You Can’t Institutionalise Corruption Yesterday, and Weaponise It Today
The Government Transitional Team report (GTT), is out and President Bio has promised to implement the recommendations of the 124-page report. President Bio has directed the Attorney General and Minister of justice to establish a judge-led Commission of Inquiry which should consist of a Chairman, who will be a judge of international repute and another renowned judge of national repute. The Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice have been asked to pursue action with respect to Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (SARI). Against this backdrop is the hypocrisy of the average Sierra Leonean that has captured my attention. I must confess again that I do not belong to any political party in Sierra Leone; I am a democrat. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)
Over the years, Sierra Leone has come to epitomise George Orwell’s fabled “Animal Farm” in many ways. One of the most thematic issues of that book is the “HYPOCRICY” of man. Orwell famously said that “those who elect corrupt politicians are not victims, but accomplices. It is the abject hypocrisy that some of us find gnawingly disgusting. During the initial stages of the transition report, Sylvia Blyden, the former Minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs in the Koroma led government, tried to weaponise the report. She openly asked Sierra Leoneans to “RISE UP” against President Bio’s policies. In my previous article, I condemned it as “irresponsible” to incite violence.
The attempt, I call it as an attempt at this stage, by the Bio government to tackle corruption has been shrouded by accusations of being politically motivated against the members and affiliates of the past APC government; and especially people from the north of the country. When the Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo embarked on a similar task of tackling corruption, faced similar accusations, he told his people that “the trial of people for corruption is not a political trial. It is a criminal trial. We are not using it for political purposes. We’re doing it to enforce the criminal laws of the country. We are all in this country; we have nowhere to go…….”Ghana is currently held in high esteem in Africa and the on the international stage, thanks to his astute governance. . Yes I know that President Bio spent some time in Ghana.
This is not a personal attack, but as ironies go, Sylvia Blyden is a good case in point. On 27 November, 2017, President Koroma was accused of lacking” leadership skills and knowledge of how to run a government” for unceremoniously sacking Sylvia Blyden, “who has been overtly consistent in standing up against corruption in the country” (The sierraleonetelegraph. com-24 Nov 2017). Many would recall the sparring between Sylvia and her then deputy Minister Rugiatu Neneh Koroma, about the disappearance of le 6 billion from her ministry. Using her Awareness Times newspaper and other media outlets, she disclosed that she was sacked because she refused to sign PET forms, and warned that the “fact that His Excellency the President could openly side with corrupt persons against her own steadfastness in curbing corruption, should be a cause for concern to all who campaigned and voted for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) exactly five years ago in 2012.” In the interest of brevity, here are some of the quotes attributed to her in her own newspaper and other media outlets: (Source: Thesierraleonetelegraph.com, 24 November, 2017 for the full story).
She claimed that she had been earmarked for the sack and that “the chance came up when the Minister (Sylvia) recently defied directives of her boss. Despite documentary evidence that 200 million Leones was planned to be used to pay as rent for a run-down bungalow which was not worth that amount.” According to her paper, she even accused donor partners and lamented “how Donors will bypass Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) and even take Executive arm functions to the Legislative arm in Parliament all in a bid to bypass a Minister who was not playing ball with the SHAMEFUL CORRUPTION BY THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM IN COUNTRY – I repeat, the utterly shameful corruption by the United Nations system inside the country.
In highlighting some of the corrupt practices of the past government, the paper stated that: “She however cautioned that those complaints, some of which like the AFCOM Case, have spanned over 15 months being investigated, all had documented evidence submitted. This also included the recent Hajj corruption in which $314,000 was stolen from the Ministry. That one is also under investigation. So many other cases with evidence, some of which were never even publicised, have made many advisers of the President to be jittery. They advised that Blyden should be removed from office. “According to the paper, “The President had asked his now-sacked minister, Dr. Blyden, through the Secretary to President, to turn a blind eye and sign the PETS FORMS (funding approval forms) to endorse release of money for the Disability Commission to access funds, despite glaring evidence of corrupt heartlessness towards vulnerable Disables in proposed use of the funds” Sylvia said that her refusal to sign the PET forms was the catalyst for her sacking.
