Concerned Sierra Leoneans: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 March 2021:
We write to formally draw your attention to our growing concerns with respect to the unmitigated violations of human, civil and political rights, and the industrial scale corruption within the echelons of the current government led by President Julius Maada Bio. Bio’s government came to power on the back of firm promises to, inter alia, fight corruption and lawlessness; to foster peace and tranquillity by ensuring full respect for, and the protection of, every Sierra Leonean’s civil, political and human rights. However, the reality on the ground today cannot be further from the literature in Bio’s election manifesto.
Having registered a series of complaints and warnings, by way of public press releases, about the spate of violence, political intimidations and egregious infractions, perpetrated by the Bio led administration, but to no avail, we are thus compelled to formally inform all stakeholders locally, nationally and internationally for a swift intervention to mitigate this looming disaster that, if left unchecked, would spiral into another civil conflict.
Since assuming power on 4th April, 2018, the Bio Presidency has turned its back on good governance and best democratic practices as per international standards and, instead embarked on the path of: intimidating political opponents, endemic corruption, arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, violent suppression of dissent, in order to protect corrupt high ranking officials, including himself and his wife, the first lady, Mrs Fatima Jabbie Bio, from scrutiny. We have in our possession video and documentary evidences to this effect.
Below are few disturbing instances of the government’s measures in curbing dissent and public scrutiny of their indiscretions:
- The Africanist Press, a U.S. based investigative newspaper, headed by a Sierra Leonean named Mr Chernoh Bah, revealed with documentary evidences of endemic financial corruption within the echelons of power, including the office of the president, the offices of the Chief minister, the First lady and others. In an attempt to muzzle Mr Bah, the government has threatened Mr Bah with a law suit for libel and defamation as reported by AYV Newspaper, captioned: “STATEHOUSE HIRES TOP LAWYERS TO SUE CHERNOH BAH AND THE AFRICANIST PRESS”. Meanwhile, their supporters are threatening Mr Bah by phone calls, vowing to lynch him whenever and wherever the opportunity arose. We have also received classified information of threats on his life by some officials in the President Bio led SLPP administration, whose names appeared in the revelations of corruption and misappropriations of public funds.
- A prominent opposition party leader (the ADP party), by the name of Mr. Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, who is an outspoken critic of the Bio led-government is languishing in jail on trumped-up charges of raping a minor in order to keep him silent.
- The arbitrary arrest and illegal detention of a prominent female journalist and presidential aspirant named Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who was later released without charge.
- The government has also developed a strategy to deflect the public’s attention from these infractions by invoking COVID-19 emergency laws to create unnecessary chaos – recently, a night curfew was declared in the guise of mitigating the onward spreading of the coronavirus. On the night in question, gangs of government supporters aided by security personnel went on a looting spree and destroying market stalls at the Jui community in the east end of the capital. A few days later, the same action was repeated in broad daylight at the ‘Belgium’ trading centre in the west end of Freetown. These events, in the government’s calculations, would deflect the public’s gaze on the endemic corruption at the apex of power exposed by the Africanist Press.
- In a recent leaked letter, purportedly alerting Interpol, the government declared as wanted, prominent personalities – the likes of Dr Sylvia Blyden, Mr Amadu Koita Malako (comrade Koita) and others – who are vociferously critical of this government’s excesses, irrespective of the fact that the named individuals were, and are, still within the confines of Sierra Leone. These are some of the several intimidation tactics deployed by this government to muzzle dissent.
Against this background, Concerned Sierra Leoneans have resolved to the following:
- To formally file a lawsuit against the government of Sierra Leone to the International Criminal Justice (ICJ) for crimes against humanity such as state-sanctioned murders and destruction of properties; the erosion of civil liberties; the political intimidations leading to the disenfranchisement of perceived opponents and citizens at large as a continuation of the complaint already at the ICC.
Sierra Leoneans have lost confidence in the Commissioner’s ability, integrity and neutrality. He is an alleged SLPP paid-up member and a close friend with the likes of the Chief Minister and the First Lady – a clear conflict of interests. This conflict of interests has compromised his impartiality as an Anti- Corruption Commissioner. Such compromise is manifested in Mr Francis Ben Kaifala’s failure to probe the first of a series of allegations against the Chief Minister, Prof David Francis. In April 2020, a Journalist by the name of Mr Salieu Tejan Jalloh exposed a $1.5 million bribery allegation involving the Chief Minister, Prof David Francis. Yet, the Commissioner, Mr Francis Ben Kelfala took no action. Subsequent corruption allegations against the Chief Minister were also not investigated. He has also indicated no interest in probing the excesses of the First Lady, who is implicated in the corruption practices exposed by the Africanist Press. The people of Sierra Leone are calling for Mr Francis Ben Kelfala’s immediate resignation or removal from office.
