By: Rev. Fr. Gabriel Luseni CSSp CKC Bo.
Corruption in Sierra Leone is due largely to the fact that many Sierra Leoneans have made themselves to believe that corruption is an easy, profitable and convenient way of not only earning a living, but of living in luxury.
What, for example. on earth can a man do with four or five houses when thousands of his neighbours are living in shacks in ghettos in our cities and towns? That, to me, is a lack of a moral conscience. It only breeds vanity upon vanities and gross injustices in a nation that has just come back from the brink of disintegration in a civil war.
The British Diplomat, His Excellency Peter Penford, addressing our National Consultative Conference held in Freetown, before the Lome Peace talk on Sierra Leone in 1999, had very aptly described the situation in Sierra Leone that they were dealing with in the following nerve-breaking words:
"The tragedy with Sierra Leone is that her people are among the poorest in the world, while the country is among the richest; the reasons for this are entirely man-made. Other countries in the world are poor because of natural disasters, few resources, unfertile territory, or bulging populations. Not so in Sierra Leone. God blessed this country with abundance of resources. Just a relatively few are responsible for the misery and hardship suffered by many" ( Berewa E. S. 2011, A New Perspective on Governance, Leadership, Conflict and Nation, pg 33).
Twenty years after Peter Penford's description of the sociopolitical and economic situations of Sierra Leone in such graphic terms, the current President of Sierra Leone H. E. Julius Maada Bio, who was then also a key player in that negotiation for pesce in Sierra Leone ( as a young Military Head of State of Sierra Leone), has similar words, if not more, on the situation of Sierra Leone, even today, as now a democratically elected president of Sierra Leone (2018+).
This is for example, part of what President Bio had said at the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry in January 2019 to investigate corruption and accountability in the outgoing APC-led Government headed by the former President Dr. Ernest Bai-koroma for ten years ( (2007-2018):
"...... Corruption remains the single most critical deterrent to the development of Sierra Leone. It impedes human capacity development in every country. When monies meant for educating children and youth population are stolen by just a few people, that is a threat to our national development; when monies meant for providing health care facilities or ensuring food security for every Sierra Leonean, are stolen by few people, that is a threat to our national development.... When people fraudulently convert public funds and resources to their own private use, waste public funds with impunity and abuse their offices and authority to the detriment of millions of Sierra Leoneans, that is a threat to us as a nation. And we must also be very clear that when people who occupy public offices, steal public monies or engage in other forms of corruption, they do so not on behalf of their tribe or their region or their political party. Rather, they do so individually or as a group, and they must be held accountable...... The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( TRC), report has continued to remind us loudly that corruption was one of the main causes of the bloody civil war in our country. Despite Anti-Corruption laws in 2000 and amended in 2008, Governance institutions and national development have been perennially weakened" ( President Bio).
It was on this background of the experience of a bloody civil war, of poverty and rampant state institutionalized corruption that President Julius Maada Bio appointed in 2018, no other person than Francis Ben Kaifala, Esq, to wage a peaceful Democratic war again that moral and social evil in our midst called corruption which is impeding all the development Programmes of our nation.
And Ben Kaifala in his wisdom and the interest of his nation, had put aside all other personal interests, including further "personal international engagements, better paid jobs, and had faithfully accepted his appointment as the new Anti-Corruption Commissioner, from the office of his State President, Julius Maada Bio.
At the time of his appointment as the new ACC boss, Ben had observed that many people Sierra Leone saw actions of corruption as fashionable in our country. Some people even praised and protected the interests of certain people in high offices who were deeply involved in massive acts of corruption.
But Ben in his wisdom and Christian religious faith had said to himself that enough was enough; that corruption should no longer be allowed to exist as a business as usual, in Sierra Leone. Therefore corruption must be stopped or impeded in its way, thereby prevented it from spreading further and deeper in the society and the State institutions around the country.
So Ben Kaifala took a personal oath, and he made it clearly known to the people of his country Sierra Leone, at his first Press conference after his appointment.
Relaying on the conference place in him and with the support of his employer, President Bio, and the cooperation of his co-workers at the AC, Francis Ben Kaifala had said the following:
"We will make corruption a high risk and low return venture. There will be no incentive for one to be involved in corruption going forward".( ACC Public Education Office, B. A. Kargbo, June 2022).
To my mind, and looking at all that Ben Kaifala has been saying and doing in his four years as the Anti-Corruption Commissioner of Sierra Leone, I now believe that Ben Kaifala has made a tremendous success story for all Sierra Leoneans, at home and abroad, in the discharge of his duty by curbing corruption in our country Sierra Leone.
Ben Kaifala should be highly praised and congratulated on this his 4th anniversary as head in the office of the AC.
Today, Ben has proven to all in Sierra Leone that the idea which most Sierra Leoneans have come to believe in that corruption is fashionable in every human life, relationships and social responsibilities is a false and crooked lifestyle. It can be only a myth, and never a really.
That corruption can be fought against and in a long term, overcome Therefore such a mythical idea should no longer exist in our country.
We should, in any case, not forget that Sierra Leone has had her fair share of the evil ravages of corruption. In the last decades preceding, and during our civil war of 1991-2002, we saw the rise in the scourge of corruption. The result of such widespread corruption has been a loss of legitimacy of State Institutions.
It is not until 2008 that we see the enactment and the passing into law of the Anti-Corruption Act and with its amendment in 2019 inspired by Francis Ben Kaifala and under his guide that the national demand for a robust accountability becomes more vocefarous than ever before.
In the years preceding Been Kaifala, Anti-Corruption policy makers have considered the fight against Corruption only as a function of enforcement. The result has been a series of laws and agencies coming up that concentrate only on penal actions. However our experience in Sierra Leone has revealed that unless the causes of corruption are addressed, and the society empowered to stand up for its rights, the political will is created to make unpalatable decisions, Corruption will continue unabated.
That is exactly what Ben Kaifala understands about corruption in Sierra Leone; actions and not mere policies.
Sierra Leone belongs to every Sierra Leonean and calls for change in the way we run our affairs with the view of curbing the menace of corruption being Paramount.
This is exactly what Francis Ben Kaifala and the ACC have put a handle on in their four years of service to our nation. Ben and President Bio created the political will, and let all all Sierra Leoneans know that Sierra Leone belongs to everyone, and that needs our change of attitude towards acts of corruption.
Ben Kaifala has let all Sierra Leoneans today know that corruption is a moral and sociopolitical evil that should no longer be tolerated in our country Sierra Leone in this 21st century.
The ACC has achieved this through its public civic education, the retrieval of stolen and misappropriated monies,
Confiscation of personal assets of corrupt people. Court Prosecutions, settlement out of court, etc.
With Ben as head of the ACC, the involvement of the people of Sierra Leone in fighting against Corruption is just fantastic.
To present, the ACC has retrieved, with the help of the people, out of court settlements to the tune of some 34 Billion Leones which has been given over to the Governance through the State President, for national use.
Ben Kaifala has also involved the international Community in the studying of his ACC engagements and in assessing it. The perception of the international Community about our country Sierra Leone is very favourable and top of their rating.
Francis Ben Kaifala and his ACC have not absolutely eradicated corruption in our country Sierra Leone, but they are successfully bringing corruption to its barest minimum.
My heartfelt Congratulations to Francis Ben Kaifala and to all the staff of our ACC, on their 4th Anniversary of faithful service to our nation Sierra Leone.
©: THE HURRICANE ( The Story of Corruption and Accountability in Sierra Leone, 2021) .
Rev. Fr. Gabriel Luseni CSSp CKC Bo.