By: David Yusuf Kabia, Public Education Officer, ACC
‘Let us all be patient and await the Chief to come and address us on these issues. Please’ Pa Kura tries to hush a vexed crowed of villagers awaiting the Chief of Dumgba Village after weeks of unrest surrounding it.
At the demise of the former chief, Pa Kura supported his son, now Chief, Kapr Senneh. He commands respects among villagers for his honesty and integrity which over the years have become his emblem. DumgbaVillage, lying on a sandy path along the hills of Konia District is home to a strong thicket surrounding it. It trees, boisterously greet strangers from its entrance with its waving leaves and windy noise. It is early morning in Dumgba Village and the noise of vehicles entering it from the capital summons traders and other locals to its lorry pack, a wide circle-like ground close by the village community centre, which used to be the old train station during colonial days. Curiously, villagers coming into the village from the capital this morning all keep watching in surprise as they are greeted by the varying voices that could make no sense to them as drivers tend to slow down ahead of the pack. From the highway into the village to the end where lies the carcass of what used to be the only means of transportation to and from the capital, ‘BorkorBana’, a black and yellow engine of the colonial train, villagers all walk to converge at the village’s community centre to hear what Kapr Senneh may have to say.
In his usual navy blue uniform lined with yellow ribbons on the sides of his trousers, the heavy bell of the community could be heard as Solo Kontho rings it signifying the passing of information. At this point, the waiting crowd peacefully got married to silence, waiting to hear every word Solo Kontho may have. “The Chief has sent me to you all”, he started as the villagers become more immersed in anticipation of his message. “Kapr Senneh says, he will soon be here to talk to you about the complaints that have brought all of you to the Community Centre.” Solo Kontho says.“We have waited here since this morning and all we could be told now is that he will soon talk to us? We’re tired. We’re tired. The old chief, his father was not like this. He treated us like his own and never for once took what belongs to us to give it to strangers or even sell them…we say no more cutting down of our trees without our consent…what benefit have we had since this timber logging began other than the destruction of our beautiful village? Our forests are gone, our swamps are quickly drying, destructive winds now unroof our houses and our children are getting sick without cure. What have we benefited? Nothing, yet the chief now lives in a mansion his father never had. He drives cars that we can only watch in movies. Our village clinic cannot boast of a single tablet even though the Government provides us with medicines and other medical supplies. Where do they go? We see strangers coming into our village and taking away our wealth yet we are this impoverished and grossly mistreated. We need answers. Yes we need answers”, a voice from the crowd grudgingly shouted.
Solo Kontho, holding the bell in his left hand quietly moves backwards and sits on a big log beside the village mosque pondering on what one of the villagers just said. “Come to think of it, this man has just opened my eyes. The old chief use to give me rice to take to my family at the end of every harvest. He helps my children and those of other people equally. He consults the entire village before taking any decision…look when the white men came to build him a house, he asked them to build the village community centre and the rice mill station to help farmers.” Pondering still on this, he willingly throws away the bell and overzealously joins the crowd. Solo Kontho has served both the late chief and the current. He knows all that is to be known and believes he can help create a change together with other villagers.
From the hills, the sun intervenes and the impatience seem to grow higher. The old Pa Kura walks quickly passed the crowd to join Solo Kontho who he has seen drop the village bell to join the agitating crowd. “What do you make of all this,” Solo Kontho asks as he stares deep into the eyes of the old man. Shaking his head in disappointment supporting his chin with his left hand, he said “I have been here so long to know that this chief and the other Government officials are not treating this village and us its people fairly. You and I have been with him all this while after his father died and we see the late night meetings he holds with people, not to talk about the moneys he receives. None of us ever benefited from those moneys nor helped in anyway…sometimes, I feel like God has forgotten us. The money sent by the Government to transform the village clinic to a bigger hospital that will cater for all the surrounding villages he’s yet to account for. The other day, he summoned the Regional Medical Superintendent and gave him a brand new Prado jeep and a bag full of money. What for? As if that is not enough, the rice brought for the school feeding programme under the Free Quality Education he has also sold over 70% of it and shares the money with the authorities sent by the Government to oversee the project…the people are crying over timber logging but you and I know that what they do not know far outweighs what they know.” Solo Kontho burst into tears holding hands with the old man. Crying bitterly, Solo Kontho recalls being sent by the chief late in the night. “When the police caught ‘those people’ with those illegal drugs, he was bribed with a jeep and Billions of (old) Leones right in front of my face just so the entire matter does not become a public subject.” “You talk as if I was not there?” Pa Kura corroborates as he hushes Solo Kontho. The Chief and some public officials it seems have made the village a wealth ripping tree from which their personal coffers are filled to the brim. Dumgba Village is rich is fertile soil, which over centuries accounts for its agricultural prowess; its forests are rich and never a victim to timber logging; its rivers provide fish and other marine benefits for the people but today, the village seems to be in the hands of authorities who prefer to sell it for personal benefits. As these two feel the pains of the community and others, they seek for a solution to their problem.
