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According to Transparency International “corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.” The poorest countries like Sierra Leone suffer most under the yoke of corruption. (Photo: Mohamed Kunowah Kiellow, author)
In Sierra Leone, despite some gains,“corruption remains an enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health, infrastructure” social and economic development. As a result of this, the “correlation between poverty and corruption continues to be evident.” To my mind, corruption is a human right violation.
Since gaining independence Sierra Leoneans have suffered economic and social hardship emanating from corruption and abuse of power by public officials. Section 5 of the Sierra Leone Constitution of 1991 stipulates that the State shall take all steps to eradicate all corrupt practices and the abuse of power. The State therefore runs afoul the constitution when it takes insufficient or no steps to fight corruption.
The state of corruption under Ernest Koroma and Tejan Kabba does not show much difference. However, there is a difference between the two when it comes to fighting corruption. Under Kabba’s government the Anti-Corruption Commission came into being. His government, however, did not take sufficient steps to curb corruption as state interference into the work of the ACC was enormous. This hindered the smooth functioning of the Commission. Val Collier was the first ever ACC boss. Val Collier did not do much to go after corrupt big bugs in Sierra Leone. He spent his tenure of office indicting and prosecuting small fishes.
Let us call a spade: when Ernest Bai Koroma’s government came to power the ACC regained its desired teeth. Ernest Bai Koroma appointed the young and dynamic Abdul Tejan-Cole as Commissioner of the ACC. EBK must be commended for giving more powers to the ACC to make it more independent and vibrant. The new ACC boss showed that he was a “man made of sterner stuff”.
Tejan-Cole’s decision to prosecute Francis Gabbidon, the former Sierra Leone’s Ombudsman, came as a shock to many people. Moreover, his decision to arrest a High Court Judge, Allan Halloway was a bold step.
What really came as rude surprise was his decision to go after corrupt businessmen in this country. This was a novelty in the history of the fight against graft in the Private Sector.
We have to give praises where they are due. It is during Ernest Koroma’s regime that we have witnessed ministers and highly-placed persons in Sierra Leone being dragged to court for corrupt practices. The mayor of Freetown, former ministers of Health and Energy and Mineral Resources are such people who were sacked by the president for alleged corrupt practices.
However, EBK’s fight against corruption is not without hiccups. There are still very corrupt public officials who are untouchable; who indulge in corrupt practices with impunity. The state interference into the work of the ACC is minimal but the effect of this untoward practice on the socio-economic lives of the people of Sierra Leone is unacceptable.
The president should therefore take tougher steps to curb corruption if his Agenda for Change is to achieve meaningful results.
On 16 December 2011 Salone Radio Amsterdam discussed the state of corruption in Sierra Leone. If you missed the programme, please go to this link and listen to it:
Please join us today at 20.30(CET), 19.30(Salone time) to continue the discussion on corruption:
Mohamed Kunowah Kiellow, The Netherlands
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