Breaking News: Sierra Leone timbergate scandal – 18 Members of U.S. Congress call for investigation



Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 December 2011

A statement received by the Sierra Leone Telegraph from Jonathan Ossoff – Senior Legislative Assistant in the Office of Congressman Hank Johnson, says that; “U.S. Representative Hank Johnson and colleagues are disturbed by reports of high-level corruption in partner country.”

This is what the statement says:

Eighteen members of the U.S. Congress today wrote U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging that the United States insist on a full investigation of credible reports, that senior Sierra Leonean officials offered permission to conduct illegal and destructive logging operations in exchange for bribes.

In their letter to Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Ranking Member Donald Payne, and 16 colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives asked that Secretary Clinton push the Government of Sierra Leone to launch a full and transparent investigation.

They also requested that the Department of State report to Congress with information regarding the progress of the Sierra Leonean investigation.

A recent report aired by Al Jazeera English, “Africa Investigates – Sierra Leone: Timber!,” showed footage of individuals claiming to act on behalf of Sierra Leonean Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana soliciting bribes in exchange for permission to conduct illegal and destructive logging operations, although permitted logging was suspended.

The Government of Sierra Leone initially said it would launch an inquiry through its Anti-Corruption Commission and domestic law enforcement, but there has been little visible progress.

“These reports are very disturbing,” said Johnson. “Our relationship with Sierra Leone requires faith in the integrity of its leadership.”

A 2006 European Union report identified illegal logging as the leading cause of environmental degradation in Sierra Leone, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment reported that Sierra Leone lost old-growth forest at a rate of 3.21% per year — the fifth fastest rate of old-growth forest loss in the world.

Members of Congress who signed the letter are:

Rep. Hank Johnson,

Rep. Donald Payne

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Yvette Clarke

Rep. Charles Rangel

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Frederica Wilson

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Rep. Keith Ellison

Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Rep. James Moran

Rep. Russ Carnahan

Rep. James McGovern

Rep. Peter DeFazio

Rep. Betty McCollum

Rep. John Lewis.

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