The Government of Sierra Leone led by President Julius Maada Bio is being called upon to “…take bold steps in ensuring accountability and making sure that those response for such ecnomic crimes are held accountable under national and international justice system.”
The call was made on last Thursday by the newly established International Justice Group (IJG) which is dedicated to researching, investigating, documenting , exposing and holding accountable, through the international justice system, individuals and groups that are responsible, support and aid the commission of such acts.
The IJG cited what it described as a report of “an astonishing level of fiscal indiscipline and rampant corruption by former ruling All People Congress (APC) Government of President Ernest Koroma,” adding it “had led to the near collapse of Sierra Leone’s economy by the time the Government of President Julius Maada Bio was sworn into office.”
In citing the dire economic issues facing the West African country, the IJG said, “…the economy was left burdened with external debt amounting to $16 billion USD, a domestic debt amounting to Le $4.99 trillion or USD $658 million and an exploded payroll (salaries and other compensation for government employees of Le 2 trillion (USD $263 million) or 14.4% of the GDP.”
In July, two former top officials of the Sierra Leone government were arrested in an anti-corruption crackdown. Former Vice President Victor Forh was charged with various counts of public funds embezzlement and mis management while a former Mines Minister, Mansaray Minkailu is facing charges for his involvement in the questionable sale of a stake in a mining project to a family member of former President Ernest Koroma at a rather low price.
The former ruling APC and President Koroma have rejected the charges of corruption.
Speaking after receiving a report from a special 12 person commission in July, President Bio stated, ““Corruption is at a level that can destroy this nation”, adding then “I consider the level of corruption that we have met as a national security issue.”
In its call to the Sierra Leonen President, the IJG in its blog said, “Despite tremendous natural resources, Sierra Leone is a national regarded as one of the poorest in the world . About 205 of children die before their 5th birthday because of poverty and poor health, youth unemployment is high and women are struggling to make ends meet…”
In a separate development and just across the border, the IJG has pointed a finger at Liberian President George M. Weah for his continued refusal to implement the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
“…Liberian President George Manneh Weah, like his predecessor former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has failed to show any sign of interest in the administration of justice for the victims of the Liberian conflict,” the group charged.
The IJG held that, ” under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses a serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 group and others.
In a blog statement issued on last Thursday on its website, the Weah government was put on notice that the IJG, with its networking partners organizations and institutions, will seek accountability, adding, “This is not a difficult thing for President Weah.”
No one has faced prosecution in Liberia for serious human rights violations, or war and economic crimes perpetrated by major actors since the submission of the TRC Final Report to government in 2009. Liberia was wracked by back to back war starting in 1979 in which nearly and estimated 250,000 people were killed and about 1 million others were internally and externally displaced by roving bands of rebels. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone where rebels reportedly hacked off limbs of victims and killed thousands others.
In a statement recently attributed to President Weah at a meeting with members of the opposition, he defended his government’s position of not going after endemic government corruption or the prosecution of war crimes because he said all Liberians are inter-related some how.
The statement has drawn fierce criticisms from some Liberians who are mounting pressure for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal. President Weah is expected to visit the UN General Assembly in New York on September 26 where diaspora Liberians are planning a peaceful protest against his presence and urge him to fully implement the country’s TRC Report including the setting up of a war crimes court.
“… Besides, the reason every notable institution and groups are calling for investigations into crimes that were committed during the Liberian war is not necessarily to punish those bear the greatest responsibility as some may seem to think. It is also intended to exonerate individuals and groups that have been maligned for acts they may have not committed as well as hold responsible those who committed certain heinous acts and yet feel justified…: the IJG noted.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine