Angry youths in Makeni shielded former president Koroma from corruption investigators

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 October 2020:

What ought to have been another good day at the office for Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission investigators arriving in Makeni to interview former president Koroma at his residence, about corruption allegations running into millions of dollars, became a frightening game of hide and seek.

Thousands of supporters of the former president, many carrying sticks – formed human shield outside the home of the former president, barricading the road leading to his property.

“You are not welcome in Makeni,” the angry youths chanted – including dozens of motorcycle riders, who took control of the streets, as well as the much revered “Poro” society men – dancing at the  entrance of the former president’s residence.

Police officers who had gone to the scene to prevent breakdown of law and order were driven back by the youths, who told them they were not welcome in the area.

Whilst this chaos was unfolding, the former president and his legal team, and members of the APC party leadership were  all gathered inside his home, presumably waiting for the arrival of the ACC investigators, who never showed up.

And then came news that the ACC investigators had called off their meeting with the former president to “de-escalate the situation,” the ACC Czar – Francis Ben Kaifala said, after crowds blocking the road leading to the former president’s home prevented his investigators from meeting the former President.

“Look at the videos of what was happening in front of the former president’s gated residence and you will see why we had to call off the meeting,” he told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

Speaking to a senior adviser of the former president who was also at his home this afternoon, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph asked him to confirm whether the meeting with the ACC investigators took place. “No, they deferred, citing their safety. We offered to drive with them in our own vehicles into Ernest Bai Koroma’s residence to assure them that if we are safe in the car, they are safe too. They refused our offer,” he said.

Writing on twitter this afternoon, the ACC Czar – Francis Ben Kaifala said: “Our work to cleanse Sierra Leone of Corruption continues in Makeni today; but some of our compatriots have hijacked the highway to prevent us from interviewing former President Koroma. They have deployed roadblocks and violence. But our team is on standby to complete the task. We will fight Corruption”.

Asked where the ACC now go from here, a senior ACC official tonight told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “We will now meet and decide next steps”.

It is not clear what those next steps will be, but the Sierra Leone Telegraph has learnt that the ACC is now looking at the possibility of simply charging the former president to court, based on the massive evidence it says it has in their possession.

This option the ACC said, should give the former president an opportunity to answer to the charges of corruption, abuse of office and maladministration alleged to have been committed between 2007 and 2018.

A statement published this evening by the former president said It is “deeply unfortunate that despite all assurances given by my legal representatives and the state security attached to me, the ACC still decided to unilaterally call off the proposed questioning mutually agreed to take place at my residence today”.

The statement which did not mention the presence of thousands of angry youths outside the home of the former president, preventing the ACC investigators from meeting with the former president,  also said: “Be that as it may, former President Ernest Bai Koroma, has reiterated his commitment to peace and security, due process and the rule of law, as well as his willingness to cooperate with the ACC at all times”.

Whatever the outcome of this worrying development, the onus now is on the former president to demonstrate leadership and international statesmanship as a former president, in order to avoid being branded a perpetrator of lawlessness and violence.

11 Comments

  1. The clock is ticking – 30 days to the day of reckoning being spent on speculating on what is to come. My advice to this scheming, treacherous two-faced President is that he should tread softly, and not let his shadowy impulses get the best of him, and cause him to destroy the lives of the innocent, vulnerable and the weak. Gentlemen – it is not unusual to come across wicked, thoughtless revengeful men like Maada Bio, let me now introduce you to one of them – Tafaru Tubazu was the most senior of all the servants that worked for a rich merchant in the Sudan. The rich merchant was a kind and gentle soul who would generously give passing travellers a free meal and a clean room to rest free of charge, trying to cross the Nubian Desert in the north eastern part of Sudan.

    The rich man knew that Tafaru and the other servants were a crooked bunch who used to steal discreetly from him but being a trusted servant of Allah he wore the badge of patience, tolerance and forgiveness gallantly on his shoulders. And then came a strange fateful day when 100 mph winds started whipping up dust that reached heights never before seen. Now, in the midst of the Thunderstorm a traveller knocked on the rich mans door seeking for help, shelter and he gladly offered him a clean room and a nice hot meal; On the next day when the storm had subsided the hasty traveller arose very early, thanked him and left in a spirit of thankfulness. Not very long after the Good owner noticed that his gold ring was missing and cried for help. Tafaru Tubazu and the other servants ran to his aid, and instead of searching for the ring the wicked crooked Tafaru mounted a horse and zipped away like a bullet fired from a snipers gun hastily after the innocent traveller.

    And when he finally caught up with the man Tafaru demanded the ring but when the frail traveller insisted that he didn’t have it; Tafaru then used a horse whip made of iron, beat the man mercilessly to death and then robbed him and left him there in a pool of blood. And strangely while he was away, the rich merchant had found the ring tucked between his sheets. Too late Tafaru Tubazu just like Maada Bio during his military regime had cruelly committed an unthinkable crime – out of cold-hearted unmitigated wickedness he had already killed an innocent Soul. Words to the wise!

  2. The credentials and reputation the judge takes to the judgeship matters. Decent People may agree or disagree, to ignore his past. But, the bottom line is, so long as President Bio who initiated the regime of the COI and the White paper has not come out clean to the people regarding some pointed accusations of past thefts levelled against him by no less notable past leaders of his own party, I am afraid his sincerity of purpose, believability and credibility on the process will remain doubtful. Period. We must practice what we preach if the congregation should follow our lead.