This saga happened very close to our general elections and Sylvia was quick to point out that this was “not an attempt to campaign against the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC); a party to which I proudly belong. Far from it! This is rather an attempt for us all to have a frank dialogue as fellow citizens as to why and how come we continue hearing these reports of hundreds of millions of dollars from Donor sources but they are not reflected as improvement in our lives – especially on the lives of that 60% of our population who live in the rural areas. Sylvia reportedly went on “to caution His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma and my beloved APC party to be very cautious in how they condone corruption, whilst our vulnerable people suffer so much. It is unfair. Let us not take Sierra Leoneans for granted,”
Sylvia makes a passionate plea that “It will be good for the APC leadership and general APC membership to also join me in having a frank dialogue with Sierra Leoneans as to why over the years we keep on hearing of hundreds of millions being poured in to our country but yet still… yet still… yet still… Like she said, “this is not a phenomenon that has only existed in the last 10 years. It pre-dates the APC back into the days of SLPP being in government so SLPP can also join in this conversation and engage on the topic”. Well, that is exactly what the SLPP is doing now. How come Sierra Leone now has debts running into Billions of Dollars but when last year? She believes that “there is just too much short-changing and lip-service”.
These are just some of the revelations made against the APC government by a prominent member of the APC party. But is this not the the same “frank dialogue” that the Bio government is asking for; to account for those sums of money? So President Bio and Sylvia have been singing from the same hymn sheet then. The only difference here is Bio’s signature, right? If the people wanted any proof of the allegations in the GTT report, here you have it. The question is why was Sylvia up in arms about something she had expressed concerns about? Her accusations against the APC then are no different today. So where is the hypocrisy coming from? That is where the problem lies. In summarising Sylvia had actually sent out a national invitation that, “As our hardworking President Koroma prepares to say farewell, the ball is in our court as to what we want over the next 5 years. Will we stay silent or will we raise as much issues as possible to ensure the successor to President Koroma maps out credible ways of lifting Sierra Leone even higher? (Thursday 1st February 2018). There you have it. Are sierra Leoneans ready to participate in finding out credible ways of lifting Sierra Leone even higher?
There is no Sierra Leonean who is not aware of CORRUPTION in our country. So why do people attach words like witch hunt, persecution, bias, tribalism to this? Are we ready to recognise corruption, with all its inherent dangers, but not ready to tackle it? Nevertheless, we should take cognisance of some of the counter claims of the party opposite. The complexion of the list of alleged “culprits” makes some interesting reading. We should not hide from the fact that people from the north or members from the APC form the majority. But again, this can have several interpretations. It can mean a witch hunt against the APC or people from the north, as they said. But can it also mean that because special dispensation, bias, and favouritism were given to people of APC or northern persuasion, it is inevitable that they would be in the majority of the ones alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices? It is no secret that Sierra Leone like any other country suffers from favouritism, nepotism and all the isms you can think of. If the accused say that they have been targeted, does that same list represent one of the canker worms of African Politics; nepotism/favouritism?
So let us be honest to ourselves. We all know that corruption is endemic in our country. No tribe, religion, clan, political party or group has monopoly over it. It is a national disease, with nation-wide consequences. Our economic malaise is the concomitant effect that has degenerated into pervasive corruption. We need a national dialogue, a national consensus, and the will of the people to tackle this epidemic. We should brave, honest, well-meaning and rise above parochial and micro politics for the benefit of all. There are 3 sides to a story: your side, my side and then the TRUTH. The few may have fooled some of us some of the time, but they should never fool all of us all of the time. It is time to get, stand up. Stand up for your right.
It is one thing to institutionalise corruption. But it is an entirely different thing to weaponise it.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).
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