making up the difference between survival and national bankruptcy.

With unemployment at over 70%, average daily income at less than $1.25; adult mortality at 41 years, and literacy at less than 40%, the government of Sierra Leone has to do more than simply launching strategy documents every other month.

It must go beyond the political rhetoric of zero tolerance of rampant corruption and public sector attitudinal change. Governance and leadership in Sierra Leone needs complete transformation, not the reform agenda of the past ten years supported by the World Bank and IMF.

But can Sierra Leone become a first World country in the next twenty-five years, given where it is today? And what do successive governments need to do to achieve middle income status in the next nine years – a goal set in the year 2000 by the former SLPP government?

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Sierra Leone respects the right of consenting adults to choose – says minister Blyden

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 July 2016

President Koroma welcomes Sylvia Blyden

Since her appointment as minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs early this year, there have been immense debate and speculation as to how Dr Sylvia Blyden would handle the controversial issue of female circumcision.

Would she be swayed by the vociferous campaign led by western governments and their international agencies calling for the outright banning of female circumcision in Africa; or would she stand by her usual, dogged single-mindedness that drives her politics, which she consistently and broadly describe as libertarianism and the championing of women’s rights?

The issue of female circumcision is arguably one of the most polarised and poisonous debates taking place in Africa today. It has divided families, communities and religious faiths.

In Sierra Leone, it is unclear where president Koroma stands on the issue. But his former social welfare minister was clear about his position on the matter. “Sierra Leone will not ban female circumcision,” he said.

So where does the current social welfare minister – Dr Blyden stand on female circumcision?

Speaking last week to a large gathering of international development agencies, NGOs and dignitaries, attending the biennial general meeting of the women’s rights campaigning 50/50 Group, held at the British Council Hall in Freetown, she could not have been clearer. This is what she said:

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Today the world remembers Sierra Leone’s king of pop Bunny Mack

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 July 2016

Bunny Mack of Sierra Leone

Twelve months ago, people around the world said goodbye to one of Africa’s greatest musicians – Bunny Mack, whose music continues to rock dance floors and serenade the airwaves.

Bunny Mack passed away after a short illness in London on Saturday, 11th July, 2015. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he rose to global fame after recording a string of hits.

He was born Cecil Bunting MacCormack on the 3rd of December 1945 in Freetown. He attended the Buxton Boys School, the Government Model Middle School and the Prince of Wales Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

At the age of six, Bunny began playing the harmonica and penny-whistle, making his first public appearance at age eight. Later, he started playing both the banjo & guitar and singing in church choirs.

He launched his career in music when he formed a band called The Daverns, along with a group of friends.  After taking the stage name Kenny Marson, he joined the band Soundcasters ’66 and went to the UK where their first single was released in 1967.

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Sierra Leone – Let us collectively change the script

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 July 2016

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015

You know something? It appears that we are in for a ride again, as the clock ticks towards the next election. Why? Because, too many of us are smirking when we should be raging.

We are behaving like a cat with arthritis, hobbling along the carriages of a train at the edge of a cliff, hoping that someone builds a bridge before we hit the gorge. We are now a people yet to come to terms with certain modern realities, caught between nostalgia and the future.

Rather than endeavour to rethink our socio-political and ethical values, which has become essential for us to have good governance, we seem sucked into the flawed strategical reasoning of our leaders and their ‘we are the builders’ baloney; forgetting that a lion can never give birth to a goat.

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Sierra Leone presidential hopeful – Yumkella in China for high level talks

N’Karimu Kamara

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 July 2016

kandeh yumkella and koroma4Following his recent engagement with US Law makers, Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)’s presidential flag-bearer aspirant – Kandeh Yumkella, departed for Beijing, China, for a high-level meeting on the South-South Cooperation Taskforce.

The two-day event which brought together a large number of dignitaries was co-chaired by Dr. Gu Xueming, President of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC) and Dr. Yumkella.

Speaking from Beijing on the purpose of the high-level conference, Dr. Yumkella noted that, the aim was simple. “Our role was to provide strategic guidance and coordination for a series of on-going studies aimed at producing a roadmap and policy recommendations for China’s South-South Cooperation on ecological civilization. The roadmap and recommendations will be presented to the Premier and the Annual General Meeting of CCICED at the end of the year,” he said.

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Sierra Leone Justice Minister – Joseph Kamara bags Excellence in Leadership Award

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 July 2016

joseph kamara1

Members of the Board of Directors and the entire Management team of the African Achievers Awards, have selected the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone – Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara (JFK) as recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award.

The Award has over thirty categories, including Most Valuable African President, Lifetime Achievement Award, African Hero’s Award, African Change-maker, African Impact Award and African Industrialist of the year, to name but a few.

In their letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the conveners of the African Achievers Award explained that, the selection was “in recognition of your commitment to public service and fighting for the nation – especially injustice and corruption.

“We are convinced that the service to your country is immeasurable, and that makes you a deserving recipient of the African Achievers Awards.”

This selection will add to JFK’s long list of achievements in the field of public service and anti-corruption in the continent.

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