The new conservative government in Britain seems to exuberate over-zealousness in the way it wants to demonstrate to its voting public that it is serious in cutting its budget deficit. And it is keen on showing that one area that will definitely get the chop is aid to Africa. The telegraph newspaper in London, recently carried an article where an official of the Department for International Development (DFID), claimed that the government in Sierra Leone has been accused of corruption in recent mining deals. It quoted the senior DFID official saying “I’m watching particularly carefully how Sierra Leone intends to exploit its mineral resources. It is an important issue that requires openness and transparency and if not I am prepared to act.” What is interesting is that the Telegraph, which is a major newspaper in Britain, did not endeavour to investigate whether the claims made by the official were in fact true.
The assumption that most British and western press hold about African governments is that they are all corrupt. The British political game is played on a very wide spectrum that includes an international perspective. And it is utterly shameful that a progressive African country with a dynamic leader, is used to score cheap political points at home here in Britain. Sierra Leone is indeed an example of change and the Telegraph newspaper whose news-priority does not include Africa, as they don’t even have a correspondent in the whole of West Africa, should have done a bit more research and maybe would not have misinformed its reading public with what is definitely a cooked-up fabricated story intended only to embarrass a hardworking president.
Conservative politicians should get their own house cleaned before pointing fingers at any African administration. British politicians are themselves not absolved of corruption. MP’s were recently accused of diverting public funds for their own personal use. To give a lesson in good governance, you must be seen as practicing such as well. One thing that is a fact is, the President of Sierra Leone is not corrupt and has not engaged in any corrupt mining deals with any company. Sierra Leone is a sovereign state that has the right to define its own economic future. And its new head of state has been working on just that. What is baffling is that the new conservative government seems to be dismantling the excellent relationship the previous Labour government had forged with African countries like Sierra Leone. The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on leaving office, set up the Africa Governance Initiative to help introduce good governance in Sierra Leone and they have been working closely with the DFID to help the country develop. They even have a team on the ground in Freetown at the very seat of government and in my last interview I did with Mr Blair he only had wonderful words for President Koroma. And we should not forget that Sierra Leone is only one of three countries were the AGI is involved. The other two being Liberia and Rwanda. Gordon Brown, just before leaving office wrote a letter to the president of Sierra Leone, commending him for the excellent work he is doing to help lift his people out of poverty.
And this is the same man you are accusing of being corrupt? Maybe, just maybe, the Conservative government may not have seen its own interests served well with the Sierra Leone government’s dealings with various mining companies. But the government has the right to consider every company’s proposal and makes decisions based first on the interest of the people of Sierra Leone. Several mining companies have been vying for Sierra Leone’s lucrative mining opportunities, including Rio Tinto, a British-based mining company. Maybe, the Telegraph Newspaper should try to find out the relationship between Rio Tinto and the conservative government and that might unlock the puzzle and shed some light as to why the DFID is suddenly accusing President Koroma of corruption. As a news organisation, Newstime Africa will also endeavour to investigate Rio Tinto’s role. If any, in all this.
It seems aid to African counties is somewhat linked to British economic interests, as Britain uses its financial muscle to pressure African governments to give contracts to companies that are British-born-owned. Sierra Leone may still need British assistance in finding its way to economic prosperity, but that should not be an excuse to allow Britain to cast false aspersions on its leadership. The conservative government seems to be hell-bent on reducing its budget deficit and it seems they will even use immoral tactics to achieve this if they have to. The DFID must be reminded that the Sierra Leonean people have witnessed a dramatic transformation of their country’s potential and that the president of Sierra Leone is working tirelessly to ensure his people are no longer subjected to the poverty environment structure that had destroyed hope in their society.
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