The aforementioned government excesses have eroded public confidence in this Bio-led administration. The ubiquitous democratic deficit in Sierra Leone, induced by political negligence, corruption and state repression; the resultant hardship on the citizens, are there for all to see, as was noted by the newly elected President of the United States of America, Mr Joe Biden. In his recent state address, President Joe Biden stated that, “people in countries like Sierra Leone are living in their countries like refugees and thus, fleeing in droves, due to government repression, high handedness, victimization and arbitrary use of force on the civilian population…” This is a clear indictment on the Bio governance system and, therefore, Concerned Sierra Leoneans are imploring the relevant international authorities/bodies to act on the following recommendations on behalf of the citizens of Sierra Leone:
We recommend that the International Anti – Corruption/ National Crime Agency, on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, conduct investigations into allegations of rampant Corruption, Money Laundering and gross Human Rights Violations of the SLPP Government officials articulated below; President Julius Maada Bio and his wife, First Lady, Mrs Fatima Bio, the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis, Dr Kelfala M. Kallon, Bank Governor of Sierra Leone, Dr David Sengeh, the Minister for Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Mr Jacob Jusu Saffa, Minister of Finance, Lahai Lawrence Leema, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, Mr Joe Demby, Presidential Advisor on Economic and Financial Policy, Ms Fatmata Sawaneh, SLPP Women’s Leader, Dr. Patrick K. Muana, Policy Advisor and State House Strategic Communications Director, Dr Marda Mustapha, Executive Director of The National Investment Board (NIB), Mr Paul Sobba Masaaquoi, the ‘Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation (1154091)’ Trustee and Executive Director of Sierra Leone Martime Administration and Ms Phylis Kapu, the ‘Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation (1154091)’ Trustee.
We further recommend that, as most, if not all of the aforementioned individuals have close ties in Europe and the U.S.A., that a travel ban be imposed and an international arrest warrant declared on them, including their close allies. Moreover, we request the U.S. government impose the Magnitsky sanctions on them, which allows the U.S. government to apply a global sanction on foreign individuals it deems to be human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S. Similarly, we request that the U.K. government to apply the Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) on them.
We also implore the UK Home Office and the US State Department investigate their allies residing in their countries for possible money laundering, which is in violation of their visa and naturalization conditions.
It is also submitted that, the Charities Commission UK should investigate the Fatima and Maada Bio Foundation on allegations of financial malpractice, money laundering and corruption. According to information received, the charity is registered in the UK and Sierra Leone with Reg. No.1154091. The current trustees of the said Foundation/Charity are Paul Sobba Massaquoi, Phylis Kapu and Fatima Bio (First Lady of Sierra Leone). This Foundation is used as a conduit through which, stolen money from our consolidated funds and donor funds meant for programs such as the ‘Hands Off Our Girls flagships’ championed by the First Lady, Mrs Fatma Jabbie Bio, are diverted into private personal accounts.
Above all, we recommend that, an international moratorium be placed on all financial assistance to Sierra Leone as your collective philanthropy does not reach the intended recipients – the poor and needy Sierra Leoneans.
Your positive responses are highly anticipated at your soonest convenient time, and we thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation.
LONG LIVE FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY, JUSTICE, PEACE AND EQUALITY!
Concerned Sierra Leoneans
- First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,UK
- Minister for Africa, UK
- Home Office, UK
- Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Charities Commission, UK
- National Crime Agency, UK
- International Criminal Court (ICC)
- UN Secretary General
- Amnesty International, UK
- ECOWAS President
- UK High Commissioner, Sierra Leone
- US Ambassador, Sierra Leone
- African Union
- US State Department
- Her Majesty Opposition Party leader
- Harriet Harman, Chairman of the UK Human Rights Committee, UK Parliament
- Neil Coyle MP
- Secretary of State for International Development, UK
- President of the UK Supreme Court
- European Union