EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was sent to the parliamentary leader of the All Peoples Congress (APC) on 8th July 2022. It was written by Africanist Press Editorial Department in response to public statements made by a member of the APC party in Parliament providing defense for President Julius Maada Bio against corruption reports published by Africanist Press. We decided to publish the letter because opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), and their parliamentary leader, did not acknowledge receipt of the correspondence. They also refused to respond to the questions raised in the correspondence. However, it is important to state that while Parliamentarians in Sierra Leone would, most times, individually acknowledge the seriousness of the evidence published by the Africanist Press, they collectively refused to officially institute an investigation into the evidence of corruption, including documentary evidence of illegal disbursements by the Finance Ministry, tax evasion, and other financial crimes contained in Africanist Press reports covering the four years of the Maada Bio administration.
On 18th February 2021, for instance, opposition leaders wrote a joint letter to the Speaker of Parliament, cailling for the Ministry of Finance officials to be invited to Parliament. The two leading MPs claimed they want to investigate the scandalous details of illegal budgetary allocations to the Office of the First Lady; a non-statutory institution that the Africanist Press investigation had shown was actively receiving public funds. In the letter, the opposition leaders deliberately failed to mention Africanist Press as the source of the investigation. They instead attributed credit to the BBC, a news organization in London that reported the details of the Africanist Press investigation after interviewing Chernoh Alpha Bah, the lead investigator of the Sierra Leone reports. Although the two leading opposition parliamentarians of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and National Grand Coalition (NGC) wrote the said letter, they nonetheless made no follow-up steps to act on the evidence that warranted them to write the said letter. Thus, it was obvious that the letter itself was a pretentious move by the said MPs to avoid public scrutiny on why they refused to sincerely perform their parliamentary functions, including the duty to exercise the stipulated constitutional powers that allows them the right to oversee and probe into government financial operations.
In the last four months, Africanist Press has been investigating and supervising parliamentary activities in Sierra Leone. We discovered an entrenched alliance between opposition leaders in Parliament and the incumbent President; a relationship that has affected the enforcement of transparency and accountability laws and regulations across all sectors of the government. The corrupt relationship between Parliament and the Presidency has also affected the proper functioning of democracy and good governance in the country. In the last two months, Africanist Press began highlighting the twin relationship between financial corruption and political corruption, and the multiple ways this has affected the independence of state institutions, including the judiciary, the police department and other similar agencies. The seriousness of the levels of state capture in Sierra Leone led Africanist Press to recently initiate a weekly public lecture series featuring journalist Chernoh Alpha Bah (Lead Discussant) and Amadu Massally (Moderator). The weekly discussion series, functioning as a public education campaign, helps to raise awareness among Sierra Leoneans and international policy makers on the seriousness of the situation in Sierra Leone. In the first five weeks, we have discussed sufficiently the relationship between financial corruption and political corruption, and how these typologies of corruption results into state capture. We have also highlighted the impacts of state capture on democracy and multiparty politics; a subject that the Africanist Press investigative series hopes to explore in more greater detail. We aim to find out how Parliament and the judiciary, for example, have been used to undermine multiparty politics and the wider implications to good governance, accountability and participatory democracy.
It is in this context that the direct and indirect efforts of MPs to help cover-up the corruption of the Bio administration have to be understood. Our letter to the APC’s parliamentary leader and their refusal to acknowledge receipt of the letter, or respond to its queries illustrate why Parliament has not performed its constitutional responsibility to protect public funds and the public assets of Sierra Leone from administrative theft and vandalism.
Below is our Letter to the opposition Leader
8th July 2022
TO: Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah
All Peoples Congress (APC)
RE: Public Comment Posted on the Facebook Page of Honorable Lahai Marah Regarding Publications of Africanist Press on Corruption in Sierra Leone.
I write on behalf of Africanist Press to draw your attention to a public comment posted on the Facebook Page of Hon. Lahai Marah on Wednesday 30th June 2022 describing as “incorrect” the reports published by Africanist Press on corruption in Sierra Leone. Specifically, Mr. Marah stated that “all assertion against the present SLPP government of Sierra Leone on corruption and money laundering are not correct” and that he doubted “corruption claims against the Bio government” by Africanist Press.
