Corruption, Greed, Injustice And Humanitarian Assistance In Sierra Leone: The Slpp Government A Case Under Review
By Mark V. Kollie, Reseach Associate
Africa Analysis International, AAI
Field Service Network, Freetown, Sierra Leone
November 26, 2002
Briefing No. 007
Now that the brutal war in Sierra Leone is over and peace, though still illusive, is gradually advancing throughout the country, many quarters including the international community seem to be loosing sight of some of the key factors that facilitated the brutality and savagery of the senseless death and destruction in the country. The rush for repatriation, reconstruction and economic recovery largely preoccupy all, particularly the Kabba- Berewa Government, while the pillars of future stability, reconciliation and national progress have been neglected once again.
The SLLP regime hides under the shadow of the international community, particularly the United Nations, to seek continued humanitarian aid, grants from foundations and others while at the same time remaining a vehicle for corruption and injustice, as well as the breeding ground for uncontrolled greed, both for state power, wealth and unguided social influence.
During AAI’s research over the last two weeks in the country, it has been noted that every facet of the country is highly corrupt. There is widespread corruption in both the public and private sectors. This is one reason why the government, despite the vast natural resources the nation has, mainly in diamonds etc, still nails much count and hope on and from international relief assistance. There can be no reasonable excuse that since the country is just coming from war, relief assistance remains the only or sole option. AAI has noticed widespread corruption in the security arena, civil service system, and mainly within the political high-ups. Almost all of the top officials in government are either “diamond agents” or principal ”conduit” for diamond smuggling outside of the country.
Accordingly, our secondary sources indicate that even at the presidency, the diamond affairs is at the heart of running the country. There are many who have said and openly too, that the President and his second in command are not exempted from the personal mining business, just that they have high level proxies in these arrangements.
It can be recalled that the President once fired and jailed his communications and transport minister, Momoh Pujeh and his wife, for the diamond spree. This has created party discontent and personal negative sentiments in the party leadership, particularly between President Kabba and ex- minister Pujeh, the man who funded the SLLP campaign in the process from the army boys (AFRC regime) to participatory democracy. But this was not enough, the regime needed to transcend further, which as of yet its leadership refuses to do. So the question is, does the country need relief at all, or awareness against corruption, thief and greed?
In terms of legal competence, Sierra Leone is one of the most blessed in West Africa. But the level of injustices and specifically the high rate of passive human rights abuses that take place are totally unimaginable. One reason for this, as revealed from our intensive fact-findings, is that the country leadership is inept and not in touched with reality. The country notorious security prison, Padema Road Prison, has access to many innocent civilians who usually are not charged for any commission of an act; but are threw in jail unconstitutionally. That this is against the laws of the land is neither of the Kabba- Berewa concern, though President Kabba is a United Nations veteran and Berewa a Lawyer. The condition in the Padema Road Prison had been terrible and inhumane until the ICRC, UNHCR and others intervened decisively in recent time.
In a country of known legal legendaries, one is threw in prison not only without charge, but even a writ of arrest is never seen and legal process to determine guilt or innocence is a matter of fate, and one’s ability to bribe the hungry security and corrupt judicial workers in a land that count on humanitarian relief assistance for its own man made disaster.
TREATMENT OF REFUGEES
Sierra Leone is a refugee producing country. Like Liberians, many Sierra Leoneans are out of their land not because they want to, or that they are side takers in the political mess that caused their most brutal and senseless war. They flee as refugees in consequence of untold insecurity and acute suffering meted on them by their fellow countrymen for no reason other than mere wickedness. Of course, President Kabba and most of his top lieutenants were of recent refugees in neighboring countries due to founded fear of persecution from the RUF or the Junta. As refugees, President Kabba and his number two, Berewa including others were never arrested and detained for coming from a country that has elements who caused others not only to flee but committed some of the world’s worst crime against humanity.
The situation under the SLLP regime of which UN veteran Kabba and Lawyer Berewa sit in the driver’s seat is appalling. The rights of refugees are grossly violated. Liberian refugees who escaped from the wrath of Taylor’s despotic regime, known internationally for its massive abuse of human rights, are raided under the pretense of arrest and threw in jail without writ, charge or due legal process in a “country of law”.
AAI has recorded hundreds of Liberian refugees and asylum seekers including former Liberian rural development minister Amos B. Lincoln, and businessmen Musa Bility and Sediki Dukuly. These refugees are lingering in the prison -cells of the police CID section in unacceptable conditions. Of the hundreds of Liberian refugees and asylum seekers illegally and inhumanely arrested and detained by the Sierra Leone regime, close to forty percent (40%) has been forcibly repatriated to Liberia in recent time for Taylor’s persecution. Why should the Kabba - Berewa regime in Freetown commit this internationally illegal error remains a wonder.
