Sierra Leone Telegraph:7 March 2016
There are many reasons why president Koroma of Sierra Leone should want to quickly forget about the poor showing of his government in the last couple of weeks, dominating social media and news reports. But can he?
This morning he has sacked two of his most senior ministers – the minister and deputy minister of the social welfare ministry – alhaji Moijue Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Attila.
They are both highly regarded members of the ruling APC party, and have been sacked for bringing shame and disgrace not only to the government and the ruling party, but also to the nation.
But today, critics are asking whether they would have been sacked, had they originated from the north of the country. Both ministers are from the south. “Ministers from the north have behaved just as badly, but they are still in their jobs,” a senior veteran of the opposition SLPP told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
Although ministerial brawls and fist fights are nothing new among his cabinet ministers and senior government officials (Listen at the end of this article to recording of sports minister – Paul Kamara and the manager of the national football team – sherrington), critics say that it is unforgivable that the president has appointed what many would regard as thugs to help run his government.
And last week’s ministerial brawl which took place openly in the office of the ministry of social welfare in the capital Freetown, has become symptomatic of what has been described as ‘the rotten culture of violence and depravity that is slowly crippling the government’.
With the deputy minister of social welfare shouting insults – using language that cannot be published, and accusing the minister of rape and drug peddling, one begins to wonder what else is going on in the corridors of power in Sierra Leone. (Listen to the Ministerial Abuse Tape below).
It is no surprising therefore that the ruling APC has abandoned its ‘attitudinal and behavioural change’ programme, which was borrowed from the Ghanaian government, thinking it could be implemented in Sierra Leone – a country where those in power need to carry out serious introspection, before telling the masses how to be civil.
Reactions to this latest ministerial brawl in the office of the social welfare ministry are damning: “This APC government is a shameless caboodle cult of hopeless robbers, and a bungling bunch of common criminals who deserve no respect from anyone.
“What I don’t really understand is how any president could have such a very low regard for our women and children to the extent that, he puts such a creepy bunch of hopeless rogues in charge of our entire population.
“Now we hear the testimony loud and clear from no less a figure than the deputy minister that his colleague – the minister of social welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs is nothing but “a rapist and a cocaine addict” who has been “stealing millions” from public coffers, and “raping women at will”.
“This happened following the earlier trashing of properties in the social welfare ministry by thugs imported into the building by the two ministers. And sadly, these are the two men who have been given the responsibility of the welfare of women and children of our nation. What a monstrously dysfunctional government we have been cursed with here. What a terrible insult to our dear motherland. What a shame to the entire nation”.
This is what State House told the nation this morning: “The general public is hereby informed that his Excellency the president Ernest Bai Koroma has decided to relieve alhaji Moijue Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Attila of their duties as minister and deputy minister respectively, in the ministry of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs.”
Throughout the late 1990s and certainly those difficult years leading to the 2002 presidential and general elections in Sierra Leone, the APC party was fiercely at war with itself.
Crippled and torn apart by internal squabbles and a leadership battle, which culminated in a long drawn out court case, Ernest Bai Koroma emerged victorious and led the party to national acceptability and respectability through democratic means rather than the political violence, brutality and intimidation once favoured by his predecessors.
And after learning a bitter lesson from its rejection by the people of Sierra Leone for almost forty years, the APC party made a spectacular comeback in 2007 – a comeback they are about to lose in 2018, as they once again switch on the notorious self-destruct button.
Will the ruling APC be third time lucky in 2018?
Helped by international stakeholders, who after a ten year civil war were getting fed up of picking up the huge costs of resuscitating and bankrolling Sierra Leone and providing the largest peace keeping force ever stationed by the UN in any country, APC’s return to power in 2007 was inevitable.
Perhaps much more importantly, was the increasing frustration of the international community, especially the British government led by Tony Blair, with the then ruling SLPP’s poor performance in controlling corruption and its seemingly hopeless and destructive party leadership squabbles, played out at the SLPP convention in 2005.
But it was the uncontrollable appetite and belief in the benefits of regime change in Sierra Leone through the ballot box, by the international stakeholders, which had become unstoppable, that led to the downfall of the ruling SLPPP and brought the once loathed APC back to power.
The term of office of the man whom the international community trusted in doing business with – Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, was coming to an end, and the ruling SLPP was looking weak, rudderless, and the country increasingly becoming ungovernable once again.
Regime change was therefore inevitable. The ruling SLPP had to make way for fresh ideas, fresh political impetus, a new government with new hands on the deck that could be trusted with continuity and the implementation of the international community’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which was re-branded and re-packaged by Tony Blair and his ministers and handed over to Koroma’s APC as the ‘Agenda for Change’.
For many in Sierra Leone, there was nothing clever about the return to power of the notoriously corrupt and once hated APC, let alone the emergence of a political hermit not only leading the APC party, but given what should be one of the most difficult jobs in the World – governing Sierra Leone – one of the poorest and most corrupt of nations.
If corruption was a deciding factor for political change back in 2007, will it once again be the case in 2018?
(Photo: A massive mansion under construction in Freetown – owned by information minister Kanu – amid such poverty in the country. Where did the money come from?)
The man appointed to head the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) – Joseph Kamara is now the attorney general and minister of justice. He was removed from the ACC last December by president Koroma, in a rather surprised cabinet reshuffle which few political analysts have been able to understand.
