The Media and the Fight against Corruption: The Sierra Leone Experience

Members of the Sierra Leone Judiciary

Being a government minister in today’s Africa is probingly a menacing reality; a reality not of a Hollywood style, but one of fact of living. In Hollywood it’s good to be yourself, but it’s even better to be someone else. Being oneself in a today’s African cabinet is to know that you are among a group of poor people being assembled for the purpose of leadership. Thus intrinsic about the leadership group is that it’s an opportunity for poor chosen friends, brothers and relatives to govern their own people diligently for the good of all. But humanity being what it is, greed and avarice usually would take the better part of such assembled leaders and often we begin to hear the most hated friends of the African; corruption and graft. In the case of corrupt African states, and by national standards, everyone is poor, safe for a few, including their Presidents and heads of state. But what distinguishes people in governance is not just individual wealth they had before or after engagement with national leadership, but the judicious handling of public wealth and trust for the greater good, instead of personal aggrandizement. Since the governed and the governors are all poor and from poor backgrounds, it is thus from such background assessment that people view leaders whose personal quest to rape and misuse peoples’ trust and resources, that create the necessary condition to support anti-graft institutions in African countries.

From Tunisia to South Africa, Ethiopia to Sierra Leone, the need today for clear and national support of Africans for their anti graft institutions cannot be overemphasized. However, it is not often likely that such national anti graft institutions will get the unalloyed support from all citizens. Take the case of Sierra Leone; a small West African country relying on external aid to fund 65% of its national yearly development budget, mainly from the World Bank and the British government. Established in 2000, the national Anti-Corruption Commission, ACC had very little powers to minimise corruption in the country. It did not have the mandate to charge and prosecute investigated cases to court. It had to rely on the advice of the Attorney General’s office before bringing its alleged corruption cases to court. Because of such a state of things, the country’s avowed promise to fight corruption in high places could not win a very good benchmark position on the UK government’s stated conditionality of transparency.

This situation continued until June 2006 when the British government withheld aid worth 40m pound sterling. A year later, the new administration in Freetown thought it wise to revisit anti graft laws and after taking office, Ernest Bai Koroma in his inaugural address to parliament on October 5, 2007 said, “during my campaign for President, I emphasised zero tolerance for fighting corruption. I intend to implement that strategy by strengthening the powers of the Anti Corruption Commission and ensuring its independence in investigations and prosecution”. In 2008 as a follow up to that national promise, the restructured and amended ACC Act 2008 gave more powers to the commission, allowing it to independently investigate, charge and prosecute its own cases in a special court assigned for such trials.

Already, several government officials accused of graft of different magnitude have paid the price; some paying heavy fines while others have been jailed. Recently, the health minister, Dr. Tejan Koroma was found guilty of misappropriating government funds, not following the proper rule of procurement as well as embezzling of funds meant to buy drugs for poor people. Upon conviction, he was asked to pay an alternative fine of $37,500 or face five-year jail term in prison. Prior to that, the country’s esteemed Ombudsman, lawyer Francis Gabidon was found guilty of several charges leading to his payment of millions of local currency, the Leone into government coffers before being released. And while the country’s deputy immigration officer was being charged to court for selling national passports to foreigners, the marine and fisheries minister, haja Afsatu Kabba was whisked away to court on March 15, 2010, on 17-count chare ranging from misuse of office to fraud and bribe-taking. An extra six count charge from a previous handling of electricity contract for the country is pending.

Thus, within the spirit of a new political dispensation, the anti-graft commission, which had been given teeth to bite properly since 2008, has begun having the desired effects. Nonetheless, these successes are not without problems and anxiety. In a country of lesser opportunities, corrupt government officials have the resources to co-opt the services of even those supposed to fight the course of the down trodden. The media are often divided on such issues as support for the ACC, as pay masters have more resources to seek and identify media practitioners ready to put aside professional and sound ethical standards for payment. Budding newspapers have often supported alleged state thieves who were later to be convicted in court for stealing from the people. In stating their defence for their clients even before the lawyers begin to do so in court, such journalists go out of their way to attack the personalities of some high ranking personnel, including the chief commissioner, Abdul Tejan Cole at the ACC as well as impinging upon the credibility of the courts; either to distract the attention of the suffering masses from those alleged state thieves responsible for their poor plight, or to do trial by media in order to save the skin of their political pay masters. Recently, one such bad media insinuated that the President of the republic, Ernest Bai Koroma might have paid the fines for the convicted health minister. What an absurd reality of conflict!

Despite these distractions by certain sections of the politicised media, and other interested family relatives of these accused and convicts, the cases of the Ombudsman Fransis Gabidon and minister Tejan Koroma were expert examples, while charging of the country’s marine minister Afsatu Kabba to court; a woman regarded as being very closed to the President, is a pointer to show how serious the President is at the moment, in fighting corruption; a phenomenon which the former President of the country, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, described as “state enemy number one”.

And now again, with 17-count charge and more to come, the marine minister, though by the dictates of natural justice, she is innocent until proved otherwise, some newspapers have already pitched camp with the rich and accused minister. However, with the country’s new pride in trying to see that the people do not suffer again because of corruption and misuse of public funds supposed to be for building of schools, clinics and homes for a devastated nation after ten years of war, time is of the essence to prove such journalists again wrong. Meanwhile, the poor masses do generally know which media are on the side of the many! Accused minister Afsatu Kabba’s trials start earnest, in April.

© 2010, David Tam-Baryoh. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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  1. Sir,
    Truly speaking I am so proud of this gentle honest, and great reliable head of states. President E. Koroma, may God guides him for ever. Mr. President you are a fine man, give no chance to the enemies.
    I am a Sierra Leone People Party(S.L P.P) supporters, but now it seems like you turning me around!!
    You know the word government has a several meanings but we shall limit ourselves in to two.
    (a) It is a group of persons empowered by the constitution to carry or carried out the administrations of a country.
    (b) It is a machinery orderly control and management of the affairs of a states.
    This is what the Democracy stands for. Gov’t of the people, for the people, and by the people.
    Hey, we make the laws for the country, and make an amendment of the law, and also punished the law breakers, we don’t care who are!! stand up president… don’t give up a damn!
    I do not need no position from neither campaigning for any office, I already have a good job in abroad,
    thanks to God.
    Long live President Ernest B. Koroma.

    • Joseph

      It is unfortunate Mr Dumbuya has a good job “…in abroad”, but for the poor people in Sierra Leone who cannot afford the sort of job you have ” in abroad” , we rely on a true democracy for our survival. Am sure Mr Dumbuya would agree with me if i suggest that the issue of corruption in Sierra Leone is above political or party lines. So, it cuts nobody’s admiration to point at you being S L P P? The issue touched on by Mr Baryoh is national and deserves a national look. To Mr Baryoh: the issue is not about fighting corruption, but about selective justice. Now these are questions for you sir; is it only Afsatu kabbah that has been mentioned to be corrupt? what can you say about the president appointing relatives and friends to positions? or the awarding of contracts to the president’s sister? is it not an abuse of office? what then can you say about your brother( the vice president) who often times has been accused of involvement in corrupt activities? Anyway, after a decade of brutal conflict, all we need now are honest people with honest judgement, not opportunist.

    • Abdul

      Joseph you seems to be flying away recklessly from the truth. We should be commending such developments now happening in our country. The anti corruption system may not be operating in the perfect way you wanted to it but this is a very big step in the right direction. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with asingle step and I’m with the utmost faith that it won’t be long before we see a siting president drag to the anti-corruption court.

    • Joseph

      Abdul forgive me, i might be “recklessly flying away from the truth” as evaluated by you. Perhaps i might have been too much drawn into believing that a journey of a thousand miles should have been over now for the people after several decades of independence and a brutal civil war. Remember, my arguments are not about “Corruption” but “Selective Justice”. The law must be seen to apply for all equally. How long are we going to wait for ” a thousand miles” to be completed in the face of injustices…some of the very issues that brought about the war. Am sure it serves good if we continue to point or talk about them. There is a popular saying: ” until you tell me the colour of my eyes, i wouldn’t know how it looks like”

    • Joseph,
      My friend long time I haven’t heard from you… I hope you’re that everything is alright with you. But truly in your mind, actually Koroma is doing well, do you?
      Joseph, this man had sets an example to other presidents that are going to governed this country in the future. H.E. head of states, Ernest B. Koroma, thank you so much, may God protects you for ever for the whole Sierra Leoneans.
      Also my main advise to Koroma is, to try to let Dauda kamara interior minister go!!! listen to the people, he is not a good man for you @ all.