It seems also that the SLLP- Kabba / Berewa regime is not only afraid of Taylor, but that it admires his (Taylor) ability to inflict pains and suffering on people as was in the case of the hundreds of Sierra Leonean children including the one President Kabba took to the Lome Peace Conference whose hands Taylor/ Sankoh RUF rebels chopped up just for being a citizen in a country that is ruled by the very Kabba.
From classified information, asylum seeker Amos Lincoln and refugees Musa Bility (whose younger brother Jounalist Hassan Bility suffers incommunicado detention at the moment in Taylor’s Liberia) and Sediki Dukuly serving detention in Freetown’s CID cell are to be repatriated forcibly to Liberia any time by the SLLP Government for another persecution by Taylor. With this animal farm failure story there are others who think and strongly believe that the Kabba-Berewa Government has a common vested interest with the Taylor regime in Monrovia. Some point this special relationship to Libya, and Colonel Ghaddafi attempts to draw the SLLP leadership under President Kabba closer to Tripoli through financial inducement. Most likely, President Kabba is a prey to this Libyan scheme, which usually blinds most African leaders who are desperate for economic assistance.
While Taylor is falsely and arbitrarily arresting civilians, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and journalists in Monrovia for “connection” with a dissident group, LURD; the SLLP regime in Freetown is arresting, jailing and repatriating those Liberians who, as a result of fear of persecution, have fled Liberia as refugees in Sierra Leone. This act by the Kabba- Berewa regime is a gross violation of international law, convention and protocol relative to the protection of refugees.
THE WAY FORWARD
Sierra Leone is actually in need of international support and consideration. These are desperately needed in the areas of democratic enhancement, economic empowerment and social integration. However, there is a need for the international community to make the current SLPP regime understand and appreciate that accountability, transparency, self help initiative and the fundamental application of basic principles are intertwined with any form of humanitarian assistance, be it mere relief or technical support.
Outstanding amongst those basic principles are adherence to the norms of participatory democracy, promotion of a strong civil society, respecting and protecting human rights and civil liberties, appreciating and strengthening a free and independent media as well as supporting the rule of law and independent judiciary.
AAI therefore, urges the international community to reassess its humanitarian consideration for Sierra Leone, particularly under the Kabba Berewa Government until there can be convincing factors that manifest that the regime will not begin turning the country into a state of continued helplessness solely dependent on handouts.
Predictably, Sierra Leone still has a brighter political, social and economic future considering the much potential the country and people have, and the interest of the international community in its affairs. However, in order for this future to be realized as expected, the following are suggested to the international community and the country:
TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
1. That the international community suggests a setting up of a combined economic management Commission that will handle the country recovery program of reconstruction and national development;
2. That transparency, accountability, respect for human rights and the full and strict application of the rule of law be a yardstick for continued donor support to the SLLP regime and the country. Meaning the international community should assist human rights and civil society groups covering the country as watch dogs in order for the full review of the above; and
3. That humanitarian assistance to the country must be strictly transformed from intangible relief to industrial empowerment throughout the country. This will provide employment opportunities and social-psychological fulfillment for the population.
TO THE SLLP GOVERNMENT
1. That the Kabba Berewa SLLP regime begin a program or process of active analysis of its successes and failures so as to learn lessons that could be used in forging the country ahead;
2. That the House of Parliament takes a stand and its proper place in making sure that the laws of the land and certain other considerations necessary for the enhancement of peace and stability are complied with by the Executive Branch of Government;
3. That the Government concentrates on rural economic and social empowerment rather than limiting its control and activities to the capital, Freetown. This will ease the problems of congestion, overpopulation, as well as provide avenue for income earning and development; and
4. That the SLLP regime, with immediate effect, desists from harassing, detaining and forcibly repatriating asylum seekers and refugees back to countries where there are very high chances of persecution that could result to the lost of life.
The just ended nightmare of bloodshed and situation of hunger and displacement in Sierra Leone could be repeated if the international community does not come down hard on the regime in the country and its people. The country has potentials and the required resources it takes a nation to be developed and, for its citizens to be able to at least afford the average lifestyle.
One reason why this is not possible, and for which the bloody but senseless war speed up is greed for all, - power, wealth and social influence. The way to halt this is for an urgent intervention to be made in addressing emerging problems now.