Fighting corruption in the face of human shield

Lansana Fofanah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 October 2020:

Fighting corruption has always been a war between “us versus them” – those bent on suffocating corruption and those fighting to keep their loots. For many parts of the world, fighting corruption is a matter of life and death as it has become a way of life for those whose life and existence are deeply rooted in it.

Many leaders in Africa, Europe, and Asia have been tried, found guilty, and jailed; some even executed because of corruption. This happened because their citizens have respect for the rule of law and were willing to embrace change, whether it comes by fire or by force.

But in Sierra Leone, the recent action of the supporters of the former President Ernest Koroma was a clear manifestation that beneficiaries of his alleged loot would prefer becoming human shield to protect him from facing the law, even at the expense of their lives.

No one is oblivious of the fact that Ernest Koroma has succeeded in using Makeni as a fortress; and for anyone to get at him, you must first cross-path with the mindless youths that are ready to die in his defense, come rain come shine. What an irony for a leader who was supposed to unite the nation across tribal or regional lines.

Despite considering the security aspects that led the ACC to shift the goal post to Makeni where the former President was expected to have been interrogated, the former president’s supporters brainwashed minors whose futures have been ruined by corruption to stage a standoff and rally in support of their demi-god.

Had it not been for professional policing, there would have been many casualties as there was every need for the enforcement of the law. This would have served as a perfect opportunity for the opposition All People’s Congress to sell negative images of the country to the international community.

The fight to hang on to power, led to a disgraceful end for leaders like the late Muammar Ghadafi of Libya, Yayah Jammeh of the Gambia. And many will follow suit.

Despite peacefully ruling the country for two concurrent terms, Ernest Koroma still sees himself as the “Ayatollah” of Sierra Leone politics by converting the North of the country into his fortress.

The former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington during the Anti-Corruption Day celebration in 2018, described corruption as one of the biggest global issues of our time, ranging from illicit financial flows, bribery, theft, tax evasion, costing countries like Sierra Leone US$1.26 trillion a year.

The second coming of His Excellency the President, Julius Maada Bio, was seen by many as the only opportunity to free Sierra Leone from the fabric of corruption, based on his military-disciplinary background.

Immediately after his Government came to power through  democratic elections in 2018, President Bio instituted a Government Transition Team to take stock of what his administration met; a report that revealed massive looting of state resources by past officials including the former President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Immediately after the publication of the GTT report, then came the three judge-led Commissions of Inquiry which was a perfect opportunity for those considered persons of interest to clear their name in public.

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden was among the few former officials to appear before the Commission while former president Ernest Bai Koroma and others were represented by their legal teams. Rumours and speculations became pervasive over the delay of the release of the White Paper as many believed the whole process was a farce and that there was no report.

The White Paper was presented to the President at State House on the 24th of October, where recommendations were also accepted by the President. “Persons and entities affected by the recommendation are guaranteed a peaceful and transparent judicial appeal process through which they can seek relief. So let me, therefore, caution every Sierra Leonean that the rule of law is supreme. Those who may wish to incite or engage in unrest and violence in order to obstruct the process of implementing the full enforcement of the recommendations will be subject to the full force of the law”, President Bio cautioned as he endorsed the recommendations in the White Paper.

While the media serve as crusaders against corruption in other countries, a local tabloid believed to be the mouthpiece of the opposition All People’s Congress party labelled the White Paper as  “toilet paper” because they believed the whole process was a witch hunt against their party members.

How can it be a witch hunt when senior members of the current administration such as the Minister of Agriculture, Dennis Vandy, and Secretary to the Vice President, Barber Fortune have been fired since their names are in the White Paper too?

Despite many accolades won by the Anti-Corruption Commission for suffocating corruption in the country, many believe that implementing the recommendations in the White Paper is a perfect opportunity for the ACC to prove its determination to fight corruption in high places.

It has always been the modus operandi for those accused of corruption to crave public sympathy by using tribal, regional affiliation, and their cronies as human shields thereby preventive justice. This was exactly what happened in Makeni on the 8th of October where those that see Ernest as a demi-god came out in all forms of social disorderly behaviour to barricade access leading to Ernest Koroma’s premises.

A video documentary of the incident in Makeni which has been banned by the Sierra Leone Police but still in circulation, describe the incident in Makeni as a “move by patriots from the different society groups, youth groups that came out to defend their hero” which leaves one with the conviction that their actions were well scripted, directed and perfectly executed.

Under the leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala, the ACC has publicly paraded teachers and students  accused of exam malpractices along major streets in Freetown, but the reason why the Commission is playing dilly-dong with the interrogation of the former President is something the public is doubtful of.

