Sierra Leone government minister plenipotentiary accused of corruption   

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 January 2017

Sierra Leone government minister plenipotentiary to the UN – the Reverend Kabs Kanu, who is also the proprietor and editor in chief of the Cocorioko newspaper – published in New Jersey, USA,  is being accused of corruption, after a significant historical relic valued at $1 million belonging to the people of Sierra Leone, was last month donated to Kabs Kanu by a former Peace Corps volunteer to Sierra Leone – Mr. Gary Schulze (Photo).

Since news was published in Cocorioko of what is now regarded by many Sierra Leoneans as the unlawful transfer of ownership to the Reverend Kabs Kanu, of an original photo of the Sierra Leonean warrior Bai Bureh, which was taken in the 1890s by a serving British soldier whilst on duty, accusations of corruption and calls for the photo to be returned to the people of Sierra Leone who are the rightful owners of the relic, are growing.

Writing in his Cocorioko newspaper, the Sierra Leone government minister Kabbs Kanu confirmed that; “The picture is worth a million dollars because of its historic value.”

According to Cocorioko: “Reverend Kabs-Kanu thanked Mr. Schulze glowingly for his immeasurable gesture to travel to New Jersey on his birthday to present him the photo. He told the iconic Peace Corps volunteer that he felt honored and was very grateful.  He thanked him also for the photo, whose historic importance cannot be measured by words . He said he will adorn his living room with such a very historic picture which will attract interest from his family and visitors.”

Is this not corruption? And where is the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission when you need them?

In every civil service across the world that is properly run by government, there are clearly defined codes of conduct regarding the receiving of gifts by public officials and a process of declaring and handing over such gifts to the state, depending on its value.

The reverend Leeroy Kabs Kanu is the Sierra Leone government minister plenipotentiary to the UN appointed by president Koroma.

He is a public official whose actions are governed by the public service code of conduct, especially the core value of ‘integrity’.

And as a public official, it is absolutely important to remember that ‘integrity is about putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests’.

Should Kabs Kanu ought not to have known better, than to receive and accept for his personal benefit, a gift worth One Million Dollars? Is this not corruption?

Should the ACC not be investigating this unlawful transfer of ownership of state property from a foreign businessman to a government official?

Why is president Koroma allowing impunity and high level corruption to go on unabated in Sierra Leone?

Why is president Koroma protecting his sacred cows, and slaughtering his sacrificial lambs?

Many Sierra Leoneans are alleging that the one million dollar worth photo of Bai Bureh was in fact donated or sold to president Koroma himself, with minister Kabbs Kanu merely acting as an agent for the president. This allegation must be investigated.

A question that Sierra Leoneans are asking today is this: If Mr. Shultz loves the people of Sierra Leone as he claims to do, why did he not simply travel to Sierra Leone to hand over the original photo to the country’s relic commission on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone?

Another question is: Why did Mr. Shultz donate a photocopy of the photo of Bai Bureh to president Koroma for display at State House, rather than presenting the original to the president for permanent display at State House?

Why does minister Kabs Kanu now regard himself as the proud owner of one of Sierra Leone’s most treasured historical relic for the sole enjoyment of his family and his visitors?

This is corruption and the ACC must investigate.

This historical photo of Bai Bureh belongs to the people of Sierra Leone. It must be returned immediately to Sierra Leone and handed over to the country’s relic commission for display at the Sierra Leone Museum in Freetown, where the people of Sierra Leone and tourists can all enjoy its presence.

What is disturbing about this unlawful transfer of ownership of Sierra Leone’s asset from a private individual to a government official is the ease at which a public servant could flout the civil service code of conduct with impunity.

When former president Siaka Stevens was in power in the 1970s and 1980s, he used all nefarious methods to corrupt government officials in collusion with private businessmen – including the rogue entrepreneur Jamil Sahid to steal from the State.

Billions of dollars meant for the poor people of Sierra Leone were siphoned off and stashed into Jamil’s bank accounts overseas and invested in properties in London, under Jamil’s name by president Siaka Stevens. It seems not much has changed after almost thirty years since his death.

But who is the businessman Mr. Gary Shultz and how did he come about receiving ownership of the original photo of Bai Bureh in the first place? Why did he regard it as morally just and legally right to donate the photo valued at One Million Dollars to a government official for the benefit of his family and friends?

This is the story of the transfer of ownership as published in Cocorioko last month:

Iconic Peace Corps volunteer, Mr. Gary Schulze, who loves our nation so much that he is helping to put the history of our country in its right perspective , on his birthday on Wednesday December 28, 2016 travelled all the way to New Jersey from New York to present to Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the UN and international journalist, Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu ,  the original photo of legendary Lokko warrior and Chief , Bai Bureh , who waged war on the British in 1898 for imposing hut tax in Sierra Leone.

Bai Bureh, who rightly should be regarded as one of the architects of resistance to British colonial rule, being one of the first nationalists who delivered the British colonial masters a strong warning that Sierra Leoneans were not going to be sitting ducks under their rule, remains one of Africa’s most noted historical figures. But there was no original and real photo of him anywhere.