    I refer to references against president Bio, mentioned in a number of speeches of the late President Kabba and VP Solomon Berewa, in which the two leaders accused Bio of state looting. Of course, Samura Kamara debated candidate Bio when he announced the figure Mr Bio stole. Mr. CF Margai spoke of a higher figure than what Samura Kamara announced. Now, this is not to say President Koroma should not comply with the law. Of course, he should. But this is as much about political loyalty as about the evidence.

  3. What I saw out in the streets are not only youths. These are lawless folks who have nothing better to do than to be used to risk the security and peace of the state at the behest of criminals. If you know you did nothing wrong why not avail yourself to the rule of law. A few of you threatening the peace in the country will not win this battle. Remember they’ve already banned them from leaving the country.

    The state has the resources to fight back. Most Sierra Leoneans know this was a cynical ploy to create a scene of unrest. A true peace loving Sierra Leonean ask yourself why? Is it worth it? After the experience of the RUF. Do we really need this? There’s a public relations battle here too. Is the former president looking or acting like a statesman? You be the judge! That was embarrassing. Remember Sierra Leone is bigger than you all.

  4. “We will now meet and decide next steps”. What a terrible statement of defeat, weakness, failure and mess by the ACC. Did they not see that coming? This is what happens when you try to undermine the judiciary and replace it with a JUNTA type decree to witch hunt others. The leader of the indomitable and Legendary APC and his team were ready to receive the ACC open heartedly. But being that the ACC, was in my view blackout by the bombshell of the PMDC Leader, Mr Charles Margai, they started finding excuses not to proceed with their investigation.

    Bottom line, they have nothing to investigate and are now sick with the political bombshell by the PMDC Leader. Why not ask all the accused to appeal the decision of the COI. Let the courts decide so that the process will be credible. Sending ACC investigators to the Peoples Commander’s residence, does not make sense. Let the courts and the lawyers play the game. God bless our judiciary and people.

  5. “As long as Justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.” (John Stuart Mill) Gentlemen – which side are you on – the paths of good or those of evil? Bravo! To the courageous youths in Makeni for taking a bold stance against tyranny and for emphatically saying Enough is Enough to authoritarian rule, my gallant brothers and sisters we are indebted and grateful to you for your unflinching patriotism above and beyond what the most articulate, eloquent words can ever express. Gracias!

  6. PEACE in Sierra Leone is in the hands of former President Ernest Koroma. What we are harvesting now is exactly what he sowed during his 11 years of misrule. He made himself a Demigod and gradually destroyed our institutions that the International Community helped us rebuilt after our devastating war. The ACC commissioners who supposedly should be working for the interests of our citizens were and are still working to protect him and his cohorts. As far as he is concerned, our current ACC commissioner is beneath him and that institution is part of his personal business.

    The International community just realized why Sierra Leone is still the poorest of the poor (even though we are one of the richest in natural resources with only 7 million people) after the incident in Makeni, but hopefully this time around, good will triumph over Evil. May the Almighty continue to bless and protect Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala.

  7. You can say anything about George Weah the footballer turned president. To some he has been a massive disappointment. Maybe he would be better off managing the Liberian national football team. But you are wrong to think like that. To be a leader you need a dose of common sense, which our president Bio seems to be in short supply of. Unlike our president, George Weah has through his lack of experience in politics to keep his fragile peace together. And by applying his pragmatic approach to leadership by just getting on with the job of looking forward not looking backwards as this late convert to anti corruption, our own very president appears to be doing in the opposite.

    Yes some members of president Johnson Sirleaf government was accused of corruption, but George Weah knew better to leave the former president alone to retire in peace. Because just like Sierra Leone, Liberia went through a civil war. Those who never learn from history, are always in danger of repeating themselves. Makeni is a political pressure cooker. Coming after the killing of youths by out of control security, the last thing we want is for security forces trying to enforce a warrant of arrest if the former president EKB, is indicted in a court of law. I think it is about time Bio stops playing political brinkmanship with our fragile peace we have today.

    Now more than ever we need adults in the room to chart our way forward, out of the mess Bio and his conspirators have created. I suppose everyone will be looking up to EKB to show leadership as he has always done, to allay the fears of his supporters by telling them they have nothing to fear. That he will come out of the wash with his reputation intact. But in doing so he will obey the law and is ready to face the ACC anywhere and anytime at any place. In the interest of peace and stability we should obey the laws of the land not the laws of the jungle. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  8. This is rather unfortunate for the country as a whole and the youths in particular. Unfortunately, these youths have been brainwashed to believe that corruption is a way of life. That the end justifies the means. Times have changed, indeed, for the worst. In the 1970s, it was the youths that exposed the Siaka Steven’s government of their corrupt clandestine activities by coming out forcefully and decisively to demonstrate the poor leadership and injustice in the country.

    Today, because of lack of effective leadership and poor governance, the world has been dominated by malicious politicians and kleptomaniacs and are dragging our young and vibrant future leaders to hell. It is unfortunate and pathetic. This nation is cursed. Look at how the youths in Sudan, Mali and the Gambia led massive demonstration to uproot their corrupt leaders from power. Those are living examples our youths must follow if they want to have a better, brighter and progressive future.

    • We’ve been made to extoll the vices of backwardness, the youths celebrate those who squander their very future. You see why lots of people may continue to lose their lives crossing the oceans . Its a sad and shameful moment.

    • Youths from other countries are progressive and do care about the future of their country. They don’t get influenced by cynical politicians. In fact, corrupt politicians are their targets. Did you see recent events at Fourah Bay College? Where students who didn’t pay tuition and so were correctly not allowed to take exams were seen throwing objects and damaging recently renovated buildings. This tells you the mentality of what’s in the country. These are students at Fourah Bay College.

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