Bomeh Chicken Disposal Saga Shows How Disastrous the Lebanon Trash Dumping Would Have Been

Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
July 24, 2016
 
The lessons learned from the handling and disposal of contaminated chicken at the Bomeh dumping site in the eastern area of Freetown, Sierra Leone this week indicate how disastrous it would have been had the Lebanon garbage made it into Sierra Leone. While evidence suggests that government officials did their best in the handling of the chicken disposal, their best was evidently not enough to ensure a safe disposal that keeps the contaminated chicken away from desperate citizens. The outcome of the Lebanon garbage dumping abandoned months ago may have been worse. However, government authorities, particularly representatives of the Ministry of Health must be commended for their efforts in discovering the decomposed chicken at the port, as well as their tireless collaborative efforts demonstrated in savaging the situation and creating public awareness to limit the overall impact.
At the peak of the Bruit, Lebanon garbage crisis, the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir, on January 9, 2016 broke the news that the Lebanese Foreign Ministry had reached a deal with the Sierra Leone Government, paving a way for the exportation of garbage to Sierra Leone. It was later discovered that the clearance came in form of an acceptance letter written by Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, the Special Adviser to the Sierra Leone President, Ernest Bai Koroma at the time. Public outcry in Sierra Leone and on social media forced the government to dissociate itself from the deal, leaving several hundred thousand metric tons of packed and ready-to-ship garbage at the Lebanese main port in Beirut.
In a piece published on January 25, 2016 and titled “If the Lebanese Do Not Want Their Trash In Their Landfills, Why Should Sierra Leoneans?”, I concluded that “Sierra Leone itself has its own fair share local trash crisis.  I added that “in the absence of a proper waste disposal management infrastructure, several landfill sites in and around the country’s main capital Freetown are left unattended and its communities infested.” The Bomeh chicken disposal saga this week substantiates these conclusions reached months ago.
In a country where there is no real middle class, and that the gap between a small number of affluent citizens, and the majority poor is exponentially huge, one person’s garbage is another’s treasure. This is why dumping sites like Bomeh and others across the city of Freetown have become daily treasure hunting mines for the poor, many of whom are underage children. This is no secret and government authorities are evidently aware of this unfortunate situation.
A number of shortcomings have been highlighted this week by the Bomeh chicken disposal saga. These include following: that government does not have an effective waste disposal process in place to limit access to garbage, including contaminated and toxic waste; that there are citizens who are impoverished into desperation and willing to go to great lengths, including risking arrests and disease to savage for consumption contaminated food buried in garbage; and that authorities are evidently aware of these conditions and underlying limitations before this week.  These observations should not be viewed as conclusions aimed at casting blame. Instead, they should be viewed objectively as challenges that must be addressed if outcomes similar to the chicken disposal saga this week is to be prevented in the future.
Let’s look at the narrative surrounding the Bomeh Chicken disposal for a minute. The two chicken containers arrived at the port on June 24, 2016. During a routine inspection on July 1, 2016, authorities at the port discovered that the chicken in the container was decomposed. After several administrative protocols including engaging the Police for escort, and more than two weeks later a decision was reached to dump contaminated chicken at the Bomeh dump site. On July 19, 2016, an attempt to dump the chicken was met by unwavering crowd that had received tips about the dumping, and had converged to the site in an attempt to savage the dump.
Unable to fend the crowd away, authorities retreated. On July 23, 2016, authorities returned and again were met with a bigger crowd. They decided to go on with the dumping anyway. After breakdowns of two different excavators supplied by a private contractor, only 75% of the chicken was reportedly buried. After waiting in vain for a third machine, the crowd overran the authorities including the Police. They made away with not only the remaining cartoons of the chicken, but many dug up by hand those that had been buried. Videos making rounds of social media revealed that the contaminated chicken had made it into homes where many were preparing them for consumption. A number of cartoons were later recovered by the Police from a merchant who had offered them for sale in the market.
Now pause for a minute and ponder the above. If authorities cannot effectively dispose of two containers of contaminated chicken, imagine what would have happened to the hundred thousand metric tons of garbage from Lebanon. Sierra Leone landfills would have become garbage mines where savaged garbage, some of which may have been contaminated food and toxic waste would have ended up in markets and homes for consumption. This could have been a public health disaster. The Sierra Leone government and municipal authorities in Freetown must review the existing garbage disposal process with the aim of addressing those shortcomings identified by the Bomeh chicken disposal saga.

