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Coloring Corruption! the Sierra Leone Landscape

2012 is here. It is a time for reflection on the successes, challenges and limitations of 2011. It should also be for all Sierra Leoneans a time for resolutions, improvements on deficiencies, and shortcomings of the past year without regret, to rekindle aspirations, and to reinforce the determination to assure the development of our country.

Whilst there is no single definition for corruption, a common description is that it involves the misuse of public office, funds or public power for private gain by offering or promising anything of value-whether directly or indirectly in order to obtain, retain or direct business or to secure any other improper advantage in the conduct of business or personal aggrandizement.

Conversely, corruption involves the demanding or accepting of anything of value by such a person, as a condition to conferring business or other improper advantage whether directly or indirectly. Corruption is often associated with greed, organized crime, and money laundering.

Prof. Joe A.D Allie, in a Public Lecture commented that “Corruption is a very emotive word and each time this vice is mentioned in public it provokes very lively debate. This is partly because public trust in many governments and the rule of law has been eroded by corruption. Another reason is the negative role corruption plays in our lives and in the overall development of a country”.

Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon. In other words, it is not peculiar to so-called Third World countries. The Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu once told a gathering of world leaders that corruption was manufactured in Europe, perfected in America and then transported to Africa where it has, no doubt, blossomed.

Analysing the causes of the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2001), the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) stated as follows:

While there were many factors, both internal and external, that explain the cause of the civil war, the Commission came to the conclusion that it was years of bad governance, endemic corruption and the denial of basic  human rights that created the deplorable conditions that made the war inevitable.  Successive regimes became increasingly impervious to the wishes and needs of the majority. Instead of implementing positive and progressive policies, each regime perpetuated the ills and self-serving machinations left behind by its predecessor. By the start of the conflict, the nation had been stripped of its dignity. Institutional collapse reduced the vast majority of people into a state of deprivation. Government accountability was non-existent. Political expression and dissent had been crushed. Democracy and the rule of law were dead. By 1991, Sierra Leone was a deeply divided society and full of the potential for violence. It required only the slightest spark for this violence to be ignited. 

In the Sierra Leone context, corruption has posed a thorny intellectual and social phenomenon for decades. As we approach elections, the subject has become more discursive and politically charged. Commentators, analysts, pundits, journalists, you name it; all clamour to give a shade over what is corruption and its impact.

In Sierra Leone today, corruption is defined and interpreted by the political party to which you belong or which part of the country you come from. Perpetrators of corruption are staunch backers of politicians, owners of media houses and patrons of ordinary folks through clientelism.

The country has witnessed over the years a ‘glamorization of corrupt officials’. They are held in high esteem with public display of ill-gotten wealth. Many a time, they don’t get caught, if they do, they don’t get charged, (the case of Okere Adams and NASSIT Ferry), if charged, they don’t get convicted (the case of Momoh Pujeh and that of Allieu Sesay), if found guilty, they don’t get fined (they are cautioned and discharged- The case of Philip Lukulay) and finally, no jail terms imposed! So, the question still lingers, what is the shade of corruption? Is it GREEN as in the Palm Tree, or Red as in the Sun, or a combination of both as in ORANGE? This is the PIK 3 Lottery in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. More importantly also, is it a case of the ACC charging the innocent, or the Judiciary freeing the guilty? This is the double edged sword in the fight against corruption.

The Anti Corruption Commission as the institution which takes the lead in fighting corruption has a greater responsibility in ensuring progress and accomplishment of national goals as measures of good governance by international bodies are predicated on the performance of the Commission.

This performance is not assessed by the number of convictions rather on the overall improvement of integrity of public officials, the efficient delivery of social services, and the achievements of public sector programs, directed at enhancing transparency and accountability. The success of the ACC in the fight against corruption is always measured through the color rims and eyes of the beholder. The likes of Lans Gberie, a Media Strategist for the Maada Bio Camp has commented that nothing much has been done in the fight. No surprises!.The ACC believes otherwise, citing laudable accomplishments in high profile prosecutions that have recently seen the Mayor of the City Council of Freetown and seven others of the Council indicted with 25 Counts for corruption and related offences and a Regional Medical Superintendent charged for pocketing backlog payment of nurses. Comments are free, but to distort facts, is disingenuous and fraudulent, remarked Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, Commissioner of the ACC, in reacting to a scathing article by Lans Gberie on BBC Focus on Africa Magazine. As members of the public, what, and who are we to believe, Lans Gberie, an international journalist, and Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, an internationally acclaimed Prosecutor? So, let’s look at independent assessment of corruption for ease of understanding.

I have had an opportunity to research the measuring tools of corruption agencies and found out that as a country, Sierra Leone is not doing too badly as compared to our neighbors and most other developing countries in the sub-region. So, why shouldn’t we appreciate the successes gained and strides achieved?

In the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, our country is ranked 134 out of 183 with an aggregate score of 2.5. The highest ever reached since independence. The Mo Ibrahim Index, another Good Governance measuring tool, ranked Sierra Leone 30 out of 53 African Countries, emphasizing that Sierra Leone is one of two countries with the most significant gains in Good governance and accountability in the year 2011. These are commendable strides, yet, there is room for more improvement.

Politics must take a back sit when we are on a national stage or we must learn to put country first before party or region in reality.   Thus in essence, corruption is neither GREEN nor RED or ORANGE. It is also not unique to a country, nation or continent, but rather a vice that is embedded in the psyche of a mortal that requires self discipline and contentment to be contained.

Posted by on 11:57 am. Filed under Breaking News, NEWS, POLITICS, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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