Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 October 2020:
Former president Koroma of Sierra Leone has received an order from the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to attend an investigation at their office in Freetown next Monday.
According to the ACC, the investigation will probe into allegations of corruption and abuse of office, made by the Commission of Inquiry in their report and the government’s White Paper published last week.
The ACC says it is investigating a number of allegations of corruption involving the former president, including his link to a Chinese mining company named – Xin Lin, the procurement of 100 public service buses, a NASSIT funded market construction project, and several properties believed to be owned by the former president.
The ACC investigation comes on the heels of a travel ban on the president and scores of his former ministers and government officials, imposed by the Attorney General early this week.
It is not clear whether the president who currently resides in Makeni – northern Sierra Leone will travel to Freetown for his appointment with the ACC next Monday, but what needs no second guessing is the former president’s response to the Commission of Inquiry Report and the government’s White Paper.
Writing in a sternly worded public statement issued yesterday, Ernest Bai Koroma reacted angrily to what he referred to as – “the government’s relentless heckling around me” that “has reached undue and unacceptable levels…”
The former president warns the government – “I will muster all available legitimate and democratic means to robustly defend my reputation which is being tarnished so mindlessly.”
According to the former president of Sierra Leone, this is his “preliminary statement on the release of the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry, the White Paper and other hostile government actions”.
This is what he said: “I have learned with utter disappointment about some of the defamatory contents of the Reports of the Commissions of Inquiry and the White Paper thereto pertaining to some of the activities I undertook while exercising my official functions as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. I have also noted with utter dismay the Government’s hostility against me and some officials who served in my administration.
“While it is apparent that the allegations against me are without merit and are a politically motivated charade calculated to impugn my hard – earned reputation, I further believe that the government’s relentless heckling around me has reached undue and unacceptable levels that amount to political harassment.
“For ten years, I served my country diligently, fairly and with honour and integrity. My government was widely recognised for its robust fight against corruption, for consolidating peace, rebuilding the country’s battered infrastructure, for improving the lives of our people in many ways and for the peaceful, smooth democratic transition I superintended.
“It is unfortunate that the government has chosen this route to unduly tarnish my reputation because of politics. Such ridiculous political witch hunt does not only scare good and well-meaning citizens from getting involved in governance; it also has the propensity of undermining peaceful democratic transitions on the continent as current leaders following these unfortunate events in Sierra Leone might find it difficult to readily hand over power, especially to opposition political parties.
“On my part, whilst I will always support the fight against corruption and the quest for accountability in public office, I will muster all available legitimate and democratic means to robustly defend my reputation which is being tarnished so mindlessly. In that vein, I will once again defer to my lawyers to look into the Reports, the White Paper and the series of maligning actions being instituted against me; to advise on my next course of action.
“Sign: Ernest Bai Koroma, Former President of Sierra Leone.”
Sierra Leone is once again at crossroads, sitting on what can be described as a political landmine which the Bio-led government must defuse very carefully while ensuring that those accused of corruption are held accountable and given a fair chance to prove their innocence at the court of appeal in the next few weeks.
However, what the government must avoid by all necessary means, is to use the Commission of Inquiry Report and its White Paper, simply to humiliate those accused in order to score political points that could result in heightening tension, chaos and violence in the country.
There is no doubt former president Koroma should be investigated by the ACC in pursuit of justice – if there are holes in the evidence put forward by the Commission of Inquiry, but this should be done with common sense and political expediency.