MambaTV Report: Questions Remain Unanswered As Kidnapped Sierra Leone’s Deputy High Commission to Nigeria, Rtd. Major-General Nelson Williams Returns

 

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
July 6, 2016
 
Yesterday, July 5, 2016, the kidnapped Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Rtd. Major-General Nelson Williams and his driver reportedly returned safely.  While the circumstances surrounding the return remain unclear, the governments of Sierra Leone and Nigeria must be commended for whatever role they may have played in the “safe return” of the kidnapped. A press release from the office Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma states that, “following the collaborative efforts made by governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Sierra Leone it has been confirmed that Sierra Leone’s Deputy High Commissioner Major-General (Rtd) Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams who was kidnapped by unknown assailants on 1st July, 2016 is now safely back at the Sierra Leone High Commission in Abuja”.
Since Major-General Williams and his driver went missing, many Sierra Leoneans criticized the government of Sierra Leone for not being open and transparent about the circumstances that led to the abduction of the former army chief. The staff of the Sierra Leone High Commission in Nigeria is quoted by many reliable news outlets both within and outside of Nigeria as saying that a ransom of $40 million was demanded in a phone call immediately following the kidnapping. The government of Sierra Leone continues to deny any knowledge of such a demand. It is also unclear whether any ransom was paid to secure the release of the two.
 
Since the news broke about the abduction of Major-General Williams, many questions have been raised by the public. Many of these questions continue to remain unanswered. These include but not limited to following: where were the armed Nigerian police escorts when Major-General Williams was taken out of his vehicle? Did they just stand by and watch, drive off or was there any confrontation between them and the kidnappers? If there were no confrontation, why not?
 
The lack of transparency in the handling of this episode by the government of Sierra Leone, particularly the office of President Ernest Koroma raises eyebrows. Once again, responsible governments would have made public, either in writing or via a press conference, a clear narrative of the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping, as well as the release of the victims. The press release from State House, coupled with reckless and misguided remarks about Sierra Leoneans for raising questions on social media by State House’s Head of Communication raise a new set of questions. It is also irresponsible for anyone to indicate that Sierra Leoneans would have to wait for a memoir of President Ernest Koroma in order for them to know the circumstances surrounding the episode.
 
The press release falls short of claiming that the governments of Sierra Leone and/or Nigeria secured the release of the kidnapped. Instead, it states that “it has been confirmed that Sierra Leone’s Deputy High Commissioner Major-General (Rtd) Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams who was kidnapped by unknown assailants on 1st July, 2016 is now safely back”. The new set of questions raised include whether Major-General Williams and his driver escaped by themselves and returned safely, or whether their release was secured by someone else. If their release was secured by someone else, who those individuals are and under what circumstances?  The omission of how the release was secured feeds into unconfirmed reports from Nigeria now stating that the kidnapped escaped by themselves. Whatever the circumstances may be, Sierra Leoneans in general are pleased that Major-General Williams is back safely.

MambaTV Launches “Public Lessons”, An Exam Preparation Tutorial Broadcast Program for BECE and WASSCE Candidates

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
May 4, 2016
 
During 2015, 90,616 students sat to the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in Sierra Leone. Of that number, 19, 457 or 21% of candidates passed the required 5 subjects for entry into Senior Secondary School. Over the years, majority of students who take the BECE as well as the West Africa Senior School Certificate Exam (WASSCE) fail to pass the required number of subjects. This poor performance is a national crisis and we find it to be unacceptable.
 
To be part of the solution, MambaTV is launching “Public Lessons”, and exam preparation tutorial broadcast program for BECE and WASSCE candidates. The tutorial will be based on the BECE and WASSCE curriculum. The new broadcast program will begin on June 1, 2016.
 
MambaTV is currently recruiting volunteer tutors for several subject areas including the following: Language Arts, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Social Studies, Literature-In-English, Geography, Government, Computer Studies, Chemistry, Financial Accounting, Biology, Agricultural Science, Economics, Physics, Further Mathematics, and Health Science. Teaching materials will be provided to tutors. Please join MambaTV by volunteering your time so that collectively, we can make a difference for our future generation. To volunteer, please contact MambaTV by phone at 202-854-1755 or email at promotion@mambatv.com.

