Molesting former president Koroma at Lungi airport is a stain on Sierra Leone’s democracy

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 July 2019:

Government staff working at Sierra Leone’s Lungi international airport in Freetown, today brought shame on the country’s democracy, when they subjected former president Koroma to unprecedented molestation and humiliation.

It all started after a private jet carrying the former president, landed at the airport this afternoon, after visiting a few African Heads of State last week as part of what his advisers say is his ongoing post-presidential work.

It is understood that on some of these visits, Heads of State would send private plane to pick up the former president to take him on his African travels.

And as protocol around the World would demand, the former president is accorded presidential treatment at all airports he landed. But only it seems on his home soil, where he is treated differently – appallingly, if truth is to be told.

Former president Koroma arrived on a private plane that was assigned to him by one of the West African presidents, who had also obtained landing rights and permits from the authorities at Lungi Airport.

As expected, Lungi air traffic control staff directed the pilot of the plane to land in front of the presidential lounge at the Airport, which he did.

After the plane came to a halt, the ADC of the former president – Assistant Superintendent Ibrahim Sesay, who had flown out with the former president, advised the former president to remain seated whilst he disembarked to go and arrange for the VIP protocol vehicle to collect the former president from the plane.

But what then followed is nothing short of gratuitous abuse of power, designed to humiliate and deny the former president of his dignity and respect.

The airport authorities told the president’s ADC that they have received instructions ‘from above’ to move the plane away from the direction of the presidential lounge – contrary to the previous instructions, to the dismay of the foreign pilot.

The pilot then got off the plane to inform the airport authorities that he had received permission from control tower to land in the direction of the presidential lounge.

But the authorities were adamant. “Yes, you have to move this plane off from this area immediately,” they told the pilot.

The flabbergasted pilot went back to the plane to receive new instructions from control tower as to where to re-park the plane with the former president still on board.

To the shock and horror of both pilot and the former president, the unthinkable happened – the plane was re-routed to the cargo area of the airport.

In the meantime, the former president’s ADC was waiting for the protocol vehicle to arrive to collect the former president from the plane. But the vehicle never arrived. There had been another shocking ‘order from above’.

The Lungi airport authorities told the former president’s ADC that they have received further instructions ‘from above’ – not to allow the VIP vehicle to pick up the former president from the plane, which by then was waiting at the cargo loading area of the airport.

It seemed then that to add insult to injury, the former president was expected to then walk from the cargo loading area, which in any case is never used by ordinary passengers let alone a former head of state.

But as fate would have it, the firm operating the cargo area were kind enough to allow the former president to use one of their vehicles, which then took former president Koroma to the VIP Lounge – not the presidential lounge which has now become out of bounds for former president Koroma.

On arrival at the VIP lounge, former president Koroma was subjected to even further humiliation.

He was then told by the airport authorities that he cannot enter the VIP lounge either, and must go stand where ordinary passengers queued up in front of the immigration desks, for his passport to be stamped.

At this point, the former president reportedly calmly handed his passport over to his ADC and then walked outside of the airport to where his private jeep was parked, where he waited patiently for his passport to be stamped.

Then after a few more disgraceful shenanigans, the former president was finally driven away from the airport in his private car, and arrived safely at his residence in Makeni a few hours later.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that the presidential plane that took the former president to Lungi airport had since returned to its country of origin.

This is an appalling episode for the former president that should never have been allowed to happen. There is no place in Sierra Leone’s politics for retribution or naked display of abuse of power, whether it’s from ‘powers from above’ or anywhere else for that matter.

Former president Koroma deserves to be treated with respect, as one day, president Julius Maada Bio upon leaving office would also expect to be treated by his successor.

Today’s vindictive humiliation of the former president is not only a stain on Sierra Leone’s democracy, but will make national cohesion and reconciliation a lot more harder to achieve, anytime soon.

Those responsible for this bad behaviour must be held to account, and clear instructions be issued to all airport staff to ensure that the former president is accorded his full rights, befitting a former Head of State, whenever he uses the airport.

27 Comments

  1. That’s African politics, the opposition loses all his privileges and recognition because the current leader thinks he has enjoyed enough and therefore, deserves nothing from the state any longer. The same thing was done to former Ghanaian leader, John Jerry Rawlings.

  2. There is a very urgent need for a number of clarity. First, what are the privileges of a former president and others. Second, if a former president stays politically active, such as Earnest is, how should he/she be treated in terms of unambiguously laid out privileges? For example should such a person be allowed to go through the presidential lounge at the airport? Third, should a former president who is under investigation be allowed to travel outside the country other than to receive medical treatment which cannot be implemented locally?

