Crisis of Leadership in Sierra Leone: What Crisis?
Abdul R Thomas
Editor - The Sierra Leone Telegraph
21 March 2010
The Sanda Factor?
The people of Sanda - in the Bombali district -
Northern Province of Sierra Leone, go to the polls on
Saturday 20 April, to elect their parliamentary
representative, following the resignation of Eddie
Turay MP, who is now serving as the country’s High
Commissioner to London.
Citizens of Sanda will also have the chance to
express their vote of confidence on President
Koroma’s leadership, or show dissatisfaction with
the President’s effort in eradicating poverty,
illiteracy, poor health and unemployment, in what is
regarded as the ruling party’s heartlands. But will
While the majority of the people of Sanda may not be
highly literate, yet they do know what is good for
them. Saturday’s polls may not be a good barometer
with which to assess the political significance and
repercussions of the current media attacks being
waged against the President; but the results should
indicate the extent to which the opposition have
improved their popularity since the 2007 elections.
Observers have described the somewhat frenzied media
attacks against the President and some of his senior
lieutenants, including the Minister of Justice and
Attorney General, as the most potentially pernicious
that the government has had to face, since taking up
office in 2007.
Would the people of Sanda use this bye-election as a
referendum on issues such as the President’s support
for the Anti-Corruption Commission, which is now
holding its APC ministers accountable? Would voter
apathy play any role in this bye-election?
We would have to wait for the results, which may or
may not give us the answers to these questions.
Sierra Leone does not have an independent and
sophisticated exit poll and voter behaviour
evaluation organisation. The media could do this,
but ethical reporting is a big problem.
According to figures available from the 2007 general
elections, out of the 17,325 residents who turned
out to vote in the Sanda constituency 33 of the
Bombali district; APC’s Eddie Turay won 73.2% of the
votes casted, whilst SLPP's Hamid Sesay got 15.1%,
with John B. Koroma of the PMDC scoring third with
5.4% of the votes.
A political pundit writing in the On-line Bintumani
discussion Forum, commented; “In my opinion, what
the Anti-Corruption Commission does, will not be a
factor in this constituency. Ethnic solidarity is
primary; bread and butter issues the voters can
relate to comes next. What the ACC does, will be
considered an abstract exercise to the average voter
He maintained that “voting will be down - due to
apathy. It even happens in advanced democracies. I
do not think they’ll get half of the voter turnout
they had in 2007. No side will benefit greatly
because the apathy will be spread across the board.
The commitment to voting is high during national
elections. Some of the voters will ask “Ar mean we
don vote before; wetin we dae cam vote back for
(meaning - why should we come and vote again, after
we have already voted in 2007)?”
But voter apathy or not, the opposition should not
expect to increase the percentage share of the 2007
votes they received, nor will the people of Sanda
use this bye-election as a referendum on President
Koroma’s leadership and policies.
So where is the crisis of leadership that sections
of the media are alluding to? In all honestly, it is
very difficult currently, to see any leadership
crisis within the ruling party or the Koroma
Despite the sacking, indictment and conviction of
ministers, there is no sign of dissent or rancour
from within, in protest against the acquiescence of
the President and the boldness of the Chairman of
the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Things do not seem to be falling apart. Cabinet
ministers and senior APC party grandees remain
steadfastly loyal to the President. Foot soldiers of
the party are busy campaigning in the Sanda
constituency – not that they need to work that hard
– tribal and family ties will determine the outcome
of that bye-election.
Youth unemployment continues to run obscenely high,
while the prices of basic goods and commodities rise
beyond the reach of the average Sierra Leonean. For
most people, especially those living in the rural up
country areas – like Sanda, life is a real drag.
The average daily wage of one Dollar is hard to come
by. Subsistence farming helps the young as well as
old pass the time away. It also provides daily meals
for families. But there are talks and rumours
everywhere now - of renewed economic activities in
the northern towns and cities. King Mining is in
The groundbreaking ceremony marking the
commissioning of the Marampa iron ore mines by the
London Mining Company Ltd., after thirty years of
closure, has added to that general sense of success
the President and his cabinet ministers are
beginning to savour.
It seems a rather long time now, since the
commissioning of Bumbuna and the conclusion of the
London Investors Conference. The government needs to
look for success stories they can trail, in order to
keep morale and the spirits of their hard line
Bumbuna keeps pumping electricity to satisfy the
avaricious appetite of the political class and urban
folks in Freetown, while the people of Bumbuna
continue to castigate President Koroma’s government,
for failing to relieve them from complete darkness
The unveiling of operational plans by the African
Minerals Ltd., amidst much public fanfare graced by
the President and his ministerial team, has brought
a renewed spring of confidence to the President’s
once heavy leaden limbs.
Thousands of jobs have been promised by both
companies, who will be investing millions of Dollars
in reviving the country’s beleaguered mining
industry. But civil society groups and critics have
expressed alarm at the appalling low rate of tax
that the government will levy on the turnover of
They say that the 6% mining tax is an insult to the
people of Sierra Leone, especially for residents of
those mining communities, who have suffered abject
poverty, massive environmental blight and
degradation, caused by decades of irresponsible
mining policies of government, driven by avarice and
The Fight against Corruption?