The Rise and Fall of Fly Salone: The Betrayal of a Nation’s Pride

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra 
March 20, 2016
 
As reports on the grounding of Fly Salone hit social media a couple of days ago, I visited the company’s website at www.fly-salone.com to make sure it was not another prank. At the home page, was the following message: “To all the Fly Salone passengers who have flying arrangements. We regret to inform you that Fly Salone has ceased trading. All passengers will therefore be unable to fly with this airline as the Company will shortly be entering into Liquidation.” In just three months, an airline launched amid so much fanfare had gone under. But like the launching of the airline, even its fall did not come without controversy.
 Since the news about the grounding of the airline hit social media, several versions of the cause of the failure of the Fly Salone have emerged. The ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party operatives and a number of officials of the Sierra Leone Government have gone into overdrive manufacturing excuses, branding other Sierra Leoneans as unpatriotic, and blaming everyone else but themselves for the demise of the airline. Logus Koroma, the Minister of Transport and Aviation is quoted by Platinum Media as saying that, “It appears that some Sierra Leoneans are hostile to private investments like these; from the beginning a cross section of Sierra Leoneans in the UK gave bad publicity to the venture and said they would not use it and they preferred Air France, Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Moroc.” While some of these claims appear to carry some degree of truth, they do not tell the whole story.  Our account of the real reasons behind the airline’s demise goes beyond the reaction of ordinary Sierra Leoneans and include the following:
  • Politicizing of Fly Salone;
  • Lack of due diligence on the part of the Sierra Leone Government and the business itself;
  • Lack of support from the Government of Sierra Leone;
  • Safety concerns overlooked and left to spread; and
  • Competition from well-established airlines.
Evidence suggests that Fly Salone was politicized from the onset. On December 12, 2015, the first flight of Fly Salone, an airline reportedly launched by two Sierra Leonean businessmen-- Sam H. Sabrah and Jihad Saleh landed at Sierra Leone’s Lungi Airport in Freetown. Onboard the first flight to mark the occasion were several government and ruling APC officials, including Mohamed Sesay (aka Sesay 91), a self-styled political pundit and notorious ruling APC mouthpiece who is now on the record blaming other Sierra Leoneans and an alleged clandestine colonial competitive strategy for the demise of the airline. In the beginning, many Sierra Leoneans did not know whether Fly Salone was a private or public venture. This was so because ruling party and government officials went to great lengths to become promoters and the defacto media faces of the airline, while taking credit for the launching, with photos of President Ernest Koroma flanked by Logus Koroma and others at Lungi Airport to grace the landing of the first flight going viral.
 
Cocorioko news outlet which is owned and operated by Wilfred Kabs Kanu, a ruling party member and Minister Plenipotentiary carried a headline article dated December 14, 2015 and deceptively titled, “President Koroma Kicks Off Freetown To London Fly Sierra Leone Service”, commemorating the launch of Fly Salone. In the article, the author declared that “Transport Minister Balogun Logus Koroma must be highly commended for his relentless efforts under the supervision of His Excellency President Koroma, to solve the gap created when both British Airways and Gambia Bird stopped flying direct flights between London and Sierra Leone.” Also on social media, photos of the controversial Sylvia Blyden, who is also a member of the ruling party and recently appointed as Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs taken at the arrival terminal of Fly Salone went viral along with a boastful narrative of how she had been given a free first class ticket to fly onboard the airline.
 
In essence, ruling party members portrayed Fly Salone as a Sierra Leone airline launched by the APC government. Not that anything is wrong with the government launching a national airline or facilitating an environment for a business. However, knowing how corrupt, ineffective, unreliable and dysfunctional government operations can be, an airline that is remotely connected to the government like that of ours is bound to raise eyebrows. Also, when controversial and boastful ruling party members and officials brag about the launching of an airline as a success story for their party in governance, such claims must come with a proportional goodwill to attract and keep customers, many of whom may not necessarily be ruling party members, especially when several more attractive and reliable alternatives are available.
 
The second reason that can be attributed to the fall of Fly Salone is the lack of due diligence on the part of the Sierra Leone Government, in particular the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the owners of business itself. Evidence suggests that government officials, in an effort to score political points and/or owing to whatever else may have happened under the table, were too eager to approve and launch an airline to fly the Sierra Leone flag and name. With such a motive, regulations were reportedly relaxed and in some cases ignored, initial safety questions raised by the public remained unanswered, while other required financial evidence were allegedly not provided as part of the airline’s proposal.  For example, Platinum Media reported that feasibility studies and financial projections were missing from the proposal submitted to the Ministry of Transport and Aviation. Without such documentation, both the government and the management of the business could not have been in the position to establish whether Fly Salone is going concern—i.e.  have the ability to staying in business for the foreseeable future. 
 