The only image of him was a painting, showing him sitting in a dejected mood on a bench, wearing a traditional Ronko dress with a long beard. According to Gary Schulze himself : “While Bai Bureh was under house arrest in Ascension Town, a British Lieutenant in the West Indian Regiment, Henry Edward Green, made a pencil drawing of the great warrior depicting him sitting sideways on a wooden box looking like an angry, despondent, shoeless old man, with a ronko draped over his slumped shoulders.”

The drawing was published in the London Gazette in 1898 alongside a dispatch from Freetown describing how “the petty chief” Bai Bureh and his followers had been roundly defeated by British troops, thus successfully ending the rebellion in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone.”

Gary Schulze, in his classic published in many Sierra Leone newspapers, titled THREE FACES OF BAI BUREH, THE NATIONAL HERO OF SIERRA LEONE, pointed out: “For more than 100 years after Bai Bureh’s death, Lieutenant Green’s drawing was still the only known contemporary image anyone had ever seen. This image was reproduced throughout the country. It appeared on postcards and in school history textbooks.

This changed in 2012 and the industrious Gary Schulze himself dramatically co-procured  the real and authentic photo of Bai Bureh. He explains: “As the years went by I began to search for an actual photograph, convinced that one had to exist somewhere. When the internet appeared in the 1980’s, my search area grew vastly larger. Then, on 12 August 2012, 108 years after Bai Bureh’s death and 50 years after Mr. Marsh made the statue based on Green’s pencil drawing, an incredible thing happened. A photograph of the great warrior appeared on Ebay, the internet auction site.

“The name of the photographer who took the picture of Bai Bureh was Lieutenant Arthur Greer of the West Indian Regimen

“I was contacted by an old friend, William (Bill) Hart, who has done extensive field work in Sierra Leone and is an authority on the history and cultures of the counry. Bill had also seen the picture and was excited about the prospect of us acquiring it for the people of Sierra Leone. ”

A professional document dealer in London placed the bid that won the photograph, but Gary, after much hassle, convinced the dealer to sell the photo to him at a higher price than the man had bought it and words could not describe Mr. Schulze’s excitement when he at last laid hold on the authentic photo of Bai Bureh. He has already presented meticulously framed photo copies of the photo to  President Ernest Bai Koroma, government officials, institutions of learning and the Sierra Leone Museum.

On  Wednesday , Gary Schulze came to New Jersey to present the photo to Rev. Kabs-Kanu in a special program at the studios of the SIERRACAST/COCORIOKO TV, at Highland Park. Present at the ceremony were the President of the New Jersey Chapter of the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) , Mr. Alimamy Turay ,  the Chairman of the West African Community in New Jersey , Mr. Foday Mansaray, a member of the board of the Cocorioko Newspaper and SIERRACAST Producer , Mr. Hamjat Jolomy-Bah 

Rev. Kabs-Kanu thanked Mr. Schulze glowingly for his immeasurable gesture to travel to New Jersey on his birthday to present him the photo. He told the iconic peace corps volunteer that he felt honored and was very grateful.  He thanked him also for the photo, whose historic importance cannot be measured by words. He said he will adorn his living room with such a very historic picture which will attract interest from his family and visitors. He underscored Mr.Shulze’s love for Sierra Leone, which he stated was indescribable and that God will bless him for his sacrifices for the nation.

Gary Schulze first went to Sierra Leone as a young peace corps volunteer in 1962 and was assigned to teach history and civics at the Albert Academy in Freetown. The Peace Corps transferred him to the National Museum, at the old Cotton Tree Station, where he worked As Acting Curator under the direction of Dr. M.C.F. Easmon and served as Secretary to the Monuments & Relics Commission and the Museum Committee. (End of Cocorioko story).

The people of Sierra Leone are now demanding that the Anti-Corruption Commission conducts an investigation into this unlawful transfer of ownership, of one of Sierra Leone’s historical relic (valued at One Million Dollars) that belongs to the people, as allegations of corruption mount.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph is calling upon the minister plenipotentiary to the UN – the reverend Kabs Kanu, to immediately hand over the photo to the Relic Commission in Freetown for display at the national museum.

Any further attempt to convert this national asset into private ownership, must be regarded as theft of national treasure, to which those responsible will be brought to justice and held to account.

4 comments

  • ALBERT MARGAI

    Issue of corruption is paramount in Africa. Culprits should be scathingly punished

  • Yankuba kai-samba

    What about the descendants of Bai Bureh. They stand to benefit from this photo. Rev should try and contact them before they exercise their rights to the photo. I met a great great granddaughter of Bai Bureh on one of my visit in Freetown

  • Okrugba

    Kasseh is entirely Temne people and, why is Bai Bureh referred (by Cocorioko) to as Lokko?

  • Godwin Koroma

    “Blood is thicker than water”, “Famble tick nor dae broke” hence the Sierra Leone Telegraph is truly Sierra Leonean by letting the Reverend off the hook!

    They should have waited for Rev Kanu to sell the iconic portrait and languish in jail for a period equivalent to the period 1808- 1971 (163 years jail term). I think the people of Kasseh in the Port Loko district, especially the KAMARA’s of Port Loko are the rightful beneficiary of the ICON.

    I think the Sierra Leone Embassy should collect the photo immediately and prepare a special presentation to the people of Kasseh and Sierra Leone.

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