Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 August 2016
Put aside for one moment the legal and sometimes common sense argument as to who is telling the truth and whether a crime had been committed or not, the cost of pursuing justice in Sierra Leone is not cheap – especially for the tax payer who has to pick up the bill in matters judged to be criminal in nature. (Photo: Opposition politician Alie Kabba – prosecuted by the ruling APC on matrimonial charge).
As the long-drawn matrimonial case involving the government’s minister of lands – Diana Konomanyi, who is acting as witness for the government against opposition politician – Mr Alie Kabba, continues without an end in sight and at astronomical cost to the state, the question that must be asked is – what price justice?
Why should the state get involved in a matrimonial matter involving two consenting adults, arguing about whether vital pre-matrimony information was disclosed before consent to get married was given or not?
There are thousands of young and very poor children caught up in the country’s criminal justice system, and many languishing in smelly, dirty cells – unfit even for animals, simply because the president says he cannot afford to pay for their cases to be heard in court.
So why should the state continue to spend millions of dollars on a matrimonial case involving two powerful politicians, that has been adjourned as many times as anyone may care to remember.
When the accused – Alie Kabba was first arrested last December, even before he was charged with bigamy, a bad odour of political interference was detected.
And seven months on, what should have been a simple hearing lasting no more than three days at a matrimonial and family court, is being stretched from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Yet in Sierra Leone we call this justice.
But whose justice is it anyway? Of what interest is this case to the more than four million poor people of Sierra Leone that are struggling to put food in their empty stomachs before going to bed at night, and to the millions of young people who cannot find work?
Each time this case is adjourned by the court, as it was two days ago, one has to ask the question again – why is the government spending millions of dollars on a matrimonial case involving two educated, consenting and powerful politicians, simply to prove which party to the failed marriage had lied to the other.
What most people would have expected the magistrate at the first hearing last December to have said to both Diana and Alie is this: “Its over – get over yourselves and get over it; and to the prosecutors – stop wasting tax payers money in a senseless and politically motivated dispute.” (Photo: Attorney General Joseph Kamara must stop looking the other way).
But of course not – it is Sierra Leone we are talking about here, not some properly run state where common sense is common; where justice, accountability and good governance are the order of the day.
So as we continue to wait for both Diana and Alie to make another appearance at the High Court on the 12th of August, it will be foolish not to assume and expect yet another adjournment.
Why has the case against Kabba not yet collapsed, based on clear evidence, showing that minister Diana had lied about her marital status to both Kabba and the Marriage Registry Office.
And why should tax payers care about this case anyway, faced with the burning issues of poor healthcare, lack of clean drinking water and electricity that are crippling the country.
Sceptics believe that the intention of the ruling APC party – who are the key actors in this political drama, is to do everything possible for this matrimonial case to drag on, until polling day in February 2018, by which time Alie Kabba would perhaps have been disqualified from contesting the country’s presidential election on a flimsy court ruling. (Photo: Minister Diana and president Koroma).
According to journalist covering the case two days ago at the High Court in Freetown, the court room was once again packed – standing room only, as Justice Miatta Samba listened to the cross-examination of the government minister Diana Konomanyi, by lawyer acting for Alie Kabba – Francis Ben Kaifala.
In a cross-examination which lasted over an hour before the case was adjourned, a very confused and sweaty Diana, confirmed that she had been herself married before to a Stephen Bockarie Jusu in London, but did not disclose that fact to the Marriage Registry Office or Alie Kabba before they both got married – the same issue for which Alie Kabba is being prosecuted by the government.
But in Sierra Leone, what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. A minister can lie their way to heaven and get away with it – with impunity.
Diana confirmed that she did not tell the truth to the Marriage Registry Office.
When filling her marriage application form, she deliberately failed to tick the box that says she is a ‘divorcee’.
It was discovered that her wedding certificate and other records, falsely state that she had not been married prior to getting wed to Kabba.
The Lead defence counsel also asked her if she had requested proof of divorce from Mr. Kabba before marrying him. She replied that she believed he was divorced.
She also said that she did not know a divorce could have taken place in the USA, even though the case for the divorce itself proceeded in court; and that she did not know that that was the case with Alie Kabba’s divorce to his previous wife before marrying her.
Diana was also questioned about her alleged marriage ceremony in Ivory Coast which she denied.
She was asked if she knew that it should be the previous wife who should have accused Alie Kabba of bigamy, not her. She panicked and talked about unrelated issues, to which the judge admonished her to answer the questions posed by counsel.
Kabba’s Counsel Kaifala left no stone unturned, even though the Lands Minister Konomanyi tried to seek sympathy from the court.
In all, the foundation is said to have been laid by lawyer Ben Kaifala, for Alie’s innocence to be proved, through no less a person than Diana Konomanyi herself, as is becoming clear that this case was a witch-hunt that should never have got this far.
The matter was adjourned to the 12th August for Diana to continue her ordeal at the hands of lead defence counsel for Alie Kabba.
Alie Kabba’s supporters may be taking comfort that this case is now drawing to a close, as the evidence given by the government’s main witness – Lands minister Diana Konomanyi and her credibility crumble.