By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
With his trademark smile and bushy, but well-kept, dark hair coupled with his humility and absolute respect for all who meet him, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. (FBK for short) is a professional to behold.
If he’s not in court defending human rights victims he’s writing social commentaries on topical issues and proffering suggestions on what can work. If it’s a national issue, then it’s FBK’s business. A Renaissance Leader of the Renaissance Movement, he has emerged as one of Sierra Leone’s very strong advocates for social justice and human rights and is very vocal on socio-political and legal reforms. In addition to his work as a corporate/commercial lawyer representing a huge local and global clientele, he has stood out as a vibrant defender of those whose human rights are challenged by the “powerful” in society and his fearless defence and astute legal tenacity has made him one of the most popular lawyers ever in Sierra Leone at the age of 32. His successes in criminal and civil matters in court are outstanding and he is rated among the very top lawyers of Sierra Leone.
Within the last three years he’s probably the most decorated young lawyer in the country. He was named Young Lawyer of the Year 2015 and 2016, named in Ovation Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Sierra Leoneans, among the Top 50 most Influential Young Sierra Leoneans listed by Institute of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Development, among Salone Times Newspaper’s Top 10 Sierra Leoneans, and a proud recipient of Auradicals Awards 2011 and 2016 for Exemplary Service to Humanity. Additionally, he has been nominated for the African Young Achievers Award 2017.
Quite recently, FBK was recruited by the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the Young Africa Lawyers (YAL) Programme as one of the Trained and Specialist Climate Change Negotiators to represent Africa in Global Climate change and related Negotiations.
Despite all these achievements, which are testaments of FBK’s continued quest for excellence and dedication to hard work, he remains quite down-to-earth but with a determination to continue to be not just the normal professional earning money, but using his profession to bring about desired changes in his country.
“I am humbled by these recognitions, although I do my work not in anticipation of being rewarded or recognized. They only serve to encourage me further, to continue to do more of the things I believed in,” said FBK.
FBK’s motivation comes from his humble beginnings and the ‘desire to see that everyone has a minimum the opportunity to live in dignity’. And if he’s to change one key thing in Sierra Leone, it is to ‘eliminate tribalism and make all have a belief in Sierra Leone above all else’.
“Some people argue that tribalism in Sierra Leone is nothing to write home about because of the inter-marriages we enjoy. But that’s just veneer, beneath it tribalism is real and many people, including politicians, public/civil servants and young professionals are experiencing it regularly,” he noted.
The concept of ‘Sierra Leoneaness’, putting Sierra Leone first and making it first and foremost your tribe, he believes is what is lacking in the culture and mindset of his people.
“When we realize we have only one tribe called Sierra Leonean, then we have taken the first step to sustainable national development; we become cohesive as a people and we share one goal, one mission, one vision in spite of our diversity, where everybody has equal opportunity and access to the resources of the state,” said FBK, who claims to be inspired by the late President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara.
FBK is a Senior partner in the firm Kaifala, Kanneh & Co. situate at Top Floor, 81 Pademba Road, Freetown, a law firm he co-founded which in a short time has captured a huge market and reputed for quality service and speedy delivery. His early legal practice was with Wright & Co (Solicitors) for about seven years, before proceeding to the United Kingdom where he studied, and obtained the Full Time Master’s Degree in Law and Economics and he holds the interdisciplinary LLM (Master of Laws) in Law and Economics jointly awarded by the School of Law and the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary, University of London, in London, United Kingdom. His Master’s thesis on Sovereign Debt Restructuring was graded “Distinction” for the Award.
A household name at the Sierra Leone Bar Association, he served as its Public Relations Officer and Spokesman in 2012-2013. He is a bilingual Lawyer who writes and speaks French fluently in addition to the English Language. He has vast experience in Corporate/Commercial Litigation and practice in the Superior Courts of Judicature of Sierra Leone and he has appeared in Several High Profile Cases in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court where he has left excellent records and performance. He is also very active at the Criminal Bar as he has been involved in several High Profile Criminal Cases. His performances in court can best be described as astute, superb and brilliant.
FBK has written several Legal, Finance and Economics articles and social commentaries which have appeared in respected national and international tabloids, magazines and websites, and has participated in various Legal Researches (including the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Report (a co-publication of the World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation) and Women, Business and the Law (another World Bank Group flagship publication) and the anchor for various International Law Research bodies. He has experience in dealing with general and specialty contracts and has received Continued Professional Development training in various areas of the Law including Arbitration, Mediation, Oil and Gas, and International Human Rights Law.
A product of the Sierra Leone Grammar School, FBK’s penchant for excellence began since school days where he took 1st Position in every class throughout Primary and Secondary Schools and passed the WASCCE Exams as the Top Arts Student of his generation (2002) with 5 A’s and 3 B’s to enter and study law straight after High School at the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, from where he graduated among the very top in his class and won the Attorney-General Eke Ahmed Holloway Award from the University of Sierra Leone in recognition of his outstanding performance in his Undergraduate studies in 2006. He thereafter enrolled in and graduated from the Sierra Leone Law School in 2007 as the “Star Pupil” (Best Student) and Valedictioner and won several awards that year, including the Chief Justice Ade Renner-Thomas Prize for Best Student, The Prof. Alghali Prize for best All-rounder, the C.P Foray Prize for best student Equity and Trust, the Justice George Gelaga-King Prize for Best student in Construction of Legal Documents and Drafting, etc. and remains the last Star Pupil to do so with a Second Class Upper Degree since 2007 to date.
His areas of expertise covers Legal aspects of International Finance, International Economic Law, Private International Law, Regulation of Financial markets, Corporate Finance, Structured and Secured Finance, Banking Law, Central Banking and Regulation, International Financial Law, International Investment Law, International Trade Law, Climate Change and Energy, Term Loans and Syndicated Lending, Sovereign Finance and Public Debt Management, Sovereign Debt Restructuring, Project Finance, the Law of the World Trade Organization, International Financial Institutions (the IMF and World Bank Group), Arbitration and Mediation in International Trade and Investment Disputes (ICSID, UNCITRAL, etc.), Corporate Insolvency and Reorganization, Derivatives Contracts and Law, Competition and Anti-Trust Laws, Islamic Finance Law, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Political and Constitutional Economics, Economic Analysis of Law, Behavioural Economics and Critical Thinking and Writing for Lawyers.
FBK is a devout Roman Catholic, plays squash well, loves good music, supports Manchester United and enjoys clean parties. Even though a workaholic, FBK finds time to watch movies, spend time with friends and family; and engages in philanthropy in his community and beyond. He loves a good life but he neither smokes cigarette nor drinks alcohol.
Meanwhile, FBK is a current recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Nomination 2017 by the US Embassy in Freetown and is expected to take an educational sabbatical soon to pursue further studies in one of the Best Universities in the United States of America as a Patron and guest of the United States Government.