Sierra Leone’s ex-President complying with ACC

The Sierra Leone's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has in Freetown interviewed former President Earnest Bai Koroma for the second time, according…

The Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has in Freetown interviewed former President Earnest Bai Koroma for the second time, according to a press release published by the ACC.The Commission said on Wednesday that they had successfully completed a second interview with the former president. The first interview took place on Monday 23rd November, 2020 after two postponements, each side blaming the other for the postponement.

Last month, the ACC told reporters that the former President’s supporters prevented them from accessing his residence in the northern district town of Makeni where the first interview was scheduled to take place.

On the other hand, the spokesman of the All People Congress (APC), headed by Mr. Koroma, Sidi Yahah Tunis immediately denied ACC’s allegation of being prevented access. The spokesman said the former President’s lawyers even suggested traveling with ACC investigators to Makeni to guarantee their security.

The ACC had suggested that it was going to issue an arrest warrant if the former President is inaccessible for an interview. The tensions were so high that the British High Commission in Freetown had to intervene; a diplomacy many people say led to the peaceful interviews in a country still burden with a history of political violence.  

Former President Koroma is being investigated over findings of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into alleged corruption during his time as the country’s leader.

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio whose campaign promises included rooting out corruption inaugurated the COI on January 29, 2019 at the compound of the former Special Court for war crimes located in the west end of Freetown.

The COI, headed by judges from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, was meant to probe into the affairs and alleged corruption of the former administration headed by Presient Koroma.

The COI made wide-ranging recommendations including the confiscation of assets belonging to Mr. Koroma, including properties valued at €4.3 million.

Moreover, the former President and 120 others who served in his administration have been banned from travelling.

However, President Koroma who ruled Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2018 has in a statement dismissed the COI’s finings as “politically motivated charade calculated to impugn” his hard-earned reputation. He has vowed to clear his name and restore his reputation.

However, many people argue that the imbalance of political power in Sierra Leone has resulted into a culture of injustice, corruption or exploitation.

 The 7 million residents of this British Colony had a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of only $500 in 2019, according to the World Bank. Over 60 percent of the population suffered from dimensional poverty.       

Sierra Leone ranked 181 out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI), according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Government expenditure on education was 4.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Literacy rate, adult (% ages 15 older) was 32.4%. Expected years of schooling were 10.2 years (10.6 years for male and 9.7 years for female). Mean years of schooling were 3.6 years (4.4 years for male and 2.8 years for female). Population with at least secondary education (% ages 25 older) was 26.3% (32.9% for male and 26.3% for female). Percentage of secondary schools with access to the internet was 3%.

Moreover, the 2019 HDI suggests that only 16 percent of Sierra Leoneans use improved sanitation facilities and a majority of them die before their 54th birthday.

Incidence of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis is still high. Moreover, the infant and under-five mortality rate is 81 deaths per 1,000 live births and 110 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively.

Sierra Leone suffers from one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio of 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Some human rights experts argue that citizens’ fundamental rights, their rights to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression, and rights to work, education, access to information, and to participate in decisions affecting their lives are largely violated.