Sierra Leone begins probe into actions of former government

A Special Commission will look into allegations of corruption, stolen public funds and state assets between 2007 and 2018.
People look at headlines of daily newspapers on March 27, 2018 in Freetown. – Sierra Leone’s electoral body announced on the eve of a presidential run-off on March 26 that the vote would be delayed until 31 March after losing days of preparation due to a court order. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Sierra Leone has began hearings into allegations of corruption and abuse of power under the rule of former president Ernest Bai Koroma.

“The peaceful democratic war on corruption is unstoppable and winnable,” President Julius Maada Bio said, launching the special commission.

“We will act on the findings,” he said.

The commission has a mandate to look into allegations of corruption as well as stolen public funds and state assets between 2007 and 2018.

“The commission of inquiry is not witch-hunt but a democratic accountability and a fight against impunity,” Attorney General and Justice Minister Priscilla Schwartz said.

Bio succeeded Koroma ten months ago after a tumultuous election campaign in which he targeted graft.

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The commission is chaired by three judges: Biobele Georgewill from Nigeria, William Annan Atuguba from Ghana and Bankole Thompson, a Sierra Leonean.  

“I intend to be fiercely independent and no injustice will be done to anyone” Georgewill said.

“We are not against the commission of inquiry but our concerns must be addressed before we participate in the hearings” Cornelius Deveaux, a spokesman from Koroma’s party told reporters. The party has said it will boycott the commission fearing a witch-hunt.

Several former leaders have been arrested in recent months following the publication in July of a damning report which said “rampant corruption” under the Koroma administration had led to the “near collapse” of Sierra Leone’s economy.

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Although Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, the former British colony remains one of the world’s poorest nations and is only gradually recovering from years of war and disease.

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