The Sierra Leone Telegraph
Home Archives Links to Sierra Leone News

Sierra Leone – A Nation in Bewilderment: Will President Koroma Slaughter his Sacred Cows or Will He Look for Scapegoats?

Abdul R Thomas
Editor - The Sierra Leone Telegraph

3 February 2010

It was Tuesday, 26 January 2010. The President of the World Bank had arrived in Freetown for a brisk two-day fact finding and confidence building visit to Sierra Leone. The country’s President, who had no say in the Bank’s Chief itinerary, was not due to meet the Chief until the second and final day of the visit – Wednesday, 27 January.

It must be somewhat difficult for a Head of State, who has been told that he is one of the best in Africa, not to have the honor of receiving and welcoming the Chief of one of the most powerful institutions in the World, on the first day of his visit to the country. As the saying goes – ‘first impression leaves lasting impression.’

But, what do you do? Do you sit and wait patiently for your turn, while the Chief meets with the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – whom you suspect is likely to spill the beans; or do you engineer a spectacular performance that may upstage and torpedo the outcome of the Bank’s Chief meeting with the Anti-Corruption Commissioner? To be or not to be – that was the question. Or was it? The plot thickens.

Whilst the meeting between the World Bank’s Chief and the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission was in full swing, the President convened a spectacular roundtable chin-wag, involving key ministers of state and institutional heads.

This master class performance was no megaphone politics from the Siaka Stevens’ School of Machiavellianism. It was raw, unadulterated swing at the jugular of a cross section of the most powerful ministers, whom the President had dubbed – ‘the Sacred Cows’.

Were the Sacred Cows about to be slaughtered?

“I have invited all of you to this meeting and I carefully selected each and every one of you because you form the law-enforcement agencies and are expected to interpret and implement the law to ensure that government functions effectively and efficiently…. You interpret the law on a daily basis in dealing with the public and the international community, but if you compromise your positions, then it affects the overall functioning of the state.” - Said the President.

At this point, it would appear the President was simply sharpening his knife, as most of the top brass present breathed a deep sigh of relief – with a wry smile barely visible on their faces, as sweat poured down their cheeks. The President was not impressed. He needs to be seen to be asserting some authority – getting to grips with the rampant corruption – to which he had appeared oblivious.
“There will be no sacred cows grazing in my backyard” – the President muttered to himself. And with a piercing glance across the room into blank space – he growled:

“From evidence available to me, there seems to be collaboration within these institutions to undermine the efforts of this government…..exposing Sierra Leone to people who could make this country be branded as a terrorist country”.

There was deafening silence. The President must now launch the killer blow this time – as the sacred cows held their breath.

“There is a syndicate of 419ers using fake certificates from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the GGDO to fleece investors of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars, and when they are arrested, they connive with the police to chase the investors away, or if these culprits are taken to the justice system they are granted bail with the purpose to share the loot. This is done with the knowledge of people sitting in this room. The police know this is happening in a grand scale,”

“This is shocking” – thought a fly on the wall. “Can you please repeat that again for the record Mr. President?” – asked the fly.

“Yes. There is a syndicate of 419ers using fake certificates from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the GGDO to fleece investors of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars, and when they are arrested, they connive with the police to chase the investors away, or if these culprits are taken to the justice system they are granted bail with the purpose to share the loot. This is done with the knowledge of people sitting in this room. The police know this is happening in a grand scale,”

The sacred cows were visibly shaking, wondering what happens next. Are they about to be slaughtered, or will the President stop and think about the gratitude he owes the King Makers? “

“The Sierra Leonean public has had enough; they have not been treated fairly because of the interests of those who want to mortgage the sovereignty of Sierra Leone to Al Qaeda or other terrorists for a few dollars” – said the President, who for a split second appeared doubtful as to whether he should have used the AQ words.

There is no turning back now. The sacred cows gasped with shock. “Al Qaeda?” One of the sacred cows muttered to himself. “Not guilty” - said another in reply.

With sparkle beaming in his eyes, and a warm self-reassuring smile, the President said quietly:

“This must stop, and from now onwards, I’ll not warn anybody. Any institution or individual caught will be dealt with accordingly; not only by losing the job but we will take the appropriate legal action for betraying the confidence of the people…”

“We understand clearly Mr. President. It will never happen again.” The sacred cows burst into chorus, as the President winked and nodded in approval. “The Chief of the World Bank is in Town” – the President reminded all present.