Our attention was drawn to the said Facebook Post immediately it was published online. A screenshot of the above referenced Facebook message was taken within 2 minutes of its publication (a copy of the said message is hereby attached). The published message remained online for about 7hours and 47minutes before it was subsequently removed from Hon. Marah’s Facebook Page. The said message was widely circulated on WhatsApp, and other social media platforms, eliciting dozens of reactions from online followers of Hon. Marah who roundly and variously condemned the said message as an unfortunate attempt to discredit and cast doubts on the impeccable work of Africanist Press.
We understand that Hon. Lahai Marah is a Member of Parliament (MP) representing your political party, the All Peoples Congress (APC), in the Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone. It is also our understanding that the said Hon. Marah had, on several occasions, referenced corruption evidence published by Africanist Press during parliamentary proceedings in Sierra Leone (see attached copy of Facebook message posted by Lahai Marah on 16th February 2021 praising the work of Africanist Press). We also note that several political leaders in Sierra Leone, including yourself, have in recent times written letters and/or made public comments referencing the serious evidence published by Africanist Press (See letter dated 18th February 2021 addressed to Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament and signed by Hon. Chernor Maju Bah and Alhaji Kandeh K. Yumkella)
As you already know, for more than two years now, Africanist Press has published, and continues to publish, series of reports detailing high profile corruption across various sectors of the Sierra Leonean government. Details of these investigative reports have generated serious conversations both in Sierra Leone and internationally. We also believe that you are probably aware that Africanist Press investigative reports have equally been cited by several international organizations.
Despite these developments, we underline that no government agency or department in Sierra Leone has ever challenged the validity of the evidence contained in the Africanist Press reports. Thus, Hon. Marah’s Facebook comment challenging the evidence published by Africanist Press is, as far as we know, the first such attempt by a public official in Sierra Leone expressing doubt(s) over our publications. We want to particularly emphasize that Hon. Marah’s remarks against Africanist Press follows our 24th June 2022 publication, which reveals that MPs were discussing legislative proposals to amend Sierra Leone’s electoral laws in ways that might suppress thousands of potential voters who are most likely to vote against incumbent President Julius Maada Bio in next year’s elections, and that MPs had commenced pre-legislative discussions on the proposals without reference to the public (See ref: Bah, Anderson, and Fieldman, Sierra Leone: Proposed Voter Registration Requirements May Exclude Thousands of Eligible Voters, Africanist Press, 24th June, 2022).
As a result of this, we are contacting you, in your capacity as parliamentary leader of the All Peoples Congress (APC), to help bring to your attention the said comments made by Hon. Marah regarding the work of Africanist Press. We are seeking clarification from the parliamentary leadership of the party, and Hon. Marah himself, whether the said comments represent the official position of the parliamentary wing of the APC regarding our publications?
Additionally, we also want to further ask which specific Africanist Press report(s) that Hon. Marah has found wanting in evidence? We have attached, with this correspondence, a list of article published by Africanist Press on corruption in Sierra Leone under the Bio administration between 1st March 2020 and 24th June 2022 for ease of reference.
We look forward to, and would appreciate, your timely response on this matter. We have taken the liberty to copy other organizations and individuals in this correspondence.
Matthew D. Anderson
1. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Former Chairman/Leader, All Peoples Congress
2. Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh, Former Secretary General, All Peoples Congress
3. United States Embassy, Freetown, Sierra Leone
4. The British High Commission in Sierra Leone
5. The European Union Ambassador, Freetown, Sierra Leone
6. The Nigerian High Commission in Sierra Leone
7. The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone
8. The Ghanaian High Commission in Sierra Leone
9. The United Nations Development Program Country Director
10. The Guinean Embassy in Sierra Leone
11. The Malian Embassy in Sierra Leone
12. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Sierra Leone
13. The Ecowas Parliament
14. The Mano River Union Secretariat
15. Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC)
16. Civil Forum for Asset Recovery
17. International Monetary Fund
(IMF) Country Director, Sierra Leone
18. World Bank Country Director, Sierra Leone
19. Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)
20. Consortium of Investigative Journalists (CIJ)
21. West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM)
22. West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) Secretariat, Freetown, Sierra Leone
23. Africanist Press Editorial Department
24. Africanist Press File
25. Africanist Press Director of Publication