    Forth, how much personal holiday is accorded the current president, in which case he/she can quite simply disappear from the surface of the earth without the nation knowing his/her whereabouts until he he/she resurfaces somewhere?

    The whole country is constitutionally muddled up. Some clear minded thinking should be tapped immediately to allow the country not to be trapped in anymore saga whether or not Earnest Koroma is in the middle of it.

    • Korthor Santhkie Sorie, as usual, very cogent analysis. It is important that before jumping into any conclusions relative to what transpired at Lungi airport when Ernest Koroma landed last week, some clarity be given to the issues that you have outlined.

      In particular, if the former president is still active in politics, does he deserve some of the privileges of a retired former head of state? Another issue that many forget is that president Julius Maada Bio was a retired head of state when Ernest Koroma was president. Was Bio accorded the privileges that Koroma is now yearning for?

      In fact, at a time in Koroma’s presidency, there were three former heads of state in Sierra Leone – Valentine Strasser, Julius Maada Bio and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. How were these people treated by the Ernest Koroma government? We know that Strasser lived a life in abject poverty and that at one time Kabbah’s security personnel were withdrawn and his pension payments delayed without any reasons.

      Additionally, Bio for the most part moved around without any government- paid security detail. In essence, Sierra Leoneans should be provided with a constitutional clarity relative these important issues.

    • Who really cares if this criminal, aka ex president is not treated well or respected? Are we supposed to cry for him? He should be in jail not a private jet. Disgusting thief!

  3. Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar. Please remember that all politics are local. Sierra Leoneans, if what I read in this article is true, it is a grievous fault of those in authority because they could not use proper judgement towards the former president ‘EBK’. His exellency president Bio, kindly look into this matter.

    Mr. President, remember few years ago I was on vacation in Freetown; do you remember what transpired when some senior police officers refused to give you access to go through kissy road? I felt so bad and was on your side. So I just want you to remember that, one day, you will be ex president.

    Mr president, please treat this matter with the utmost importance. Thanks.

  4. The man has not yet earned the status of former president or an elderly statesman. He is still an opposition political party leader. If given the opportunity as suggested by you, he will use it to undermine the government – which his party is hell bent upon doing.

  5. He that liveth by the sword shall die by the sword. All this happened because he didn’t want to submit himself as former Head of State. He is creating problems for himself. That was what he was doing when in power.

    • For a long time, Sierra Leone has been inundated with the term ” Orders from above”. President Koroma to curtail the misuse of this so called orders from above, had a meeting with senior police management at the senior officers mess, kingtom where he informed them that they have to cross check the so called orders from above.

      At that time even the SEA at State House would instruct the IGP feigning it is orders from above. What was baffling and is still baffling is that our investigative journalist would never delve into this kind of issues to know from whom the orders emanate. Instead of reporting as they do, they would do us favour if they can tell us who is the origin of these orders from above.

  6. My God this is serious. True, these are poor behaviors of people that will never be leaders of home. Why disrespect a man of God and a real man of the people.

    • Tommy, what makes him a Man-of-God? The truth is Nasiru-Deen and Sulaiman Sow both made valid points. If he wants to be treated as a Former President, then he needs to act as such.

  7. It is wrong to disrespect the former President. He won his right to be treated with dignity.

  8. Bilal Coleman said: “A vindictive current president would have ensured that Koroma’s modern-day tailored suits were replaced with Pademba Road’s orange jump-suits”. Thats ok Bilal, but do remember that it was Ernest Bai Koroma who fought against hardliners in the APC as well as families of the 27 people slaughtered by Maada Bio and his NPRC gun-toting khaki boys, who were calling for justice.

    Bio would have faced the gallows if not for EBK. But here we are, this is how he is being rewarded by an ungrateful, childish, vindictive, power drunk brigadier with blood in his hands. May the souls of the 27 who were extrajudicially slaughtererd rest in peace. One day the families of the 27 will go to the ICC for justice, mark my word.

    • Alfred Kamara, what was Julius Maada Bio’s position in the NPRC government when the 27 people that you are referring to were killed? Who was the head of state at that time? Please do this as an assignment and I will be ready to debate with you.

  9. Some Sierra Leoneans are focused on deraying from facts and reality to jump at unrealistic conclusions. I respect you for your opinions but Justice has nothing to do with fickle mindedness. Are supporters of APC and former President EBK forgotten that under the rule of law, there are protocols enshrined in our constitution of politics.

