Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 January 2020:
State House in Freetown today issued a press statement reporting that President Bio has this afternoon sacked four of his senior government ministers and officials. The sacking State House said, relates to serious allegations of corruption involving the sale of several tons of rice donated to Sierra Leone by China to feed the hungry.
The four officials involved in what is now dubbed – Chinagate, include the minister of Labour and Social Security – Alpha Timbo, who is also the former minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Mrs. Emily Kadiatu Gogra – deputy minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Mr Charles Kamanda – Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Ms. Mamusu Massaquoi – Director of Nutrition, also in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.
According to the release, the four officials are helping the Anti-Corruption Commission with their investigations.
In August 2019, the Sierra Leone Telegraph reported that China has sent almost 7,000 tons of food aid to Sierra Leone to help cushion the effects of the growing hardship facing millions of Sierra Leoneans, as the government struggles to manage the economic downturn.
Millions of people, especially children are at risk of severe malnutrition as food prices continue to rise.
Speaking to president Bio at State House on 13th August 2019, the new Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone – Hu Zhangliang, said that the first two consignments of 2,000 tons of food aid had arrived in Freetown and are being delivered.
Another 1,500 tons of food support also arrived a few days later, with 3,400 tons on its way, said the ambassador, who according to State House report was in State House to discuss bilateral relations and development projects with President Julius Maada Bio.
“But there has been no information from the government as to how this large consignment of food aid from China is being distributed and where,” the Sierra Leone Telegraph commented, fearing corrupt public officials selling the rice for their personal gain.
And if today’s allegations are true, this will vindicate many critics who say that while president Bio may be committed to fighting corruption in the country, he must clean up his ministries and departments that have become a haven for corrupt official.
Tonight, many Sierra Leoneans are questioning the role of the chief minister of Sierra Leone – Professor David Francis, in this Chinese rice scandal – dubbed ‘Chinagate’, estimated at millions of dollars.
There must be no scared cows in the Bio-led government. It is understood that the Chinese government are deeply unhappy about the disappearance of tons of rice meant to feed millions of hungry children in the country.