As the President got up to leave the room, the fly on the wall disturbed by what she had seen, said: “But Mr. President are you not handing over the evidence of corruption to the Police and the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption for investigation?” The President did not reply. But the impatient fly insisted.

“Mr. President, for completeness, why did you not invite the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission to be present at this meeting?” The President still did not reply. The fly on the wall was furious.

“Bo oonoo nor go lef onoo yuki yuki trick – ar Salone.” - said the fly on the wall in exasperation.

The next day, the President walked into his office, beaming with smiles; clutching his favorite morning newspaper – Cocorioko News. The fly on the wall flew down and perched herself precariously on to the President’s tea cup. She began to read the news headline:

“Never before in the history of our nation has a President done what happened at State House yesterday. Never before has a President of Sierra Leone summoned officials of his government and placed them on the carpet in the full glare of the State House press corps, who would report it later to the public, as President Ernest Koroma did yesterday.” – Cocorioko News.

“Mr. President you are not buying into that propaganda, are you?” – asked the fly. The President replied: “No, fly on the wall – I am the architect of that propaganda. I have to be seen to be doing something about corruption in my government. The President of the World Bank is in Town.”

“Now, even the unbelieving Thomas’s will agree that President Koroma means business as we have been saying all along : Corrupt officials have no place in this government.” – Cocorioko News.

Does this mean that the nation should expect those corrupt ministers and heads of institutions to be sacked forthwith and charged by the Anti-Corruption Commission? One should expect so, as the President has on several occasions preached his ‘Zero tolerance on corruption’ and ‘no sacred cows’ mantra.

Just seven days after the infamous Sacred Cows meeting at State House, a new twist has emerged – the opposition and their sympathizers are now being accused of sabotaging the country’s economy. The APC government sponsored media have turned the sharpened knife meant for their sacred cows on to those public servants, previously appointed by the President Kabbah led government.

According to Newstime Africa; “It has come to the attention of this press, that civil servants appointed to key positions of authority and influence by the previous SLPP government in Sierra Leone, are alleged to have gone on the rampage to sabotage, destroy and ruin the economic framework that the President and government of Sierra Leone are instituting to return the country to a sound economic footing.”

But that sounds like a dangerous prelude to an imminent mass arrest of the opposition – Siaka Stevens’s style. In its 23 January 2010 edition – headlined; ‘World Bank's Chief Zoellick in Town’, the Sierra Leone Telegraph had this to say:

“Although Africa’s economic growth is anticipated to rebound to 4.5 per cent in 2010, however, urgent steps need to be taken, so that Africa does not relapse into the bad old days of political repression and dictatorship, as economic hardship and poverty worsens.”

On the 26 January, during the visit of the World Bank’s Chief to Sierra Leone, President Koroma told the nation that he has strong evidence of corruption by senior ministers and heads of public institutions. But then he could not produce, nor turn any such evidence over to the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission. No minister or institutional head has been sacked.

Now the government sponsored media are making even more allegations, which too have not been substantiated nor corroborated by the ministers and heads of institutions, responsible for managing those accused of political sabotage. Is this not political chicanery of the highest order?

It would appear that a new and dangerous political mindset is now evolving within the pro-government media, determined to see suspected supporters of the opposition working in the public sector, booted out of office. It should be noted that ethnic cleansing does not have to involve the killing of opponents.

It does not auger well for any political party in Sierra Leone to be seen to be stoking the flames of regional and tribal discord, in a clumsy attempt to make good, the public relations gaff, caused by the January 26 melodramatic sacred cows meeting at State House.

Is the nation now to believe that President Koroma’s government has given up the ghost trying to rebrand the country, by shifting blame on the opposition and civil servants from the South of the country, for the institutional paralysis and economic downturn facing Sierra Leone?

Well, as the saying goes – “if you cannot bring yourself to slaughter your sacred cows, find some scapegoats.” Politics is a funny old game.

Back to main list of articles

Email the Editor
The Sierra Leone Telegraph

©2009 – The Sierra Leone Telegraph – All Rights Reserved.