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Government and people look at Sorious’ African Investigates from different spectrums in Sierra Leone

The Government of Sierra Leone sees an opportunity in the Aljazeera-backed Sorious’ Africa Investigates documentary to “institute a detailed investigation of the several issues raised that suggest a serious breach of the ongoing moratorium on the logging industry in Sierra Leone”, a Government press release states in part, which stacks squarely against the different position the people hold on the story that Sorious is notorious for dragging their country in disrepute. On Wednesday, 23rd November 2011, Aljazeera aired the Sierra Leone segment of its Africa Investigates series which was suppose to expose corruption by senior members of government in a Government of Sierra Leone banned timber logging and export trade.

According to the expressed popular sentiment by the people in the country nationwide, the causative agent for the unfolding media outrage cannot be far-fetched from the ensuing drama of power politics and political intrigue. The national Electoral Commission (NEC) has announced the date for presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in 2012. The aphorism that do evil that good may come can be discerned not just in the breath of fresh air therein for democracy but the resultant double reaffirmation that the Government and its people have respect for press freedom and tolerance for freedom of expression. The Government of Sierra Leone demonstratively succumbing to Africa investigates documentary in the face of popular opinion that the whole thing is a hoax hurriedly put together by an agent of yellow journalism and partly motivated by power politics, goes without saying that State House is bending over backwards to demonstrate an unwillingness to go against a powerful cable network like Aljazeera. This awakens the sentiment expressed by one Africanist that Africa is incapable of talking to itself nonetheless to the whole world. Thus it cannot be completely unconnected motivating factor and reasoning behind the Middle East Doha based-Aljazeera initiative. On the popular late night talk-show, DJ-Base, on the 26th November 2011, the Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. I.B. Kargbo was showered with sms text messaging, mostly dismissive or critical of the Aljazeera-backed Africa Investigates documentary as a hoax, as a political conspiracy against the Vice President, Hon. Chief Sam Sumana, as a derogatory publication to bring the image of the country down or even as a lead to investigate corruption in high places. In his response, I.B. Kargbo stated that “there is no conspiracy to remove the Vice President”. But Tam Bayoh, another popular talk-show host has it differently when he fired back, stating that I.B. Kargbo’s statement is “lie”. Tam Bayoh further accused I.B. Kargbo of conspiracy when he stated that, “since the I.B. Kargbos and others cannot connive with the local media to join them in their campaign to remove the VP, they went outside looking for agents to do their bidding. Indeed, by the look of things, it appears that the local media is perfectly united against what they have referred to as “yellow journalism” in Sierra Leone. The Editor-in-Chief for the Awareness Times newspaper, Sylvia Blyden wasted no time in exposing Sorious lies in a comparative video footage she shot to prove that Sorious hastily assembled a documentary to tie the Vice President to corruption when he tried hard to show that alleged bribery transaction ensued in the Office of the Vice President whereas the transaction actually took place in the office of one Momoh Konte, who has been wrongly portrayed in the documentary as an advisor to the Vice President. Philip Neville, Editor-in-Chief of Standard Times newspaper on Star Radio Good Morning Show condemned the documentary out rightly. Surely, there are all indications that the people are united around the above common position held by the fourth estate in Sierra Leone. One tormented citizen over the issue used the following sardonic line by Chinua Achebe in The Man of the People to paint a humorous picture of what obtains in the aftermath of the Africa Investigates media outrage in the country that “Sorious has been removing so much from the people of Sierra Leone until they have noticed, but he has removed now from a blind man for him to see him.” He maintains that “Sorious Samura is notorious for dragging our country’s image into disrepute. He had it fine for his wartime Cry Freetown in 2000 and has since plunged into becoming a foreign media propagandist against Africa. He uses every opportunity at making a buck or two from his connection with global cable networks. His Exodus from Africa, Living with Hunger and Living with Refugees, Africa’s Last Taboo and now Africa Investigates are all consistent with my opinion of him,” he concluded. It must be very difficult for I.B. Kargbo that night on DJ-Base to refer to Africa Investigates as a “deliberate attempt to destroy the reputation of this country” in a response to a popular outcry by the people after a government press release commended the documentary. Indeed, in the area of trade and fiscal responsibility regulations and policies, Sierra Leoneans have been very busy passing the following laws; The Other Financial Services Act, 2007, The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency Act, 2007, The Anti-Corruption Act, 2008. The Constitution of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act, 2008, The Finance Act, 2008, The Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Act, 2008, The Finance Act, 2009, The Mines and Minerals Act, 2009, The Goods and Services Tax Act, 2009, The Bankruptcy Act, 2009, The Companies Act, 2009, The Payment Systems Act, 2009, The Finance Act, 2010. For these, the country has earned many accolades from the Mo Abraham ease of doing business rating to the possibility of making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) threshold, the scaling up on the UN-Human Development Index (HDI) to the prospect of a 51% jump in GDP in 2012. “If Sorious is blind to all of the above, we see much in it to defend against a deliberate attempt to destroy the hard earned reputation of our country. And if our government does not see it in its ‘critical review of the documentary,’ we will not relent on enjoying the freedom of expression they offer us by calling and texting in all the radio and TV programmes they appear.” One Mohamed Jabbie from Kono called into the same DJ-Base talk-show and confessed his action in the past of stage-managing shows for Sorious. “I am an agent of stage-managing shows for Sorious in Kono which have gone on air and passed for reality show without any specter of suspicion that they are staged managed,” he stated. Compounded by Sylvia Blyden’s expose, Sorious promises to show his viewers where raw timber is being fell, instead, he takes them to a location where villagers scavenge on a large tree stump for firewood, which according to experts could not have dried and be ready for wood in three years. He ran copious commentaries over a still picture of the Vice President. The picture has been proven to be an old picture taken six months into his Vice Presidency by a local photojournalist in Freetown. About the concern of setting-up an alleged illegal logging company, Mr. Sheku Mansaray, Director of Forestry stated in an interview that there should not be any hue and cry over the registration of a timber logging company because companies are allowed to invest in developing their own plantation and can also set-up factories to invest in added value operations. “But my friend”, he smiled, “where do we get timber to build our houses and furniture if there is no logging going on. This so-called sting operation by Aljazeera is too generalized for my comfort.” The Business Registration and Companies Act along with the one-stop-shop for opening business completely dispels Sorious’ position that the undercover journalists posed as business men were able to register a business in a day whereas it will take several weeks to do so. This is completely a misrepresentation of what obtains in Sierra Leone in the area of registering a business. Mr. Raymond Gbekie, a Director at Sierra Leone Investment Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) told me that the most it can take to set-up a business ceteris paribus is fourty-eight hours and that the exercise is possible in twenty-four hours. By chance, I met Mr. Sahr Bongay, a local business man who was a long-time resident of London. He has now moved to Freetown upon the torment he sustained in the hands of Sorious’ treachery in London. He slammed the final blow to the credibility of Sorious when he explained that “he used to be my friend. After all my kindness of harboring him in my household when he had just arrived fresh off the boat. Once I was on a business trip, leaving him in my house, he slept with my wife and connived with her to sell my property. He has since moved to Basildon where he enjoys my wife and torments my 14-year old son. The man can do anything for money.” If that is the case, why can’t we defend our presidency, his domestic and international accomplishments and the image of our country from a man who “can do anything for money”?

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