Sierra Leone’s president cracks down on his predecessor

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has banned more than 100 top officials from the previous administration from leaving the country by air, land or sea — including former president Ernest Bai Koroma. The former president has also been summoned to appear before the country’s anti-corruption court on Monday October 5.

The former officials have been asked to repay all stolen money and return any property deemed to have been acquired through corruption. They officials are not allowed to travel outside Sierra Leone until their names are cleared or they are granted permits. 

Earlier, Bio pledged to fully implement findings of the three commissions of inquiry set up to investigate allegations of corruption by former government officials. 

In a joint report, commissions concluded that corruption was endemic in Koroma’s administration. But the former president’s party, the All People’s Congress (APC), has dismissed the findings as “products of a process marred by unconstitutionality, illegality, procedural corruption and political vindictiveness and malice”.

The 82-page report indicted 84 out of 127 top officials under investigation, including former president Koroma himself. Also implicated were two former central bank governors, three former legislators and 20 former cabinet members in the Koroma administration.

The money that was said to have been unaccounted for ran to well over $100-million.

Koroma’s government is also accused of selling a 30% government stake in a mining venture to the president’s nephew, John Sisay, at an artificially low price of $12-million. Those shares were later sold for $95-million. 

Ordinary Sierra Leoneans have been shocked at the scale of the findings. “It is shocking and, to be honest, surprising in some cases. But, we were all here and we knew that some things were going wrong, terribly wrong,” says Ibrahim Tommy, the head of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law.

APC determined to fight back

The APC has said that it intends to challenge the findings and recommendations of the report politically, diplomatically and legally, at both local and international levels, and raised concerns about the legality of the commissions of inquiry.

Bio, however, has instructed his attorney general and minister of justice to fully implement recommendations in the commissions of inquiry report. 

“We are determined to make these the last commissions of inquiry in this country. Once and for all, we are determined to draw a line. Public officials must serve with integrity and they must be above reproach at all times,” the president said in a televised address to the nation.

More than half of Sierra Leone’s population (57.9%) is multidimensionally poor, according to the United Nations Development Program, and corruption remains a major impediment to development in the country. Every new government has pledged to root out corruption, and instituted commissions of inquiry, to little effect.

Political analysts say that unfolding events in the next couple of days will be decisive for the country’s political and democratic future. The current crackdown on corruption takes place against the backdrop of increased political polarisation between supporters of Bio and those aligned with the APC. 

Ibrahim Barrie, a political analyst at the University of Sierra Leone, has warned that a government crackdown, coupled with further economic decline, risks triggering “further violent clashes in the north — and beyond”.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The demon of cronyism in the public service must be crushed

When employees do not give their best, it is the organisation that suffers the most. In the case of government this directly affects citizens

Editorial: SA will be bankrupted by looters

The chickens have finally come home to roost: if we do not end the looting, it will end us

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

Why crooks are shivering in their boots

Ace Magashule’s anxiety has to do with the array of arrests of high-profile people facing fraud and corruption charges

Union calls on top cop to act ‘swiftly’ against his deputy in R191m ‘blue-lights’ fraud case

Deputy police commissioner Bonanga Mgwenya allegedly received gifts, including payments towards her BMW X5, from the firm that won a lucrative police contract

How graft arrests came together

Learning from its failure to turn the Schabir Shaik conviction into one for Jacob Zuma, the state is now building an effective system for catching thieves. Khaya Koko, Sabelo Skiti and Paddy Harper take a look behind the scenes at how law enforcement agencies have started creating consequences for the corrupt

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday