Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 January 2015
When the annals of the Koroma presidency are written after the 2017 elections, what will be remembered most, is the president’s lack of leadership skills and inability to make good and timely decisions.
Yet, few will question his loyalty to his foot soldiers and political allies that have stayed true to his cause.
Last Friday, with one mighty swoop of his pen, he was able at long last to find the courage to sack the country’s Chief Justice – Umu Tejan Jalloh, after months of public outcry and calls by the Anti-Corruption Commission for the Chief Justice to step down from office, having gone well past the retirement age.
Will she now be asked to refund every single penny she has collected from poor tax payers by way of salaries and other benefits, to which she clearly was not entitled? Will she be prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Commission for any possible allegation of fraud?
But the most shocking decision by the president last Friday, however, was his appointment of two of his foot soldiers, who are suspected to have been responsible for covering the truth about the scale of the Ebola crisis in the northern district of Koinadugu – Momoh Konteh and Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh.
For several months after the first case of Ebola was discovered in Sierra Leone, bringing death and chaos to all districts – including the capital Freetown, Koinadugu district was being presented as a model of success in preventing the virus.
Yet, no one was any wiser as to how a district, regarded as one of the poorest and with the lowest literacy level in the country, and possessing one of the most secretive traditional societies, could have achieved such spectacular results.
In October, 2014, the truth about Ebola in Koinadugu was revealed. Whilst more than 300 bodies were being buried in Freetown alone in one week, accusations were being levied against senior ruling party operatives and local businessmen in Koinadugu of massive cover-up.
In the northern chiefdom of Nieni in the Koinadugu district, there were reports of over 60% of the population infected with Ebola, as several bodies were uncovered.
The truth about Koinadugu – despite spectacular claims by government, as the only district that had escaped Ebola, was that scores of people had over a seven months period, died of Ebola and were unlawfully buried, contrary to the state of emergency decree.
Yet, when news broke of mass deaths in the village of Nieni, there were denials, accusations and counter accusations.
The Red Cross had collected the highly contaminated remains of at least 30 villagers. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
It is believed that Ebola had been in Koinadugu for several months, killing scores of people, whilst government officials lied about the non-existence of Ebola in the district.
A local Ebola Task Force headed by Momoh Konteh (Photo) himself – now appointed by the president as the new chairman of the country’s Telecommunications Commission, went on a house-burning orgy, aimed at getting rid of Ebola, he said.
But analysts say that vital evidence that could have given clues as to how long Ebola had infiltrated the district was destroyed by the task Force.
‘Those who have died will be cremated and their homes will be burned down in order to protect others in the community,’ Momoh Konteh told The Washington Post in October 2014.
Momoh Konteh – a close business associate of those occupying the seat of power at State House, was accused by some in Sierra Leone as responsible for the massive cover up of the full extent of Ebola in Koinadugu.
Questions were also being asked about the role of the Finance Minister – Kelfala Marah (Photo) – another son of Koinadugu, in the massive Ebola cover up – dubbed Ebolagate, as answers were demanded from the authorities about the true extent of Ebola in the district.
Momoh Konteh is himself a son of Koinadugu. He was unsuccessfully indicted for his involvement in the Timbergate corruption affair, which was exposed by the Aljazeera television documentary, involving vice president Sam Sumana.
But the Timbergate case was thrown out of court in Freetown, due to insufficient evidence submitted by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.
Last October, 2014, the Sierra Leone Telegraph reported that any confirmation of large scale Ebola deaths in Koinadugu, after months of denial about the existence of the virus in the district, will be a serious game changer in the nation’s fight against Ebola.
And so it was. The discovery of mass deaths and a rapid rate of infection in Koinadugu had a knock-on effect on neighbouring northern districts, which saw a rapid rise in transmission of the virus.
Last week’s announcement by president Koroma – appointing Momoh Konteh to head the country’s Telecommunications Commission, and Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh as Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, is being regarded as nothing other than a reward for the massive Ebola cover up in Koinadugu.
This was the statement from State House, published on 23rd January 2015, announcing the sacking of the Chief Justice and appointment of the Koinadugu foot-soldiers:
“The general public is hereby informed as follows: That Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh will proceed on leave to retirement on 6th February, 2015. With effect from that date, Justice Valesius Thomas, Justice of the Supreme Court will act as Chief Justice in accordance with the provisions of Section 136 (1) (b) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 (Act No. 6 of 1991).
“That pursuant to the provisions of Section 32, Sub-sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 (Act No. 6 of 1991) it has pleased his excellency the president, after consultation with the leaders of all registered political parties, to appoint Mr. Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh as Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman National Electoral Commission, subject to the approval of parliament.
“That pursuant to the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Telecommunications Act, 2006 (Act No. 9 of 2006) his excellency the president has decided to remove the chairman and members of the national telecommunications commission (NATCOM from office with immediate effect. In consequence thereof, it has pleased his excellency to appoint Mr. Momoh Konteh as the new Chairman of Natcom, subject to the approval of parliament. The other members of the commission will be appointed shortly.”
But the question many Sierra Leoneans are now asking is this: If the president was looking for candidates to be rewarded for their hard work and success in the country’s fight against Ebola, did he need to have looked any further than Pujehun district?
With only 31 cases of Ebola, the people of Pujehun had managed to have just one new case of Ebola found in the district in the last 65 days, and was declared Ebola free two weeks ago.
Tomorrow, Kailahun district will be declared Ebola free, after 42 days of recording zero new cases.
So why has president Koroma rewarded Momoh Konteh and Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh? Both from Koinadugu district. How odd.