  2. Patrick Banya, UK

    Its about time people come to thier senses, good job mr President, i’m niether slpp nor apc, i’m a sierra leonean, who ever has the interest of the normal sierra leonean people, is my president.

  3. alhaji bangura

    thank you mr koroma for the good work you are doing in sierra leone to fight against curruption becouse that is the main problem affecting our belove country and that show you realy love sierra leonean people.

  4. Joseph,
    This is the main problems in our country Sierra Leone since, and I hope that it will eliminate in the peoples’ minds one day… Your comment about my statements, saying that I had a good job in abroad, it doesn’t mean that am provoking the others or not sympathising with them at all, no! try to understand me first, I’m talking to H.E. Koroma directly. In your eyes, for more than decades before or after the in April 1961, tell me, which have ever done such a good job like this, Siaka Steven, Momoh, Vallenine Strasser, Maada Bio for the short period of time, Alhaji Tijan Kabba, is any of these leaders have done a good job like this before your eyes? common Joseph!! give this President
    a credit.This is an example, one day coming for the next generation, this country will impitched a leader, and removed him or her in the office.
    Joseph, won’t you proud of the president’s decision, setting an example for the others? We are waiting for the interior minister Dauda Kamara to be remove and fired from his office, we’re looking forward for the annoumcement, he’s the most more curroptive man!!!… He destroyed Tonko Limba, and also Kukuna Bramaia Chiefdom. Mr. President, show to the world that this is not the previous
    A P C party, don’t give a damn..
    Joseph, I am right here with you in Sierra Leone. If you need my mobile #, I will.

    • Dutch

      Lamin were are you are you oke? please answer i have tryed to call you about 120 times. Greetz from holland

    • Dutch,
      I am ok man… what about yourself is everything fine with you? hope so.
      You tried to call me for 120 times! can you list the number that you trying to call me with? may be you might be calling me on thye wrong number.
      The bottom line is, Dauda Kamara is a criminal.

  5. H.E. Dr. Ernest B. Koroma,
    We’ve been sending our voices out, this beloved country Sierra Leone is ours
    and doesn’t belonging to one individual, just like when there is no one’s above the law… People do criticized you for so many things in common for some illegal and bad decision taking. The former fishery
    minister indictments, everybody is complaining about her innocent, Madam. Afsatu. Let a lone not only to removed her from office but to relaced her with your cousin, think about it.
    Your Excellency, you and your advisers knew about the most criminal man around you, which is Alhaji Dauda Crook Kamara. Anyway I am not one of your adviser I wish if I could… this old man Alhaji Haramu, needs to go!! he is not good for you at all. I have been mentioning this before that you’re a fine nice president ever in this country, but this man will mess you up forever. Dauda go!!! ..

    • Mr. Lamin,
      I really wanted to know where you are talking right now. Honestly the most stupid
      assume name( Alhaji Crooked Dauda Kuti Curruption Kamara) I have ever found… H. E. Dr. Ernest B. Koroma doesn’t know this man very well as the most betraial animal in his gov’t.
      Without an indictment of this stupid Alhaji that is provoking himself, have you ever wash your Janaba before? hell no!! the A C C should indicts this man to show that yes, they doing their job properly. Damn stupid man….

    • Hey Batteh, look what is going on right now!!… find out on the web and see where the ministers lined up, and everyone uses his or her complete name, but unfortunately… yours Alhaji Crooked Haramu Dauda Corrupt Kamara. Never use the title Alhaji why? shame on you Pa Alaggie. Think you that you are going to live for ananother 100 more year? Don’t you know that God mighty flight you to the Holy land of Mecca so that you can stop doing corruptive act? don’t you believe that if the I C C declined to indicts you, God will gathered you Pa Alaggie? Thanks

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