The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio, has publicly apologized for the ‘revolutionary action’ of the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Barrister Ben Keifala, who this week got several teachers, and school administrators, caught almost red-handed helping pupils to cheat in a public examination… to be publicly paraded, handcuffed, with placards tied around their necks indicating their culpability; at the historic Cotton Tree in the heart of the capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown; symbolically, almost in front of the central Law Court, and a stone’s throw from State House, the office of the President. Judging from public comments in the about 50 private radio stations serving the 7 million people in Sierra Leone; judging from the comments on social media; and what I could gather from discussions on the streets of Freetown… the action of the ACC Commissioner has been overwhelmingly popular. That should raise the question: who did the President apologize to? The 1% of Sierra Leone’s population who are the corrupt elite? In Ghana, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, like President Maada Bio, was twice Head of State; but Rawlings adopted a revolutionary approach to fighting corruption in Ghana. Rawlings succeeded. He succeeded as a military leader and democratically-elected president. Bio should ‘fallamakata’ Rawlings. Or, President Bio would be committing political suicide of his administration, and of his political party, the SLPP.
Educational Corruption is Worse than ‘Rebel War’ in Salone
Let me restate positions I have taken on social media since Ben Kaifala’s daring action aroused fierce debate in Sierra Leone. Corruption in the educational sector is much worse than the eleven years civil war the RUF rebels and AFRC ‘sobels’ waged against mainly hapless civilians. That civil war was one in which men, women, and children were brutally murdered; their hands and feet chopped off, and their spectacle used to inject fear into the populace, and to successfully gain political profit by the rebels; civilians would be burned alive inside their houses; child combatants would kill those seeking refuge inside churches and mosques: all over the country. The corruption in our schools and colleges have been worse than those nasty and brutish atrocities by the rebels. Worse than the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, in which largely Hutu extremists would move from house-to-house using cutlasses to hack to dead Tutsis and moderate Hutus who would try to protect or defend the Tutsis. 900,000 people were murdered in less than one year. In just about 15 years, Rwanda rose up again to become one of the most progressive societies in Africa; a model in Africa for rapid development, high educational standards; buoyant economy. The damage that has been done in Sierra Leone because of corruption in the educational sector could take at best 50 years or so to fully recover from. And don’t forget: it was the institutionalization of corruption in the 1970s and 1980s that resulted in the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Playing propaganda game with corruption again would inexorably lead Sierra Leone into another miasmic and gruesome civil war. Surely, nearly all the citizenry should be aware of the vomit-inducing corruption that has taken grip of the educational sector in Sierra Leone.
Cheating in Schools and Colleges Have Become the Norm
With the exception of a few very expensive private schools, and a handful of public schools like Grammar School, Prince of Wales, Annie Walsh, Bo School, CKC… pupils in nearly all the public schools in Sierra Leone don’t apparently bother to study anymore to take public exams. When exam time would come around, they buy question papers. Arrangements are made for them to copy answers in special rooms – with watchful corrupt teachers and school authorities. This racket has been burst several times over the years. It is no secret. This norm of cheating in exams continue into our colleges and universities. One of my school mates who I started Form One with at the Albert Academy in 1967 and who is now a lecturer at Njala University told me about a month ago that when he would stand his ground against having students buy grades, some of his lecturer colleagues would be lobbied to persuade him to be flexible; and they would say, “Let my people go” – which means, a lecturer should not be perturbed about high standards; and should take his or her bribe, and just pass students. Thus, over the past fifteen or so years especially, we have had most of our graduates not just being mediocre, but, shockingly low in educational standards.