No doubt, the integrity of the ACC is under the radar for this is the time for the Commission to manifest that there is no sacred cow in the fight to eradicate corruption.

Ernest Koroma was slated to appear before the Commission on the 5th of October but disappointingly, the ACC had to succumb to the request made by the former President’s legal team for deferment. This must have given the former president’s local Marshal’s enough time to prepare for any eventuality as showcased on Thursday.

If the Commission and state securities are finding it difficult to interrogate the former President, one may wonder how will he be punished, or his property confiscated?

Now that the ACC is preparing to have a second engagement, the former President should not be the one to call the shot to decide the manner or location where the investigation should commence.

Sierra Leoneans must realize that the fight to redeem the country from the carnage of corruption goes beyond politics or regionalism.

This is the time to rally behind the ACC – an institution created to instil transparency and accountability in every sector of society in Sierra Leone.

14 Comments

  1. I personally believe that the lifetime leader of the APC has once again LIED to the youths of Makeni that the ACC commissioner was coming to evict him from his house. It’s typical for him to MANIPULATE people even within his party which is tantamount to WITCHCRAFT. He previously lied to the youths that the government had plans to steal standby generators from Makeni to Bo and Kenema and they will be left in total darkness, hoping to ignite tribal and regional strife, but fortunately this time around, the people were very cautious of overreacting with violence against the law enforcement officers, which prevented another bloodshed. The lifetime leader is once again trying to create child soldiers just like Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma, but this time around the appropriate institutions have started calling him out and he has been given an ultimatum to condemn this EVIL tactics of using Youths as human shields but he still refused.

    The net is tightening around him and the “cat and mouse” game that he is playing with the ACC commissioner will soon come to an end. Once again, Sierra Leone will set a new standard in West Africa, based on the fact that our citizens held President Charles Taylor of Liberia, Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul for War crimes, we are now on the verge of punishing the lifetime leader of the APC party Ernest Bai Koroma for not only corruption crime but for using youths and mask devils as human shields just to protect his loots.

  2. Reading through the article, an individual with absolutely no historical knowledge of Sierra Leone politics or the corrupt events that have taken place since the Bio regime came into power, will by all indications have the impression that, the Bio regime is indeed the ‘messiah for our nation’. It appears the author has taken a script within the PAOPA propagandist mantra, writing an article based on many misleading actions and utterances. The irony however is that, the author is behaving the same exact way he claimed the supporters of former president Koroma are behaving — doing everything possible to shield political demi-gods from public scrutiny and accountability.

    Here the author is deliberately attempting to mislead the public by writing an article laced with many rhetorical statement in a guise to protect his political demi-gods. Frankly, there is no denial the author might be one way or another a regime beneficiary, playing his role to protect his interest. History has always shown that, those who benefit directly from a corrupt system will always take up arms to protect and portray that corrupt system as an utopia.

  3. The Lord said in the bible – my people perish because of lack of knowledge, Some of you Sierra Leoneans lack knowledge especially those that are supporting the EX President from being investigated: A man is not guilty till he is found guilty, Why can’t you guys allow the ACC do their job? Why all this stupid grammar you guys are posting supporting injustice in our country?

    No one is above the law – not even pa Ernest. No matter what you guys do, pa Ernest will still appear before the ACC. if una lek, una put road block while his children are relaxing enjoying themselves. You stupid fools are out on the street killing and wasting your time and energy to cause chaos. Shame on you.

    • Mr Kamara – I would strongly suggest that you tone down your language. You are entitled to your opinion but not to insult others on this forum. If you feel unhappy here as a newcomer- then please take the exit. Thank you. No more warning – you are on notice.

  4. The reason, or reasons why laws are needed is because, they act as a guide for societies, and how they conduct themselves or function. Each society enact their own laws based on their traditional beliefs, shared culture, and above all else a sense of nationhood. In the absence of the law is anarchy and chaos. The two are mutually interconnected. Humans just like other animals are naturally aggressive. The laws are used to control this basic human instinct. Humans can also be greedy and vain . The way you learn to conform and keep a check on this human trait is to obey the laws of the land. The weakest in society suffers most when laws are flouted either by individuals or the state. More like the laws of the jungle.

    Survival of the fittest reign supreme, and every one for themselves and God for us all. So for laws to function correctly with out being seen as a tool used to oppress citizens, those entrusted to interpret the laws of land have to be seen as blind when they dispense justice. Hence no one is above the law. The only way societies feel the need to rise up against authorities, is when they conclude to themselves, the laws of the land have been deliberately used against them. For example the Black LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT IN THE USA. Right now, some members of the APC party feel aggrieved because they see the ACC applying the laws on corruption against the State of Sierra Leone selectively.