From afar, a big black neatly mold Range Rover Sports 2023 edition creeps in slowly towards the impatient crowd. “Turn around Or Solo, he’s here finally with his corrupt wife and council.” Pa Kura points at the Chief’s car approaching them. “But what do we do now?” Solo Kontho asks while hissing at the passing vehicle. “This boy is not bigger than the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). There are contacts which their officials going to the radio always give out to the public in case corruption is noticed so to be reported. You and I know that what we have been witnesses to in that house is more than mere corruption. We can report him quietly and I think the ACC refers to that as ‘Whistleblowing’, which means exposing corruption. Or Solo, I am willing and ready to expose this corrupt chief in the interest of my people and community. We have suffered enough…” the old man laments. “Korthor Kura, don’t worry. I have all those contacts. They are, 077985985 and 077986986. With these contacts we can report to them the degree of bribery that this chief is into which is adversely at the expense of us the people and the community.” Solo Kontho discloses to Pa Kura. “But do you think it is the Chief alone that we are going to make a complaint against? The other public officials whom he has also been bribing and gifting must also be of interest. They are not supposed to take gifts from people especially when they are serving the public. The other day, the Public Relations Officer of the ACC was talking about how public officials should deal with gifts given to them one of which is to disclose the gift, which all of them he’s been bribing and gifting have not done.”
Hours after the chief had told the people that whatever their complaints must be directed to his wife and rudely left, the community got broken down with tears in the eyes of many as they miss the magnamous treatment they use to enjoy from the late chief. That day, Solo Kontho and Pa Kura did not return to the Chief’s house to work anymore as the Village Crier. Later in the evening, Solo Kontho makes the calls to the ACC about the corrupt nature of the chief and other public officials working in the village with enough evidence. In their report are videos and pictures of those gifts given and the moneys brought to the Chief late in the nights. The ACC’s intervention finds that the Chief and other public officials in Dumgba Village have engaged in a cartel of drug trafficking, bribery contrary to Section 50, Gift contrary to Section 51, Abuse of Office contrary to Section 42 and Abuse of Position contrary to Section 43 all of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 (as amended in 2019).
Under Section 81 of the Act, the brave act by Solo Kontho, the Village Crier was celebrated and compensated under the whistleblowing scheme of the Commission. He was protected and compensated for providing information on corruption and the evidence therewith. The chief was prosecuted, found guilty and imprisoned.
On a sunny day, the coronation of Solo Kontho as the Chief of Dumgba Village was a sight of tears of joy for all of the people. “Finally, we have another father with the fear of God to rule his people right. Kapr Kontho’s honesty and integrity has been the most popular story in the mouths of all of the people of Dumgba Village. He rather prefers to die of hunger than take that which does not belong to him. He would wrong his relatives in the open without fear. Today, I feel fulfilled to see you on this throne, my son. You will live long in good health to rule your people in honesty and integrity.” The old Pa Kura speaks as tears run speedily from his eyes.
From every corner of Dumgba Village, the drums drum the sweet melodies of culture, joy and fulfilment. Merriment for the new chief is everywhere and the old adage that “remain good to enjoy good” once again becomes the truth on the wall for all to see.