Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2015
About 100 protesters with placards, bullhorns and drums, demonstrated against President Koroma outside the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, where he was presenting his Ebola recovery plans for additional money and support during the financial institution’s annual meeting.
“The fact of the matter is, it is a shame that out of three West African leaders participating at the World Bank high level roundtable, President Koroma is the only president whose people came out in droves to demonstrate against him,” said protester Francis Joseph Mattia.
Concerned Sierra Leoneans USA, is calling for the Koroma administration to reinstate sacked Vice President Alhaji Sam Sumana, whose dismissal they say is unconstitutional.
They also say that the president must account for over $5.7 million in misappropriated Ebola funds, identified in Sierra Leone’s national audit service report released in February.
“We sent a clear message through our protest on Friday at the world Bank to the international donor community, the global media and President Koroma’s delegation, that we condemn President Koroma’s lack of accountability for millions of dollars of embezzled Ebola funds, as well as the entrenched greed and corruption of his administration,” said Dr. Fuambai Ahmadu, a member of Concerned Sierra Leoneans National Coordinating Team.
“We also made it loud and clear that the people of Sierra Leone will not tolerate dictatorship in the country, and that the elected Vice President must be reinstated,” Dr. Ahmadu wrote in a statement for this report. (Photo: Dr. Sia Ahmadu leading the protest).
Friday’s demonstration was the second action in less than a week against the president. An earlier protest and counter protest by his supporters drew global media attention on Saturday at the Lafayette Park, just across from the White House.
Yet, despite the protest, President Koroma and his counterparts collectively, were able to secure $650 million in new funding including $506 million in debt relief for Sierra Leone.
Prior to Friday’s high level roundtable, World Bank Communications Officer – Melanie Mayhew, issued a statement in response to a request seeking comments outlining three aspects of Ebola funding by the World Bank.
These are the questions put to Ms Mayhew and her response:
How immediately would Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia realize tangible support, including job creation and financial assistance from the World Bank, after presenting their respective Ebola recovery plans?
Mayhew said: “The World Bank has provided a total of $518 million from the IDA – the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, since the start of the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These funds have helped the countries with both their emergency responses and with recovery, including strengthening essential health services, and getting kids back to school, people back to work and farmers back to their fields.
“During the World Bank – IMF Spring Meetings, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will chair a high-level roundtable, during which the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will share their Ebola recovery plans with finance and development ministers and international partners.
“The event will focus on building global support for the three Ebola-affected countries to get to and sustain zero cases, jumpstart recovery, and build more resilient health systems and economies.
“The discussions at the event will continue to inform the World Bank’s work with the countries, including timelines for providing ongoing support.”
The World Bank has provided $160 million to Sierra Leone for tackling Ebola. With reports of mismanagement of Ebola funds in Liberia and Sierra Leone, has the World Bank conducted an audit of its Ebola funds disbursed to Liberia and Sierra Leone?
Mayhew said: “The World Bank has many fiduciary controls in place to ensure that funds are used for their intended purposes.”
What is the current total World Bank financing for the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone?
“In Sierra Leone, the World Bank has invested $162 million to provide treatment and care, contain and prevent the spread of infections, help communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and improve public health systems.”
Many Sierra Leoneans living in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland, the region where the World Bank is situated expressed displeasure over the president’s decision to meet with only his ruling party executives and supporters, but not with the majority of the people living in the area during his six-day visit in Washington.
They are critical of the size of the president’s 21-man delegation attending the meeting, in comparison with President Johnson Sirleaf’s five and President Conde’s 7 member entourage – respectively.
“Considering the current state of affairs within Sierra Leone, it would have served Sierra Leoneans well to have had an opportunity to meet with the President, to have an honest discussion with those in the Diaspora in the form of a town hall meeting. I am sure it would have been gladly welcomed and attended by many,” said Yolanda Thompson, a Sierra Leonean attorney practicing law in Silver Spring Maryland.
“It is this type of dialogue that allows citizens to know that their concerns and questions are being heard. Considering also that the country has still yet to recover from the heavy impact of the war, any measures that can be taken to alleviate future unrest would be in the best interest of our beloved Sierra Leone,” Attorney Thompson added.
Meanwhile, the National Coordinating Team of the Concerned Sierra Leoneans USA, say the protests at the White House and World Bank, are just the beginning. They vow to continue their campaign whenever President Koroma arrives in America and until the president relents to their demands.
The Group is organising another demonstration, taking place on April 27 – Sierra Leone’s Independence Anniversary, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In a related, though separate development, other Sierra Leonean citizens in the US, critical of president Koroma’s dictatorial tendency, are voicing out their feelings very loud and clear outside the World Bank: