Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 April 2015
Dear Prime Minister
We Concerned Sierra Leoneans residing in the United Kingdom (known as Sierra Leone First UK), feel constrained to raise a matter of grave importance, given the fact you are in the middle of a hectic election campaign.
As one of the leading members of the international community, you are aware that in an interdependent world, a failed state eventually leads to ungoverned spaces, which in turn become the breeding ground for non-state actors that cause greater instability – including acts of terrorism for the global community.
Apart from terrorism, the nature of the global community today, means no nation is immune from tragedy in another part of the globe. The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone and other parts of West Africa is a classic example, of how inter-connected the world has become.
It is precisely our fear of such a scenario, that we wish to raise our concerns with respect to the direction Sierra Leone is heading, under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Under the current government in Sierra Leone we are gradually witnessing a deliberate weakening and destruction of all democratic safeguards.
The unfortunate aspect of our situation is that this is not the first time Sierra Leone has gone down this route, and the sad outcome was that our country ended in war and the total collapse of the state.
It took countries such as yours a costly investment of blood and treasure to restore order and help us back on our feet. We do not want such a nightmare to befall our country again.
It is for this reason that given the traditional and historic ties that exist between Sierra Leone and the UK, you are in a better position to use all the levers you have to help rein in the government of Sierra Leone from turning our country into a failed state again.
Under President Ernest Bai Koroma all institutions including the judiciary have been compromised. The latest action of the President is his decision to remove the elected Vice President from office, a power he doesn’t have under the Sierra Leone constitution.
Despite protests from across the board – including the Bar Association and Civil society groups, calling on the President to rescind his decision to remove the Vice President, he has refused to do so.
Whilst the President has decided to remain impervious to reason from across our nation, we Sierra Leone First UK wish to join our compatriots at home, in appealing to the British government not to legitimise this blatant abuse of our constitution, by refusing to recognise the constitutionally illegitimate Vice President that President Koroma has appointed.
We believe that by the British government refusing to recognise this illegitimacy – including the denial of a visa for President Koroma’s self-appointed Vice President to visit the UK, will send a powerful signal that the British government abhors such constitutional violations. (Photo: The illegitimate vice president of Sierra Leone – Victor Bockarie Foh – left).
Mr Prime Minister, we remain deeply appreciative of the continuing support, including overseas development aid for our country by Her Majesty’s government. We remain equally grateful for the fact that despite serious global financial difficulties, the British government has taken a principled and commendable decision to ring fence overseas aid.
However, we Sierra Leone First UK are also aware that ultimately this is the British Tax payers’ money. Our argument is that there should be a transparent and judicious management of such international aid by the recipient countries.
It is a matter of regret to us that under President Koroma’s administration, transparency and accountability have become dirty words. Financial aid including aid sent to the government of Sierra Leone for purposes of improving the lives of the people are routinely diverted by the President and his close associates for their own use.
The President has proven adept at empty political sloganeering such as bringing about an “agenda for prosperity” in order to cultivate and lure the international community such as the UK to attract continuous British foreign aid.
As Concerned Citizens of Sierra Leone, we are calling on the British government to consider diverting all foreign aid away from the hands of the government of Sierra Leone and work directly with non-governmental organisations on the ground that are better placed to provide direct support to our fellow citizens.
Mr. Prime Minister, perhaps nothing better illustrates the glaring distrust in the government of Sierra Leone than its mishandling of the Ebola emergency funds, about which a recent audit report uncovered massive misappropriation of funds.
Again, despite calls from citizens across the nation, President Koroma has refused to order a proper inquiry into the misuse of the Ebola funds. He has decided to kick the matter into the long grass as has been the pattern of his administration in all cases of financial impropriety.
Mr. Prime Minister, Sierra Leone is increasingly becoming an intolerant country, members of the opposition are routinely arrested and locked up in Police cells throughout the country.
We are witnessing a slide back into the era of bad governance that led to the collapse of our nation.
The good thing is that our compatriots are no longer willing to tolerate the rule of the proverbial “African Big man”. It is for this reason that we Sierra Leone First UK will be joining our compatriots in a global action by demonstrating in front of Downing Street on 27th April 2015.
Our action is to draw the attention of the international community to the creeping dictatorship in Sierra Leone and its implication for regional instability.
The people of Sierra Leone do not want dictatorship, and certainly do not want any violence. We seek to build a nation that will be governed by law not by men. We also seek to build a nation that is able to manage its resources without permanently being dependent on foreign aid.
Sierra Leone has the potential and the human resources to build such a nation, but we need the support of our friends to help us. It is for this reason that we call on the British government to stand with the people of Sierra Leone.
Jimmy B Songa – Chairman Sierra Leone First (UK)
cc: Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council (Cabinet Office) (with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform), Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Rt. Hon. Edward Miliband – Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.