From the Editor’s Keyboard

Why Sierra Leone Cannot Afford To Have The ACC Fail

By  | 11 April 2010 at 00:19 | 581 views

The incessant castigation of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), witnessed especially during the Commission’s recent corruption investigation of the erstwhile Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Haja Afsatu Kabba by segments of the Sierra Leone press and APC party members, highlights the myopic self-interest, party-over-country motivation that for decades has paralyzed the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone.

This current saga brings to mind memories of a similar anti-corruption drive in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, spearheaded by the indefatigable Sierra Leonean progressive patriot the late Mr. Alfred Akibo-Betts, against corrupt members of the civil service and the APC government of Siaka Stevens. While powerful political forces succeeded then in scuttling the laudable anti-corruption drive, dubbed "Vouchergate", we must today as a society collectively prevent the ACC from failing in achieving its constitutional mandate of fighting public corruption.

The press which should be the vanguard institution demanding and promoting probity and accountability on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, in her existential fight against corruption, is once again allowing itself to be manipulated by corrupt politicians who seek to circumvent the rule of law, institutions of governance and accountability the nation is strenuously striving to establish.

The blind allegiance exhibited by some editorial writers and especially Ms. Slyvia Blyden, the publisher of Awareness Times, in opposition to investigations of Haja Afsatu Kabba and the reasons adduced for such bothers from the outright frivolous to a fundamental misunderstanding of the processes of the rule of law and the independent investigative powers inherent in the ACC Act.

The efforts at de-legitimization of the ACC and its Commissioner, Mr. Abdul Tejan Cole by supporters of the corruption-indicted Haja Afsatu Kabba and suspended NRA Commissioner, Allieu Sesay in cohort with certain powerful APC party hacks must be publicly resisted at all costs by patriotic Sierra Leoneans, who believe not only in the rule of law but the fundamental, holistic and systemic approach of the ACC in dismantling corruption. It is only those benefiting from the continued corruption status quo that seem to find fault in investigations that largely have resulted in very positive dividends in the fight against corruption.

The media must be made to understand that corruption trials cannot be conducted in the press, but rather in a court of law, where evidence and witnesses are proferred and subjected to the rigors of trial and cross examinations, with logical deductions and decisions on guilt rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The ramifications of corrupt practices, ranging from mal-nutrition of vulnerable children, high infant mortality rates, lack of basic services and infrastructural development to the calamity of the civil war on the general population have been monumental in the Sierra Leone context and as such the valuable work of confronting those accused should not be subjected to levity and self-interest.

Let us be real here, Sierra Leone has for decades had the dubious distinction as one of the most corrupt nations in the world; a pervasive corruption that has largely stymied development of her peoples and establishment of basic services. As such an indictment against a politician should not be a surprise to any rational political observer. In fact just a few days prior to Haja Kabba’s indictment, the erstwhile Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mr. Sheku Koroma was convicted of public corruption, upon indictment by the same media-castigated Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) and sentenced to five years imprisonment or a fine of one hundred and fifty million Leones.

While the president must be commended for the swift manner he has again been forced to relieve one of his indicted cabinet ministers, thus sending a strong message against public corruption in his administration, he needs to publicly do more by reaffirming his commitment to the institutions of governance charged with eradicating the cankerworm of corruption. In this regard, we urge the presidency to make a public statement in support of the work of the ACC and related corruption fighting institutions and to admonish his party members who seem to be undermining the integrity of the very institutions the nation currently relies on in this laudable fight to cease and desist.

The independence of the ACC especially as relates to investigations of corruption must remain sacrosanct and devoid of any political interference and intimations. The machinations of the press by corrupt politicians and public servants must not be allowed to torpedo this national fight against public corruption. Any attempts to thwart the people’s desire and president’s avowed goal of combating corruption in all its forms and manifestations must be denounced, for our country and especially the ACC can no longer afford to fail in its fight against public corruption.