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BURNING THE BRIDGE OF CORRUPTION IN SIERRA LEONE: THE TIME IS NOW!

February 4, 2019

By: Joel Tejan Deen-Tarawally Esq.

It is Joe Biden, former United States Vice President, who once said (and I entirely agree with him) that “fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defence. It is patriotism”. Sierra Leone is presently at a crossroads of development where corruption is the only bridge that is still linking it to the unbearable odds of poverty and underdevelopment.

Yes, there is no doubt that Sierra Leone is a beautiful country that is enjoying the tranquillity of religious tolerance. There is also no doubt that the intermarriages, interconnectedness and solidarity that bind our ethnic groups together are far greater than the politically motivated tribal propaganda that tend to divide them. Colonialism tested our unity and yet we emerged as an independent Sierra Leone; the decade civil conflict descended on us with ferocious and unforgettable destruction and yet we survived as one nation; the dreadful ebola raged at us with unprecedentedly contagious deaths and yet we still emerged victorious; even FIFA could not make us bow. And so unlike what any political faction may say, I strongly believe that Sierra Leone is a uniquely united nation that has gone against mighty tides and survived. But now is a time for us not just to survive; now is the time for us to burn the bridge of corruption and develop.

The wealth in our ground and riches in our seas are clear indication that Sierra Leone is indeed supposed to be a paradise. Our land is a true epitome of the Biblical description in Deuteronomy 8:7-9  that says: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” But if Sierra Leone was made so rich then why is it that our brothers are risking their lives in the perilous journey of temple run; why is it that we are battling with scarcity of water and importing rice from China?; why is it that we lack so much in a land of abundance? The answer is simple; we are yet to burn the bridge of corruption. If Sierra Leone can be metaphorically said to be a woman then she is a 57 (fifty-seven) years old woman who has given birth to children who have failed to utilise their inheritance for their own good.

For over 57 years since independence our leaders have failed to make good of our inheritance because the effects of corruption are more real than the effects of their intentions. I condemn violence in all its forms, but the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission clearly show that corruption is one major reason why members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) resorted to the barrel of the gun in 1991. The United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 58/4 of 31st October 2003 noted with great concern the “seriousness of problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law”. The African Union, in its Convention on the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption, has similarly expressed serious concern about the “… negative effects of corruption … on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African States and its devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African peoples”.

In a time of unprecedented technological advancement, human development and scientific exploration; a time when other African countries such as Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa, Bostwana and others are making steady progress, we are still romancing with the chameleon of corruption coming in the guise of party politics, nepotism and regionalism and posing as if it is good – it is not. It is the only reason why Sierra Leone is where it is today; it is the only bridge that is linking us to poverty, increased infant mortality, gross inequality, unequal distribution of state resources, massive youth unemployment, poor health care and service delivery, lack of proper education and all its other vices. This is not the paradise that Sierra Leone ought to be. I therefore applaud the new zest of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the genuineness in the fight against corruption; it is a fight that we all must join. Every Sierra Leonean must join this fight because corruption is more than stealing public funds and property, it is the stealing of our destiny and the destiny of our children; corruption is the unsympathetic conduct of opportunistic zombies parading in fine clothing. As the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Francis Ben Kaifala, has stated, “[F]ighting Corruption is the biggest emergency issue for Sierra Leone”.

Those who watch the corrupt and do nothing are the reason why Sierra Leone as a 57 years old independent state is still depending on donor funding and still borrowing from the International Monetary Fund. Hence, I choose to stand with the fight against corruption and encourage all Sierra Leoneans to make this same choice. Let the Lungi Bridge be built and let the bridge of corruption be burnt. Corruption is indeed the ‘biggest emergency issue for Sierra Leone’ and we must burn its bridge and anyone caught in it. The time is now!

Joel Tejan Deen-Tarawally Esq.

Legal Practitioner

LL.M, BL, LL.B, BA.