By Allieu S. Tunkara
Sierra Leone’s peace and security is under threat owing to government’s determination to enforce the ‘White Paper,’ a document that contains approved recommendations of the three past Commissions of Inquiry (COI).
The current government is determined to implement the White Paper to the fullest while the main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) which constitutes the previous government was not ready to cooperate.
The APC is ready to resist at the White paper at all cost as the party referred to it as “malicious” and “vindictive.”
Former President Koroma, the main target of the COI too is in no mood to accept COI findings and its concurrent ‘White Paper.’
The COI, APC says, is in most respect, a symbol of political harassment and intimidation of officials of the former government with a view to shut down the party.
President Bio’s readiness to enforce the White Paper is seen in an address to the nation few days upon his return from the Asian country of Lebanon.
In that address, the president sounded tough and promised not to waver in his resolve to implement the ‘White Paper.’
“Once and for all, we are determined to draw a line. Public officials must serve with integrity and they must be above reproach at all times,” President Bio warns.
Owing to the robust nature of the intended implementation, the President hopes this COI would be the last in post-war Sierra Leone.
In as much as he is determined to implement the COI findings, the President is not oblivious of the rights of appeal entitled to all persons of interest.
“Persons and entities affected by the recommendations are guaranteed a peaceful and transparent judicial appeals process through which they can seek relief,” President Bio assures persons of interest.
He however succinctly warned of a possible crack down on those persons who may want to incite violence to obstruct the implementation.
The imminent crackdown is enveloped in the phrase: ‘full force of the law.’
“Let me therefore caution every Sierra Leonean that the rule of law is supreme. Those who may wish to incite or engage in unrest and violence in order to obstruct the process of enforcement of the recommendations will be subject to the full force of the law,” the President further warns.
The duty to enforce the White Paper has been delegated to the Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah.
Mr Brewah would oversee the overall implementation of the White Paper, and seems ready to do so regardless of the hurdles that stand his way.
The Presidential address has set in motion a trail of punitive measures by the AG’s office.
Officials of the former government have been banned from travelling out of the country including former President Koroma.
Passports and other travelling certificates have been seized to stop them from moving out of the country.
A comprehensive list of over a 100 former government officials has been published meaning their movement out of the country without permission from the government is deemed illegal, and may be subject to an unimaginable wave of humiliation.
In what appears the last straw that breaks the camel’s back, former President Koroma has been invited by the Country’s graft agency, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in respect of several corruption allegations.
The former President must report to ACC headquarters this Monday.
To ensure that the President arrives with his caravan to the city in compliance with ACC invitation, it has been reported that the AG, the Inspector-General of Police and the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs have held strategy discussions.
When the invitation notice was initially issued by the ACC, many Sierra Leoneans were in doubt as to whether former President Koroma would honour it.
The doubt has been laid to rest by a press release dated 30th September, 2020 issued by the former President.
In the press release, former president Koroma made it clear that political harassment and intimidation of his person has reached an unacceptable level meaning he may respond in the most decisive manner.
“Government’s relentless heckling around me has reached undue and unacceptable levels that amount to political harassment. It is apparent that the allegations against me are without merit and are a politically motivated charade calculated to impugn my hand-earned reputation,” the former President warns.
The undue damage to his reputation because of politics, former President Koroma says, is unfortunate and will greatly affect democratic transitions in Africa.
“It is unfortunate therefore that government has chosen this route to unduly tarnish my reputation because of politics. Such ridiculous political witch hunt does not only scare good and well-meaning citizens from getting involved in governance. It also has the propensity of undermining peaceful democratic transitions on the continent as leaders following these unfortunate events in Sierra Leone might find it difficult to readily hand over power to opposition political parties,” the release also reads.
Former President Koroma sees the White Paper in its entirety as defamatory as it skewed to smear his image as former President of Sierra Leone.
“I have learned with utter disappointment about some of the defamatory contents of the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry and the White Paper thereto pertaining to some of the activities I undertook while exercising my official functions as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone,” the former President points out.
The continued harassment of officials who served in the past government was also noted in the press release.
“I have also noted with utter dismay the Government’s hostility against me and some officials who served in my administration,” the press release notes.
The excerpts from the press release should not be taken lightly as it appears that the former President has been pushed to the wall and is ready to bounce back by means of the law.
The latest position taken by the President adds weight to earlier stance taken by defence lawyers, former Attorney-General, Joseph Fitzerald Kamara and former ACC Chief, Ady Macauley.
Both counsels have condemned the ‘White Paper’ outright saying it is the product of an illegal entity (the COI).
In an interview with BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone, Counsel Macauley maintained that the COI lacked “functional competence.”
The phrase means the COI did not go through the appropriate procedures that make it valid to conduct the inquiries they have carried out.
In a clear demonstration of his definite and passionate stance, Counsel Macauley has earlier dealt the COI with a devastating blow by referring the question of the COI’s illegality to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court for determination.
The Highest Court of the land has shown the greatest weakness when it failed to hand down a ruling as to whether the COI is legal or not.
The COI has folded up, but it leaves behind daggers drawn between government and the main opposition.
No one tells what will be the number when the two sevens clash in the words of the famous late Reggae Star, Joe Hills of the ages and memories.
Late President Tejan Kabbah has warned that never again shall we use violence to settle matters of national importance.
The late President issued this warning in the Togolese Capital, Lome where world leaders converged to sign a peace deal that ushered peace to Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leonean leaders have been encouraged to learn from this statement, and make it part of their governance models.
Pa Kabba’s statement implies that waters should not be tested in a post-conflict state where the youths are battle-tested.
Sleeping dogs should also not be woken up for no one knows what will be the consequence.
By the statement, it can be conveniently argued that peace is more valuable than the ‘White Paper.’
Thus, alternative means of implementing the White Paper must be sought. It can be implemented later if not now.
It is better we live together as brothers and sisters in a nation-state, or we perish as fools.