With today’s sacking of his two senior and trusted ministers, Koroma will in the coming days, if not hours, have another cabinet reshuffle and make fresh appointments.
And soon APC will start the formal process of identifying and electing its presidential candidate for the 2018 election. But this process will be ‘bloody’ and chaotic.
There are no fewer than five potential candidates for the party’s leadership, each quietly nursing the belief that they have a good track record and grass roots support to clinch the presidential candidacy.
Starting with the vice president – Victor Foh, who is one of the most long-serving senior members of the APC party alive today, his campaigning across the country has not ceased, since his appointment to that office.
But his appointment as vice president is not without controversy.
After positioning himself as the ‘honourable’ peace-maker from China, parachuted to State House to broker peace between president Koroma and vice president Sam Sumana, his Machiavellian characteristic – or, as some would say – survival streak, paid dividend.
Ironically, vice president Sam Sumana was thrown under the bus – and Foh the peace-maker, became the new vice president.
Foh is said to be the most cunning politician Sierra Leoneans have ever seen, since the death of former president Siaka Stevens, who tutored and nurtured Foh’s political survival skills. He is the potential candidate that every other aspirant must defeat, or with whom they must form an alliance, if they are to win the party’s ticket to the presidency in 2018.
But Foh’s presidency could be disastrous for Sierra Leone, as his unapologetically pro-China policy, could sink the country’s vast natural resources into the gaping mouth of a Chinese dragon, that stands ever ready to financially and materially support Foh’s bid for the presidency. He is the man from Beijing and loved by the Chinese.
Foh at State House, could effectively pave the way for Sierra Leone to once again return to a one-party communist state, controlled by China.
Also likely to be in line for the APC presidential candidacy, is attorney general Joseph Kamara – a distinguished lawyer who cut his teeth at the International Court for Sierra Leone that was set up to bring RUF rebel leaders and former SLPP leader – Hinga Norman to justice, for crimes alleged to have been committed during the civil war as head of the Kamajors soldiers.
But until his appointment by president Koroma, little was known about Joseph Kamara. His four years leadership at the ACC starting from his appointment in 2011 is not without controversy – failing to successfully prosecute high level officials and those close to the president.
His admirers say that he did a good job at the ACC, helping the president bring corruption under control.
Kamara’s record at the ACC speaks for itself. In 2010, his predecessor Abdul Tejan Cole brought 31 cases to court, with 8 convictions and recovering Le 1.7 Billion. In 2011 Joseph Kamara in his first year as head of the ACC, brought 71 cases to court, achieved 7 convictions and recovered Le 1.3 Billion; in 2012, he brought 77 cases, achieved 22 convictions, and recovered Le 2.7 Billion; and in 2013, he charged 43 cases to court, gained 6 convictions and recovered Le 1.7 Billion.
But his decision to make out of court settlement with Edmund Koroma – a cousin of the president, in a landmark corruption scandal involving the purchase of rotten ferries for the government, was seen as a testament of the fact that in Sierra Leone there are scape goats and sacred cows. Edmund Koroma was also rewarded for corruption with his appointment as head of the country’s Treasury.
Also, Joseph Kamara’s inability to successfully prosecute the former chief of staff of the president – Richard Conteh, believed to have forged president Koroma’s signature in a $40 million corruption scandal, has not gone unnoticed.
Is Joseph Kamara quietly nursing his presidential ambition? When asked by the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph last year whether he is interested in becoming the president of Sierra Leone, he declined to answer.
But in an interview with local newspaper – Awoko, published last week, Kamara revealed that he has always been a membership card carrier of the ruling APC, and suggested that he is keeping his options wide open.
John Bonoh Sisay – the chief executive of one of Sierra Leone’s most successful mining companies has made his interest in the presidential candidacy publicly known.
Whilst Sisay – another relative of president Koroma, may have the cash to buy his way through the party nomination process, he does not have the grass roots political nous, in comparison with the older and much experienced vice president Victor Foh.
Sisay is very much seen as an outsider by many of the ruling APC party grandees – a ‘Johnny Come Lately’ character, but with lots of cash to throw at the 2018 elections.
Both the finance minister – Marah and foreign minister Samura Kamara are believed to be nursing their presidential ambitions too, hoping that the party will look favourably at their records in running their respective ministries.
But the ruling APC is not a normal party that does political things normally, nor does it play by its own rules, let alone the Constitution and laws of the land.
The rules of the game are made up and adjudicated upon, by a few at the top of the party hierarchy, including president Koroma and the secretary general – Yansaneh, another friend of Beijing.
It is not surprising therefore that, lawlessness and the abuse of executive and ministerial powers have come to define the Koroma government, the ruling APC party, and the legacy the president will leave behind, when his term of office ends in 2018.
Will president Koroma ever forget the bad news of the last two weeks, concerning his lack of leadership and his party’s lack of discipline, propriety and maturity to govern a country that is desperate to find sustainable solutions to its growing problems of poverty, disease, illiteracy and youth unemployment?
Listen to the Ministerial Abuse Tape:
Now Listen to sports minister – Paul Kamara (a northerner, who is still in his job today), and the manager of the national football team – sherrington insulting each other – bringing shame to the nation. Why has Paul Kamara not been sacked by president Koroma, if not for deep rooted tribalism: