A letter president Koroma should never have ignored

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2018

On 4 May 2016, less than two years before presidential and general elections were held in Sierra Leone, a concerned citizen – Mohamed L Kallon, wrote a warning letter to president Koroma about his poor performance in office and lack of strong leadership.

Had the president listened to and taken heed of the deafening call by millions of Sierra Leoneans for an end to impunity, poor governance, abject poverty, and corruption, perhaps history could have been much kinder to Koroma today. This is what the letter said:

Dear President Koroma

You are obliged to listen to the protests and demands of Sierra Leoneans who elected you democratically to represent them, especially in obvious cases when the protests and demands are relevantly appropriate.

Now, compare the democracy you practice to the international pillars of a veritable democracy: Accepting  majority rule; guaranteeing and respecting minority rights; following due process of law; ensure free and fair elections; respecting equality before the law; respecting the sovereignty of the people; guaranteeing of basic human rights; respect for Constitutional limits on government; promote social, economic, and political pluralism; accept that government is based upon consent of the governed; respecting and upholding the values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

Mr President, allow me to also remind you that, Sierra Leone, with a population of only 5.9 Million and blessed with valuable natural resources, is ranked 119 out of 168 nations on the corruption perception index, and scoring only 29 out of 100.

Adult life expectancy in a country that you have ruled for the past nine years is 46.96 years, and literacy rate is at 40.9%.

Can there be more obvious reasons than these for public protests? If you are not ashamed of these staggering figures, we the people of Sierra Leone are. Please reflect on the extract below from the Executive Summary of Transparency International:

“Many State Anti-Corruption institutions lack the resources to deploy all over the country, employ and retain qualified staff, and carry out its duties efficiently. Ministries, Departments and Agencies do not produce annual reports for public consumption. Most state-owned enterprises have not had their financial accounts regularly audited by the Auditor General. The office of the Ombudsman operates mostly in the capital city and is not accessible to most citizens.

“Nearly every State Anti Corruption institution has insufficient resources to do its work. Even the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which are benefiting from international funding are fraught with funding challenges. Corruption and inefficiency persist in the Public Service also partly due to wages that are not commensurate to the cost of living.”

Mr President, there is nothing favourable to highlight under your administration except, on the other hand, the culture of corruption that you are personally responsible for promoting in the country.

Nothing positive has been achieved by the frequent sackings and, or replacement of your ministers. This evidently is not the solution to the myriad of economic and social problems facing the country today.

It is a common practice for inefficient workers to lay the blame on their tools. Mr President, you are the problem. And the best solution is your complete disappearance from the political scene.

It is time for change.  Change for the better and not for the worse.

It is the state, through its many policies and actions, which creates the environment and the incentives that influence those who pay bribes and those who accept or demand them.

It is the state that influences the relationship between briber and bribee. What have you done to address corruption, which is responsible for the entire failure of your government?

Mr President, let me remind you of what Atifete Jahjaga said: “Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.”

I have resorted to using references to make it clear that my indignation and the indignation of all patriotic Sierra Leoneans for your administrative mess are rational.

It is my guess that most of the people around you are not brave enough to tell you exactly what is happening in Sierra Leone, basically for fear of joining the interminable army of unemployed in the country.

What is most unacceptable about your lack of leadership is the decision to permit so called foreign investors to loot the country.

You’ve allowed Koidu Holdings to mine the country’s diamonds without paying the corresponding taxes.

You’ve allowed the Chinese to exploit our marine resources, because they have promised to build an unnecessary airport; others are doing so because you are incapability of controlling them.

Consequently, you have left the local fishermen frustrated, since they cannot compete with the foreign trawlers.

You signed land contracts over to foreign businesses that will benefit them for fifty years and more, forcing our poor local farmers to lose ownership; in some cases violently kicked out of their ancestral land which is their only source of livelihood.

Which agreement have you successfully negotiated that is to the advantage of the people of this country, may I ask Mr President?

What about other incomprehensible projects, such as wanting to import Lebanese waste for cash, when in fact you are not able to manage the tons of rubbish produced by State House and the citizens? Is this your idea of making Sierra Leone attractive to foreign investors?

Mr President let me kindly remind you of what the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone says:

“The President shall not, while he continues in office as President, hold any other office of profit or emolument in the service of Sierra Leone or occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for rendering services.”

So let me ask you Mr President. What do you have to say about the Panama Corruption Papers that clearly links your name to Koidu Holdings?

You frequently ignore the fact that you owe an explanation to the people you represent for whatever you do or fail to do. Or are you only representing yourself?

Others in your category have been out with their explanations and have accepted the consequences. However, with or without your help, the truth will soon be known, given that the people behind the Panama Papers have decided to soon make it public on the internet.

Three years ago, I was in Sierra Leone with some foreign businessmen to register a new business. To our surprise, instead of the usual demand for a bribe we anticipated, the minister involved demanded to be included in the business as a shareholder.

So, if your connection with the Koidu Holdings is proved to be true, it will be no surprise to me but a confirmation that it’s a common practice in your government. Apparently, your ministers do what you teach them or what they see by watching you.

Do you know why some powerful rulers and businessmen are around you? They know that you are accessible. Corrupt leaders and corrupt countries are attractive to unprincipled leaders and unscrupulous businessmen.

Mr President, I am profoundly baffled by your unruffled extravagant lifestyle, your unfulfilled promises and your extremely poor management of public affairs, which is responsible for the  abject poverty and death through disease suffered by many in the country.

Do you sincerely think that telling the people to fast and pray, while they are dying of hunger and disease is a form of good governance?

Have you reflected on what you will be remembered for?

There is nothing to celebrate under your rule, not even the country’s independence anniversary celebration.

What a shame Mr President. You are weak and incompetent. Please step aside and let others do the job.

You and your government have totally failed the people of Sierra Leone, to a point of jeopardising the future of the country.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we cannot forget that our motto is “Unity, Freedom and Justice.” And as José Ugaz – the Chairman of Transparency International said recently; “Corruption can be beaten if we work together. To stamp out the abuse of power, bribery and shed light on secret deals, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough.”

There will always be corrupt elements in our society. But a gang of corrupt leaders is absolutely undemocratic and intolerable. Fighting corruption is self-defence and patriotic. Corruption is the enemy of good governance and development. We must come together to achieve this national objective.

Thank you Mr President for reading this letter and I hope you will have the courtesy to reply.

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