Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 October 2018:
Officials of World’s football governing body – FIFA, met at their head office in Zurich on Wednesday, 17 October 2018, with the vice president – Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, and the Attorney General of Sierra Leone – Mrs Priscilla Schwartz, to discuss the row which erupted in Sierra Leone, after FIFA’s decision to ban the country from world football.
The meeting which was also attended by Isha Johansen, was aimed at finding an amicable pathway that could lead to FIFA lifting its ban, which was imposed on Sierra Leone after the government suspended the head of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) – Mrs Isha Johansen along with the SLFA Secretary General – Christopher Kamara.
Both Mrs Johansen and Mr Kamara are accused of corruption by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and appeared at the High Court presided by Justice Fynn in Freetown early this week, to hear charges brought by the ACC against them.
Eight of the ACC’s eleven charges brought against the SLFA bosses were overruled by the Judge, who confirmed that both Johansen and Kamara must answer to three corruption charges.
But the meeting between the government of Sierra Leone and FIFA executives in Zurich was not about the corruption charges, but the processes and procedures involved in the government’s decision to suspend both Johansen and Kamara, which FIFA says are unfair and must be overturned.
According to reports from the meeting, FIFA executives, government officials and Mrs Johansen, had a polite and honest discussion about the current state of football in the country and strategies for improvement. (Photo above: Sierra Leone vice president Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Isha Johansen, and attorney general – Priscilla Schwartz,).
However, responding to the government of Sierra Leone’s request for FIFA to lift its ban on Sierra Leone, FIFA executives were resolute and unequivocal.
“In that regard, FIFA will wait for the completion of the trial before further measures can be considered, including the lifting of the suspension by the Bureau of the FIFA Council, if deemed appropriate,” says FIFA.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s meeting, FIFA issued this statement:
“On Wednesday, 17 October 2018, a delegation of the Government of Sierra Leone led by the Vice-President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Priscilla Schwartz, the Ambassador to Switzerland, Lansana Gberie, and the Deputy Ambassador to Switzerland, Samuel U. B. Saffa, met with FIFA officials headed by the Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, at the Home of FIFA in Zurich.
“The Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) was represented by its President, Isha Johansen. A courtesy visit was also paid to the delegation of the Government of Sierra Leone by the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, right after the meeting.
“Discussions were cordial and focused on the situation of the SLFA following its suspension by the decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council of 5 October 2018. In this context, the following measures were agreed:
“Both the Government of Sierra Leone and FIFA have a zero-tolerance policy for match fixing/manipulation and other fraudulent and corrupt practices in football.
“FIFA recognises that there is an ongoing trial by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone against the SLFA President, Isha Johansen, and the SLFA General Secretary, Christopher Kamara.
“In that regard, FIFA will wait for the completion of the trial before further measures can be considered, including the lifting of the suspension by the Bureau of the FIFA Council, if deemed appropriate.
“The Government of Sierra Leone committed to appoint its new representative to the Task Force for Sierra Leone, which also includes representatives from FIFA, CAF and the SLFA, and to ensure all the necessary support for the deployment of the Sierra Leone Inquiry Group to conduct the match-fixing investigation from 4 to 9 November 2018.
“Both the Government of Sierra Leone and FIFA expressed their full commitment to the road map as agreed by the Task Force. In this context, the FIFA administration will draw up a concrete calendar to ensure that the necessary measures are taken before conducting the election of a new SLFA executive committee in the shortest possible time frame.
“These measures include the revision of the SLFA statutes to ensure that eligibility checks are carried out on elected officials and that a proper regulatory framework for the conduct of democratic and independent elections is introduced.
“The Government of Sierra Leone agreed to investigate the unauthorised withdrawal of funds from the SLFA’s dedicated FIFA Forward bank account following the suspension of the SLFA and to ensure that any undue appropriation is immediately corrected.”
Sierra Leone’s football and its future, now rests on the court trial which is taking place in Freetown, measures put forward by FIFA to clean up the game in Sierra Leone, and the election of new executives to head the SLFA.