    More like the Bio government have managed to turn the laws against corruption on its head. YOU ARE GUILTY UNTIL YOU PROVE YOU ARE INOCENT. INSTEAD OF THE OTHER WAY ROUND. In retrospect if Bio was truly serious about fighting the cancer of corruption, he should have left it to the ACC or set up a serious fraud office that deals with misappropriation of public funds. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  5. Boring! Boring!! Boring!!! These are the after-effects one is subjected to after reading the pre-meditated propaganda that some of these journalists come up with; intending to indoctrinate a well-informed and smart audience. At times one feels as if they are underestimating or insulting the intelligence of the readership. It is like eating rice prepared with a sauce of cassava leaves and coconut oil everyday; knowingly aware of its aroma, flavour and the heartburn that comes with it. Maybe, some of these writers are capitalising on the credulous nature of Sierra Leoneans and never seek to aspire for versatility and attention to details.

    As the country’s politics is swirling in the gutter, it seems as if the resultant centrifugal force is attracting some components of journalism with it. It would be worthwhile to borrow a leaf from Andrew Keili, whose discipline is in engineering, but he is becoming an outstanding story teller, with his multifaceted ideas and humorous style in writing. When reading Mr Keili’s work of art, at least one is mesmerized and guaranteed to learn something from it – especially if one can ponder his thoughts. Further, some of these BORING writers should have a glimpse at the work of Mohamed Sankoh (aka One Drop) who endeavours to hammer home the truth with style and language flexibility. His no-nonsense gesture epitomizes his candid message to his readers. It can be tedious to assimilate a stale piece of craft that is designed to brainwash the reader.

    Trying to ring fence the outdated Maada Bio with his atrocities and tribalistic orientation as the new norm, is the same as the purported shielding of the former President Earnest Bai Koroma by the youths of Makeni. In fact, it is worse when this process is done in writing, as the remit becomes infinite. With regards to the Rwandan experience, biased and partisanly inclined writers should bear in mind that they can be held accountable if their objective is to incite a genocidal atmosphere in the country. Corruption should not be fought on the background of tribalism.

  6. I am surprised that his two daughters were not a part of the protest, also using their bodies as shields to keep their father from answering questions of alleged corruption. It must be nice to be able to convince kids who are not particularly members of your direct family structure to risk their lives on your behalf, yet interestingly, the children that he himself helped to create were nowhere to be found. Intriguing indeed. I am sure those daughters of his were somewhere amidst earth’s layer eating their lives away, in a likelihood of not an ounce of worry in their midst… What’s the overall morality here? Is former president Koroma suggesting that his kids’ lives are more valuable than the ones who were ready to catch a bullet on his behalf?

    Although typical of people in powerful positions, it is such an inappropriate and a grand mob approach from a man who once held the key to the state.

  7. Mr Sesay – we are unable to approve your comment because its all written in upper case. Can you please re-write and send. Thanks. Also may I appeal to ALL forumites to please proof read your comments before sending. We receive far too many comments with mistakes, and its taking too much of our time to edit before publishing. Your comments may not be approved if they are full of mistakes. Thank you.

  8. Mr Sesay – we are unable to approve your comment because its all written in upper case. Can you please re-write and send. Thanks. Also may I appeal to ALL forumites to please proof read your comments before sending. We receive far too many comments with mistakes, and its taking too much of our time to edit before publishing. Your comments may not be approved if they are full of mistakes. Thank you.

  9. I am cautioning African citizens to practice and abide by any state rule of law. Most of the rebellion through out the globe is due to disregard for the accepted and existing rule of law. “No one is above the law”. The only way one is set free is to answer to any alleged allegations. Putting road blocks or territorial boundaries shows lack of respect for the rule of law.

  10. Many thanks Mr Lansana Fofanah for your article which I found politically disappointing. However, I respect your views. For your information, I refuse your request to rally behind the ACC boss and it’s institution Mr Lansana Fofanah. The ACC has to prove to me that corruption is easy as drinking a glass of “Palm Wine” for every Sierra Leonean.

    More importantly, fighting corruption should not be a selective justice process. Telling me that fighting corruption is rocket science when it comes to Bio SLPP party kakistocracy operatives and easy as drinking a glass of “Palm Wine” when it comes to the APC won’t fly in my ears. Do you remember the “China Rice Gate” tombola? God bless Mr Lansana Fofanah. TBC.

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