Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commissioner Not Fit For Purpose

When Julius Maada Bio, the kleptocratic president of Sierra Leone, assumed office in 2018, he decided to appoint Francis Ben Kelfala as Anti-Corruption Commissioner (ACC). Many in the country held their breath as the President himself has a history and reputation of pilfering state funds and is considered one of the most corrupt individuals to ever accede to the presidency of this West African State. The appointment of the ACC Commissioner was closely scrutinized in Parliament where he was found to be unqualified for appointment to the post; yet it became obvious that the President was, as was the case with his Mende tribesman from the South of the country determined, once more, to stamp his tribalistic propensity on the governance of the country. This exclusive ethno-regional favouritism has been the hallmark of the Presidency of Julius Maada Bio in the appointment of senior government officials in various departments and agencies. Since his appointment, Francis Ben Kelfala has been unable to carry out the independent dispensation of his office because of receiving orders from State House to not go after regime officials but rather to go after the opposition All Peoples’ Congress (APC) Party officials.

The recent revelations by the reputable US-based Africanist Press of the existence of rampant corruption involving millions of dollars at the highest levels of Government including the Offices of the President, First Lady and former Chief Minister, Professor David Francis. Comprehensive documentation provided by the Africanist Press shows how state funds were being diverted to private use through criminal means. The revelations by the Africanist Press have been heralded in the country as a breakthrough in media investigative journalism. That notwithstanding, the Anti Corruption Commissioner has made no effort to pursue the allegations despite being overwhelmingly called upon by the Fourth Estate to do so, such that the Commissioner has to date neither issued a formal press statement to the effect nor convened a press conference to address the allegations which saw millions of dollars being siphoned from state coffers.

Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) has been providing much-needed funds in the form of aid to support the Anti-Corruption work in the country but must now be dismayed by the fact that the ACC Commissioner has monumentally failed so far to go after corrupt officials without fear or favour. Rather, the ACC Commissioner prefers to go after opposition politicians acting on directives from the Office of the President as a strategy to defeat the momentum that is building around the candidature of an opposition party candidate for the 2023 Presidential Elections. The reasons for this witch hunt are obvious. The said presidential candidate’s campaign has gained such incredible momentum almost a year and a half before the 2023 presidential Elections. For this reason, the Bio-led Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) appointed ACC Commissioner is determined to go after Dr. Samura Kamara with the intention of disqualifying and preventing him from running for president. For over thirty years, Dr. Samura Kamara served with distinction in several governments leaving behind an impeccable record of achievements that now eminently qualify him to run for the presidency and rescue Sierra Leone from the abysmal presidency and governance of Julius Maada Bio. From all indications, therefore, Dr. Samura Kamara is set to and should become the next President of Sierra Leone come 2023 as the country prepares to go to the polls to usher in a new government and get rid of the very inept administration of Julius Maada Bio.

Given the failure of ACC Commissioner, Francis Ben Kelfala, to exercise his independence and discharge his duties as stipulated in his Terms & Conditions of Employment, it has become imperative that for DfID to review the need to continue providing support to the ACC and its Commissioner for the rather reckless abandonment of his sacred duties and therefore calling for scrutinizing his role in how the ACC has been compromised by the government of Julius Maada Bio. The ACC Commissioner has not only failed in carrying out his duties with impartiality; he has also abandoned the very tenets of the profession he represents. The Anti-corruption Commission must truly serve the interests of all Sierra Leoneans otherwise, it has failed on its very essential purpose.
For the ACC Commissioner to adopt a policy of going mainly after opposition party politicians as its main objective is a denial of the very reason for the existence of the Commission. Opposition party politicians, more particularly Dr. Samura Kamara, the leading opposition party flagbearer aspirant, must be left alone to focus on the very important task of taking back Sierra Leone from the hands of a brutal dictator and human rights violator who has all but ruined the optimism and dreams of a people whose recent history has only been carved out of disaster, poverty, and mayhem at the hands of those who purport to serve them. And, Julius Maada Bio, the current president of Sierra Leone, has been the single biggest tragedy that has befallen this beautiful West African state, and the sooner he is kept far away from statehouse the better it will be for the prosperity of the nation.

A recent World Bank report states that unduly influencing judges and the limited autonomy of justice authorities are key challenges in fighting corruption across Africa and Sierra Leone is no exception where an opposition politician continues to languish in detention for almost a year and a half because the judge was instructed by State House to refuse bail at all cost. Corrupt officials channelling public funds into their own pockets hinder the development of local communities and entire countries. Illicit enrichment is a crime under the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC) though few member states do enough to enforce the laws.

This press calls upon the ACC Commissioner to divert his attention and focus from pursuing opposition politicians the likes of Dr. Samura Kamara and instead utilize more judiciously British taxpayers’ monies that are being made available to his office through the auspices of the DFID if it is to continue to attract the very useful funding that this remarkable agency is providing. If not, DFID must consider withholding such funds until serious changes are made at the top of the ACC.

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