Abu Ormoh Leigh
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 August 201
Sierra Leoneans will look back on Koroma’s time in office as “the lost years” when the nation failed to reap the peace dividend and lay the foundation for a sustainable future.
Like the rest of the world, Sierra Leoneans are watching the events unfolding in President Ernest Thieving Koroma’s banana republic, with increasing dismay, disgust and alarm.
The President presides over what is in effect a criminal mafia enterprise masquerading as a government. There are no uncorrupted institutions or agencies in Sierra Leone (including the judiciary and anti-corruption commission), no functioning laws.
The entire country is controlled by one corrupt “strongman” who answers to no one, and who views every commercial transaction requiring governmental approval or sanction as an opportunity to enrich himself.
His appointees in government operate to varying degrees on this “Koroma Principle”, and the President keeps them in line by firing and rehiring them in an ever more strange and complicated game of musical chairs.
The rehiring of people who have previously been accused of corruption by the President and in some cases – prosecuted and convicted, boggles the mind.
From London to Washington, New York, Johannesburg, Zurich to Beijing, Sierra Leone is now synonymous with CORRUPTION.
And President Koroma is now regarded as one of the most prodigious practitioners of its dark arts.
Yet the President is refusing to heed the call from without and within, from his own people, from the donor community on which his nation’s fragile economy depends, from President Obama himself – to pursue real reform on corruption.
But then again, how can the leopard be asked to change its spots? How can the Corruptor/Criminal- in-Chief who has made massive graft, extortion, bribery, drug smuggling (remember the cocaine plane saga), money laundering and other criminal activity part and parcel of everyday life do what does not come naturally to him?
International investors would be well advised to stay away from Sierra Leone, until the Koroma era is over; unless they want to be tainted by corruption and victimized by it.
To operate successfully in Sierra Leone, one or more of the thieving ministers or their agents has to be on your payroll.
You have to pay bribes to every organ of state you deal with, and of course to Ernest Koroma – using various ‘presidential bag carriers’ including: Thomas Koroma, DM the London-based bag man (who operates under the auspices of one of the most corrupt ministers in the government and has a direct channel to Ernest Koroma).
The ray of sunshine amidst this darkness, is that an increasingly sophisticated Sierra Leone civil society is now familiar with all of the corrupt tactics and strategies used by the President and his cronies to enrich themselves. (Photo: President Koroma rubbing palms with former Billionaire owner of iron ore mining company – African Minerals – Frank Timis).
Sierra Leone is a very small place, a small “island economy” where there is no such thing as a secret.
And Sierra Leoneans have found their voice and are saying enough is enough. They will no longer tolerate the massive corruption and graft that has held their country back since its independence from the British.
Cleaning up the endemic corruption at all levels of government, starting with the Presidency, is an urgent priority.
Democracy must not simply be event driven, an election every 5 years. It must mean an end to the tyranny of rampant corruption and graft and real and sustainable development of our economy and our people.
A sophisticated network of Sierra Leoneans around the globe is seeking support from an international community, which is increasingly unwilling to tolerate the corrupt practices of old that have held Africa back.
They will work with the international community to trace illicit financial flows out of the country, money laundering activities in Brazil, London and elsewhere, and bribes allegedly paid into bank accounts in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
In this vein, any foreign investor suspected of engaging in corrupt activity will be exposed and reported to the applicable authorities and regulators in their home jurisdictions, as well as the global anti-corruption authorities.
Sierra Leoneans are watching you and the World is watching you.
The ordinary citizens must seize the reins in this fight against corruption, and must ensure that Ernest Koroma and his corrupt government and family, are one day held to account for every Leone stolen from the people of Sierra Leone and made to answer for the crimes committed against them, which have left the vast majority of them poor, unhealthy and low-skilled.