    EBK has destroyed the economy of Sierra Leone and do you expect him to continue to override authority when he is under scrutiny of abuse with the ACC? In some countries he should have been behind bars by now. This should not be interpreted as a vendata or an action of undemocratic process when our government is doing well not to violate constitutional rule, or to be a hindrance to a peaceful democratic process.

    Did the media ever mention what happened to SLPP delegation to State House when they were showered with urine after an unsuccessful dialogue with government during EBK’s rule? This was unethical and more humiliating for Sierra Leone for a government in power, The victims, among whom where JMB,the current President of our Republic and JOB, as the former leader and Chairman of SLPP.

    It’s time to respect those who respect the Sierra Leonean people. No double standards. You get what you deserve under the rule of law. Gone are the days when Presidents were untouchable, and the rules of the game changed in the middle of the game. Remember, the former President, the late Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was never subjected to serious humiliations even though SLPP got frustrated with him for giving way to APC to win an election.

    Anybody blaming the present government is bias, unrealistic, polarized with negativity against President Bio’s government. My Views! Dr. Mohamed A. Bereteh, PH.D.

  10. How he would have been treated? He is an active politician, Chairman and leader and must be treated as such. He doesn’t deserve VIP treatment. He is responsible; he doesn’t want to behave like a statesman.

  11. “Orders from above” may not necessarily mean orders from above. Unfortunately, the Sierra Leonean media has the tendency of pointing fingers at president Bio even when a citizen throws garbage on the streets of Freetown.

    Ernest Koroma must come down from his high horse and remind himself that he is no longer president of Sierra Leone. How does he expect the impoverished citizen at Lungi to react upon seeing him flying in and out of the country in a luxurious private jet? Besides, shouldn’t Koroma know that what goes around comes around? Wasn’t urine splashed on SLPP leaders who were at one time invited to State House during Koroma’s presidency. Didn’t that count as a stain of Sierra Leone’s democracy?

    Using the presidential lounge or the VIP lounge at Lungi is a privilege and not a right that Koroma should claim. He is no better than the ordinary citizen of Sierra Leone and therefore, like the rest of the citizens, Koroma must stand in line for his passport to be checked by immigration officials.

    Siaka Stevens once escaped the wrath of the hungry masses on Guard street, thanks to his fast-thinking driver. Koroma, who did far worse than Stevens must thank his luck for waking up in a luxurious mansion in Makeni every morning. A vindictive current president would have ensured that Koroma’s modern-day tailored suits were replaced with Pademba Road’s orange jump-suits.

  12. If the narrative of the article is unquestionably correct, then the Bio government should be held responsible for such an infantile and despicable behaviour by authorities at the airport. We are all acutely aware, with the help of the Commissions of Inquiry, that Ernest Koroma left the country in very poor state. But we must allow the law to take its course.

    There is no need for personal vendetta. There was no warrant out for the arrest of the former leader, let alone for him to be humiliated. Some growing up is urgently required here. I hope to revisit this issue again.

  13. I wonder why ex President Koroma wanted to use the Presidential lounge. From my understanding presidential lounge is for the sitting president who is Maada Bio. When Maada Bio leaves office, he should never expect to be granted access to the presidential lounge.

    I also wonder why ex president Ernest Koroma objected to joining the queue? If he is a man of the people as he always says, then he should show this by joining the queue. I agree his plane should not have been sent to the cargo area, but then I do not know the protocol for private jets.

  14. Why is this humiliation of EBK, our former revered President continuing? Where is the healing process in Sierra Leone? What has EBK done to deserve this kind of inhumane treatment in the country he led for a decade with enviable and giant development strides? We need to change our attitudes in Mama Salone otherwise there was no need for Bintumani 3…..mere farcical imitation of peace moves.

    • I understand your line of questioning, but I am afraid this treatment does not reach the threshold of inhumane treatment. If what is written is accurate, then this course of action is unacceptable. But on the other hand, we will have to wait for an explanation as to why things went the way they did.

  15. I don’t also encourage such behaviour at all. What I think happened was not an order from above but maybe by those who are now in charge but were marginalised during Koroma’s regime. During the inauguration ceremony of the now president Bio, while foreign guests and presidents were coming in, the presidential lounge was set ablaze. What did you publish then about that?

    It Would be interesting to see your news coverage of it then. And don’t forget to send a link of the Sam Sumana Lungi passport saga also.

    • I have lived more than half of my life in western style democratic nations. Incumbent sitting president or former president must be treated and accorded the accolades of statemanship. Devoid of this special treatment to a sitting President or former president of a nation, projects that country to arrogancy, ignorancy and absolutely dehumanize democracy.

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