All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

August 2, 2009

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 7 No 9

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

Contact us
UK Serious Fraud Office
World Association for Human Rights - USA
National Union of Journalists (UK)
BBC African Service
UN Great Lakes
Writer Adichie
Southwark Council
Mano Vision
S.L. Web
Africa Week
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
Trial Watch
International Criminal Court
One World
Royal African Society
University of
East London


President Tejan Kabbah's conversation with Tim Sebastian of the BBC's Hard Talk. Excerpts from sections dealing with Corruption and the Special Court

(Tim Sebastian)TS: Britain has been insisting Mr President that you crack down on corruption…Clare Short actually said that you only have a handful of ministers and officials helping you and this is not good enough. She said that when she visited in February. People are still getting away with corruption in high places, aren’t they?

(President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah)TK: I will not say there is no senior corrupt official in Sierra Leone. You must have heard of the United States and allegations of corruption involving senior officials. I think for anybody to say that you will get rid of corruption in any country to the extent of one hundred percent elimination of corruption is a dream.

TS: Let talk about one case if we may. The allegation against the former minister of Transport and Communication, Momoh Pujeh. He was arrested last year for allegedly been involved in illicit mining. The Anti Corruption Commission investigated this and two reports are with the Attorney-General and Justice minister and no charges were ever brought. Why not?

TK: I’ll tell you why not. The Anti Corruption Commission investigated this and immediately, to show you the independence of the Anti Corruption Commission, they never told me that they were going to arrest the minister until two minutes after they had done it. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that immediately I heard that, I suspended the minister from his job.

TS: What’s happening to him now?

TK: Let me tell you the chronology of it. After about four weeks or so the ACC used the law which I introduced in parliament and froze all the assets of the minister to the extent that he didn’t have money to even feed his family. And then at that point I called them and the Attornet-General and said ‘’What is happening?’’

TS: Did you put pressure on them to drop the investigation?

TK: Oh certainly not. I called them. I said what is happening to this case? They said there were two issues involved. One was the Anti Corruption Act and the other was the Diamond (Smuggling) Mining Act. As far as they were concerned, the police had been instructed to take action against the minister for the diamond offence.

TS: But no action has been taken and your vice president actually told the world that the issue of Mr Pujeh does not fall under the purview of the Anti Corruption Commission..

TK: Please this is what I am trying to explain to you. One issue was that it did not fall under the purview of the Anti Corruption Commission....(verbal sparks over independence of the ACC)... People who inform you don’t understand these things. I am a lawyer talking to you so I understand what I am talking about. According to the Anti Corruption Act, all offences that come under the Anti Corruption Act must go to the Attorney-General for him to take legal action to prosecute the people concerned.

TS: Your Anti Corruption Commission is already labelled as a toothless chimpanzee..(Another show of impatience/anger, ruffled)

TK: If you’re going to listen to what other people who do not mean well for the country tell you and you expect me to concur with you then I think you are making a mistake. I would not do it.

TS: Your own (Sierra Leone) Concord Times newspaper says: ‘’The little time left is for us and our government to be written off by Britain and this will come about if we continue to wallow in shameless coverage of dignified State criminals as we are doing just now’’. You reject that?

TK: That of course is complete rubbish. I will not accept that and is untrue. That is the situation as far as that’s concerned.

TS: Do you think prosecutions are going to come out of this (allegations of corruption based on anti corruption findings)?

TK: I am sure one hundred percent. Also people forget that we are just coming out of a war and as you have said ten years of brutal war

TS: But you said that corruption threatens your national security?

TK: Of course that is what I said and I mean it. What people forget to realise is that our law courts for example were damaged, burnt down. Thanks to the British government, we have rehabilitated it and it was just a few weeks ago that the court started sittings again.

TS: You have a Special Court, but you’ve limited it to crimes committed after 1996 when some of the serious crimes were committed before 1996. Why?

TK: Simple. We asked the Security Council that we would like the mandate of the Special Court to go right on to the time when the war started (1991) and for funding reasons, they rejected it.

TS: But this was set up by an Act of your Parliament and it could be amended by an Act of Parliament.

TK: No. No. It is not as simple as that. Someone has to pay the cost of running the court.

TS: So justice comes down to money?

TK: You want to do many things in this world, but you are limited by money. All of us go through that and so we thought that well let us start it this way first. But in fact what I had intended was from independence (1961)to now. All those violent crimes and crimes against humanity that had been committed should all face the Special Court. But the question was this would take a long time with the investigations and the cost involved we cannot afford. Right now for example we are struggling to get money to fund the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

TS: Clare Short told you that you have to clean up your act fast. This is the language that she used. She said ‘’Sierra Leone’s got to clean up its act fast if it is to remain at peace and offer a better future to its children’’. You don’t have long, do you?

TK: No. On the other hand I have just last week received a cable from the British Foreign Secretary saying to me ‘’You’ve done from what you said in Parliament last Friday. We are so pleased with what you said and we are going to be with you to do everything to clear up, particularly to help you to get things back to normal. Particularly to fight corruption.

TS: Do you resent it – when a British minister comes out to tell you to clean up your act?

TK: Why should I when I know that somebody is sincere about helping. Why should I when somebody has the same view about resolving our problems? Oh no I have no problem about somebody criticising my government over something which I know is wrong

TS: Then you share the sense of urgency?

TK: Absolutely, absolutely

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002