One would expect that in the nation’s fight against
corruption, there will be one single army. For the
first time in the country’s history it would seem
that the government is heeding the warnings of the
international community and its citizens – that
corruption must not be tolerated.
But it seems there are dark forces at work that are
trying to thwart the sterling efforts of the
Anti-Corruption Commission in pursuing and bringing
those that they suspect of corruption to justice.
Despite the rather crude shenanigans of the
‘Anti-ACC’ forces, the President and the people of
Sierra Leone must be pleased with successes thus
There are reports of seven senior employees of the
National Revenue Authority, along with two Lebanese
importers – the Mohsen brothers, appearing in court
on Wednesday 17 March 2010, and have been remanded
at the Pademba Road Prison – pending further
appearances in court on corruption charges.
The Commissioner of the National Revenue Authority,
who was appointed by President Koroma, has been
sacked and awaiting court charges for corruption.
The Minister of Health has been convicted, sentenced
and narrowly escaped prison as he had paid the fine.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources has
been indicted in court on a seventeen count charge
with offences contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act of
There are other reports of the Anti-Corruption
Commission on Thursday 18th March, 2010 making the
news; as two Public Officers of the Ministry of
Defence were convicted on all three counts by the
The Reaction of the International Community?
The reaction of the international community to the
efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission has been
swift. The media reports have prompted the United
States Embassy in Freetown, to issue a press
statement on 15 March 2010, to commend the good work
of the Sierra Leone Police and the Anti-Corruption
The statement says: "The United States Embassy wishes
to express its recognition of the efforts of the
Anti Corruption Commission, and specifically of
Commissioner Abdul Tejan-Cole, for investigating
corruption in government, including the Immigration
department, regardless of the level at which it
In a separate but related development, the British
Minister for International Development - Gareth
Thomas, had issued a statement, which whilst not
giving President Koroma’s government a clean bill of
health on corruption, went to assure everyone that;
“The National Audit Office has just returned from
Sierra Leone and found no evidence to substantiate
these allegations. DFID does not tolerate corruption
and has strong systems in place to ensure UK aid
gets to those who need it.”
“In fact, we actively pursue those who steal money
meant for the poor and have been working with the
Government of Sierra Leone to investigate and
prosecute those suspected of corruption.”
Also joining the queue in support of President
Koroma was the British MP, Claire Curtis-Thomas, who
referred to ‘wholly inaccurate statements which has
unnecessarily damaged reputations and undermined the
good work and offices of the Presidential and DFID
offices in Sierra Leone’.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations - Ban
Ki-Moon issued a statement on 18 March 2010,
“welcoming the recognition by Sierra Leone’s
President Ernest Bai Koroma that corruption poses a
serious threat to the West African country -
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, while he is
encouraged by some improvements in its political
climate, challenges to fostering political tolerance
and promoting non-violence remain.”
The UN statement went on to state that; “Looking at
development within the country, the
Secretary-General appeals to the international
community to fill an anticipated shortfall in donor
funding for the implementation of the Government’s
so-called Agenda for Change, the national poverty
reduction plan which focuses on ensuring a reliable
power supply; increasing productivity in agriculture
and fisheries; improving the national transportation
network; and boosting social services.”
Putting all partisan leaning or otherwise aside, it is
difficult to say that there is currently a crisis of
leadership in the Koroma government or in the ranks
of the ruling party. There is simply no evidence to
support this claim. But who knows what the next few
months would bring? Will the President offer some of his
close members of his family to the Anti-Corruption
Commission, for investigations as has been demanded?
The freedom of the press to criticise government and
hold public figures to account must remain sacred.
And, with this right come responsibilities. The
responsibility to stay the execution of popular
justice propagated by and in the media, until the
rule of Law has prevailed.
There is little doubt that if some of those media
attacks had been made against the head of state of
any of the developed nations, the government would
either have collapsed under the weight of a ‘no
confidence vote’ in parliament; or the media editors
themselves, would have been charged to court to
prove their allegations.
If this is an indication of the level of press
freedom Sierra Leone now enjoys, then it must be
exercised responsibly and judiciously. The rule of
Law and respect for due process must be regarded as
the beacon of press freedom in our democracy,
whether fledgling or otherwise.
Any violation of this principle will not only
regrettably bring the relationship between the
media, the state and judiciary into disrepute, but
will also, seriously undermine the respect and
confidence that citizens have in, and for the media.
Sierra Leone as a nation has come a long way since
the end of the war, and it now stands at a cross
roads, between avarice and the pursuit of social
justice. The media has an onerous task and an
inalienable role to play, not only acting as an
arbiter, but in informing and educating the masses.
Great care must therefore be taken by the media, in
discharging this responsibility, if Sierra Leone’s
democratic institutions and rule of Law are to
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