What is President Kabbah Hiding?

1 February 2006 at 04:43 | 601 views

By Alfred Munda SamForay

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone, Fredric Carew, may well be a legal genius of unmatched proportions or, as they say in Alabama, he may have entirely lost his cotton picking mind. If somehow, the Attorney General can convince the justices of the Sierra Leone Supreme Court that the so-called special court for Sierra Leone is independent of and has primacy over the national courts and at the same time convince the justices of the so-called special court that they have no legal authority to order President Tejan Kabbah to appear as a witness for the Defence, then Carew is indeed a legal genius worthy of emulation.

In October 2005, in the matter of Charles Francis Margai versus the Special Court, Chief Justice, Ade Renner Thomas, ruled that since the so-called special court is by statute independent of and has primacy over the national courts under Section 8(2) of the Statutes, he was "unable to make the various declarations and the reliefs sought in the Originating Notice of Motion", which in simple English meant that the so-called special court was constitutional with concurrent jurisdiction with and independent of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.

Having established the supremacy of the so-called special court, comes now the Honorable Attorney General in the matter of Prosecutor versus Sam Hinga Norman to argue that under the national constitution, no less, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah cannot be compelled to appear as a witness before the very same special court which Mr. Carew himself previously argued had primacy over the national courts. And the so-called special court with its propensity for selective justice appears to be entertaining this judicial duplicity as it ponders a subpoena recently issued by the Defence for Sam Hinga Norman and Monina Fofana.

Indeed Section 6(2) of the Statutes of the court states, "The official position of any accused persons, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible government official, shall not relieve such person of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment". This would seem to jive well with President Kabbah’s own statement that in the matter of the so-called special court, "there are no sacred cows". But that was apparently before the President and his Attorney General found out that Kabbah will be Defence Witness No.1 to testify to the falsehoods the President had presented before the TRC where he was not subject to perjury or contempt. There is a saying in Lugbu that a chief makes laws when the situation appears favourable to the chief.

Just as Sierra Leoneans and the international community lost a great opportunity for post-war reconstruction and development on account of the incompetent and corrupt regime of Mr. Kabbah, the nation has also lost a great opportunity to regain our post-independence judicial superiority over our neighbours in the appointment of a chain of incompetent Attorney Generals. Mr. Carew in all the areas where he has had a chance to prove his worth has been found wanting. In the matters of C. F. Margai versus the Special Court, Sam Hinga Norman versus SLPP and Prosecutor versus Sam Hinga Norman, Mr. Carew has never failed to give just cause why the legal profession is excluded from the Nobel Prize. His legal submissions are characteristically late, vague and underwhelming even to the non-legal mind. He has no grasp of the national constitution let alone international legal procedures.

If Sierra Leone is to make any strides in international jurisprudence, the President must make a concerted effort to appoint competent, none political sycophants as Attorney Generals. In the first place, there needs to be a separation of the purely political office of Minister of Justice from that of the more professional office of Attorney General. Government also needs to resuscitate the moribund Director of Public Prosecution who appears to be no where when the government really needs his professional services. Sierra Leone with a lawyer as President and the next two in line for the presidency - the Vice President and the Speaker of Parliament - all being lawyers, is presently a joke in international jurisprudence.

As for the real crux of this article - the deliberations by the justices of the so-called special court for Sierra Leone over the issuance of the subpoena ad testificandum to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to appear as a witness for the Defence, it must be a matter of utmost urgency for the Trial Chamber to rule on this matter before Chief Hinga Norman completes his testimony. The court if it wishes to maintain any semblance of international integrity cannot be seen as a place of refuge for incompetent legal advisers to the President of Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone and the international community have come to accept albeit grudgingly that the court is independent of the government. It must now act quickly to compel Mr. Kabbah and any others who have relevant testimonies of exculpatory nature to appear before the court without undue delays. If Mr. Carew wants to take lessons in constitutional and international law, he should do that on his own time and at his own expense. The people of Sierra Leone and the international community are in no mood for juju law or selective justice.

So Just What is Mr. Kabbah Hiding?
One would expect that having asked the UN to establish the so-called special court for Sierra Leone, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah would be jumping through the hoops to do whatever it takes to facilitate the trial of his former Deputy Minister of Defence and Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief Sam Hinga Norman. Instead Mr. Norman has had to resort to a subpoena making his former boss a de facto hostile witness for the Defence. So what would Mr. Kabbah be trying to hide from the world? Perhaps his government and family’s implications with the establishment and support of CDF which the President now disavows? Perhaps secrete deals that were entered into with external benefactors to facilitate the establishment of the court? Or perhaps funds and logistics earmarked for the CDF through the Office of the President which never made it to the CDF such as the well publicized funds from the US-based Tegloma Organization which Chief Hinga Norman now states he never "touched with my hands"? Whatever his reasons might be, there are three patriots who have been arrested and jailed for carrying out Mr. Kabbah’s wishes who would like to ask the President some questions regarding who planned, funded or in any way contributed to the alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions and Crimes Against Humanity for which they are now being prosecuted we think unjustly.

Alfred Munda SamForay,
Hinga Norman-CDF Defence Fund.

Photo: President Kabbah