Graduates with Abysmally Low Educational Standards
Those who have had to deal with such graduates in the public sector would tell you how alarmingly low most of their standards are. They would claim to have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, but, would not be able to write a single sentence of correct English. It is worse for too many of those with science and engineering degrees. That is why you notice that when some of these graduates are made to write press releases for even agencies in the Office of the President, they make many horrible grammatical mistakes. Since these graduates know that they didn’t work to earn their degrees, when they enter the public sector, they don’t believe in work. They are too ready to continue to cheat and lie – and STEAL government money. Not only are they incompetent; but they are lazy – since laziness, and manipulating the system, rewarded them when they were students. Most often than not, these government workers are among the most intense and acidic critics of government. They are the ones most likely to pour petrol on ethnic fears. What has been happening in many government agencies over the past fifteen or so years is the employment of highly specialized graduates and paying them in dollars – the few who do real work in government. Or, positioning WHITE Europeans and Americans in government ministries and agencies to manage donor aid, or, financing through the IMF, World Bank, and United Nations agencies – paying them in huge United States dollars. In the private sector?
Too many significant private sector companies are NOT employing Sierra Leonean graduates anymore. Shocked?! In 2012, I was told by a white British senior management staff at London Mining that non-Sierra Leoneans are being employed to even drive caterpillars, because Sierra Leoneans lack the experience. If radical action is not taken now to stop the corruption in the educational sector, most Sierra Leoneans would become only hewers of wood and carriers of water – even with their university degrees. The denunciation of Ben Kaifala’s patriotic stance against the teachers and school administrators perverting the educational system has been premised on “The Rule of Law”.
Laws That Are Used to Deny Justice!!
What “law”? In Sierra Leone? These were the same laws in Sierra Leone in the 1970s and 1980s when rampant and flagrant corruption made the economy to implode. There was no war in the 1980s, yet people had to queue for petrol and palm oil; electricity was once in three months affair even in Freetown; teachers would not be paid for six months at a stretch. It is the same laws that has gotten corruption to be seemingly intractable – from the presidency of Tejan Kabbah to Ernest Bai Koroma. No Sierra Leonean would risk his reputation by saying that there is no corruption in the Judiciary in our country. Those government officials who steal millions of dollars know that they can manipulate the judicial system and get away with their loot. It is the travesty of justice in our judicial system that has gotten the ACC to rationalize its out-of-court settlements over the past one year, with this logic: “Why waste time to prosecute a corruption suspect over two years when the suspect can be made to pay back what he/she has stolen from government in two months?”. I have been relentlessly opposed in my published articles to this ACC out-of-court settlements, stating, like a mantra, thus: “The ACC is not a court”. Paradoxically, I strongly support the recent move of the ACC to publicly parade these teachers because they were caught red-handed; their spectacle has engendered the desired result: intense public debate of corruption in our country. What next?
People’s Support for Tougher Anti-Corruption Laws
Those civil society activists, and human rights organizations, and lawyers’ groups invoking the law to criticize Ben Kaifala should know that the CORRUPTION that has festered in Sierra Leone over the past sixty years is a much worse human rights abuse than parading alleged corrupt teachers in public – protracted corruption has been tantamount to GENOCIDE. Children and youth who comprise about 80 percent of the population of Sierra Leone should now be intensely educated on the ramifications of corruption on their lives today and tomorrow, and be induced to give massive support to the fight against corruption. All Sierra Leoneans should now lobby Parliament to enact tougher anti-corruption laws; and to encourage more whistle blowing. Of course, tough anti-corruption measures must be across the board, and not limited to teachers. And all patriotic Sierra Leoneans should laud the spasmodic revolutionary action of Ben Kaifala. And, President Maada Bio should ‘un-apologize’, and tender a new apology to over 90 percent of Sierra Leoneans who have been impoverished by festering corruption. And, another apology by President Bio – publicly or privately – to Barrister Ben Kaifala. Especially as….
Barrister Ben Kaifala in goading greater public debate on corruption, and hopefully the enactment of radical laws and radical action in the War on Corruption has helped to save the Bio presidency, heightening its chances of winning the 2023 presidential election. Ben Kaifala, when his anti-corruption campaign receive massive public support, will help to ensure the sustainability of the SLPP in power for a long time. What should be done is to package the robust stance of Ben Kaifala on corruption to widely do marketing of Sierra Leone to attract significant Foreign Direct Investment, and international aid. And to stimulate the productive energies of the people of Sierra Leone.