By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
Sierra Leone: As the breeze of democracy continues to blow in Sierra Leone, and blowing heavily, our nation is now faced with the challenge of battling against self-seeking people who are metamorphosing from their tainted past and steadily subliming into the community to hold onto national positions.
Kabbah Koroma: lone fighter?
Sierra Leoneans have suffered so much and need uplifting now. The hunger and anger can be seen on the faces of our people and faced with the trauma of the Ebola scourge, makes it more hard for our nation. It is indeed hard, and although efforts were made by the previous presidents and still being made by the present president to address the many challenges in the country corruption still continues to frustrate these efforts and denying the needs of the people.
The ridicule and calumny have always been pointed at the leaders who made the promises to address the ills in society. Unfortunately, though theses leaders might have sound plans, they often faced another bigger challenge; battling the corrupt element in their caucuses whom they thought would help them govern the nation.
The former president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who declared the end of the 11 year hostility, once said to a surprised nation ‘Salone pepul get bad heart!’
The president was disappointed and angry because some of the men and women he had thought would helped him address national issues were influenced by party cabals, tribalism and regionalism and thus defaulted and betrayed the nation. Ghost projects were exalted and trumpeted by their cronies and media faithful while monies meant for the implementation of public projects swindled.
According to a 2002 story by The Guardian, captioned: Sierra Leone locked in shackles of corruption,…“The government is thwarting attempts to clean up and rebuild. Until a couple of weeks ago the Welcome to Sierra Leone sign at the airport said: “If you cannot help us please do not corrupt us.” Now it has been removed, perhaps because it was deemed inappropriate to suggest that all visitors were either useless or evil.
“If they were, they would find plenty of soulmates in Freetown, where corruption is rife. Visiting businessmen say they are constantly asked for “dash” – the local word for bribes – when dealing with officials. “If you complain about a junior official, his boss reprimands him then asks for twice as much for himself. The higher up the system you go, the more they ask for,” said one company executive.”
Before coming to the presidency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma promised the nation to fight corruption and indeed he showed the political will by ensuring the review of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Act which now enables the Commission to prosecute corrupt cases in the country. However, cases of corruption involving public officials continue to increase unabated.
In November 11, 2015, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) informed the general public of the arrest of the Town Chief of Bumpe town in Bumpe Ngao Chiefdom John Nabib and a teacher Joseph Kposowa in respect of allegations of soliciting monies from beneficiaries of the Social Safety Net (SSN) Project.
The Social Safety Net Project is a programme implemented by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) designed to alleviate poverty and targets the rural poor and vulnerable by proiding direct cash transfer to improve their livelihoods. The project is being supported by the Government of Sierra Leone, World Bank and UNICEF. The Anti-Corruption Commission is implementing the Grievance Redress Mechanism component of the project.
The town chief of Bumpe town and the teacher were caught directly by ACC officials extorting monies from the beneficiaries that have received payment under the SSN project while councilor Michaelson Mawendeh of Ward 253 was reported to have gone into hiding to avoid arrest by the ACC officials for the same offence of soliciting monies from the underprivileged beneficiaries of Bumpe Ngao Chiefdom.
This case is just one of the many being prosecuted by the ACC and the actions of public officials continue to haunt the millions of poor and vulnerable women and children living in hard situations and causing many to fall prey to abuse and violations.
It is time efforts are made to salvage the country from this unholy status quo and our people once again made to believe in their land of birth and not left to feel they are in bondage. Unfortunately, it seems the economic curse will continue to haunt us as long as our country is being flooded by self-seeking people who are metamorphosing into politicians to rule and divide our already deprived nation of the needed social support for our people to live better lives.