As a going concern, a business must be able to demonstrate it has, among other things enough working capital to carry out its operation. For a start-up business, enough cash reserve must be at hand to run the operation with no profit in the first few months and until breakeven—a point where a business is able to generate enough revenue to cover all costs. And for most start-ups, breakeven point does not even come in the first year of operation. Reports that Fly Salone had only one set of crew is consistent with lack of working capital to cover payroll associated with a standby crew. Flight cancellations were attributed to sick flight crew members. While the aforementioned may not necessarily be government requirements to start a business, it becomes relevant when a country’s name and by extension its national image is deliberately associated with a business, as it is in this case. And for management, these are fundamental to the start and running of an effective business enterprise.  It is therefore strange that ruling party and government officials are out to apportion blame to others for the failure of the airline. After all, this is not the first time that a private business has failed in Sierra Leone. Fly Salone was evidently not just a private business. It must have meant something more than just a business to the government and the ruling party.
 
The third and perhaps the most damning of all the reasons accounting for the fall of Fly Salone is the total lack of support from the Government of Sierra Leone. Evidence suggest that minus the lip service, photo opportunity, and political fanfare, nothing else was done by the government to save Fly Salone. All over the world, responsible governments subsidize businesses whose fall is deemed to have a direct and in some cases indirect impact on the nation’s pride, image or even the underlying economy. In America for example, major banks, financial institutions and other businesses considered “too big to fail” were bailed out by the United States Government during the recent economic meltdown. AIG, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors and Chrysler, and hundreds of other companies received over $600 billion dollars in bail out money in order to stay in business. The rationale behind such a move by governments is not only limited to the need to save jobs and future tax revenue, but in fact that of the nation’s economic pride which is compromised when native companies considered crucial to the economy go under.
 
While the Sierra Leone government officials were excited about the photo opportunity and bragging rights that came with the launching of Fly Salone, they should have equally taken the responsibility to bail out the airline in time of distress. If the government can spend $12 million on 100 used buses procured in a questionable scheme, and write-off millions in tax liabilities owed by businesses owned by cronies and related parties, there is no excuse why the first airline flying the country’s name and flag cannot be saved by a simple loan.
 
If in fact liquidity is the ultimate reason for the demise of Fly Salone, then the Sierra Leone Government bears a great responsibility for such a fall. Many African countries subsidize airlines flying their flags and countries’ names. Some of the airlines are private-public partnership between government and private investors. So, if the Sierra Leone Government and ruling party members really wanted Fly Salone to continue in operation, government could have optionally acquired equity interest in the company in exchange for cash in form working capital. I know that there are those who do not buy into this idea. However, it has been done before. The Sierra Leone Government’s interest in Sierra Rutile Limited mining company that was sold in 2013 for $13 million by the current regime, in a transaction that many consider questionable to-date, was in fact acquired by the predecessor government in an attempt to help restart the company after the war.
 
Furthermore, if the Sierra Leone government was truly committed to ensuring Fly Salone stays in business, it could have made the airline a preferred carrier and mandated that Fly Salone be used for all official government travels.  President Koroma should have taken the lead by using Fly Salone instead of other private airlines. This is a better way for government to have demonstrated to citizens that Fly Salone is in fact safe. But while government officials continued to fly daily out of Sierra Leone onboard Air France, Air Brussels, British Airways, and others, deliberately avoiding Fly Salone, ruling party operatives do not apportion any blame to them for the ultimate failure of the airline. What a deception!
 
The fourth reason attributable to the fall of Fly Salone is the company’s failure to timely and adequately address safety concerns raised by Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, many of whom were potential customers. Immediately after launch, many questions were raised on social media about the safety of the aircraft alleged to have been over two decades old. With information at the tips of the fingers nowadays, a simple google search of the make and model of the aircraft will return enough information including age, as well as any prior safety issues associated with the type of model. Ruling party and government officials whose only interest in the airline was that of scoring political points immediately dismissed the concerns. In fact, just like their reaction to the fall of the airline, those who raised the questions were either branded as opposition party members or described as unpatriotic. The airline management seems to have bought into these narratives and overlooked these critical concerns. There is no evidence suggesting that management did take adequate steps to address the concerns and affirm to the public that their flights were safe. What responsible companies do when these sort of concerns are raised by customers and potential customers, is issue statements and in some cases run advertisements aimed at addressing them and assuring customers.
 
And finally, even if Fly Salone had been able to address the above four causes, it was going to face a stiff competition from well-established airlines with not only reliable records of operation and safety history, but almost all of which enjoy economies of scales that can allow them to offer more competitive prices for the same route. Uninformed ruling party operatives who had a questionable vested interest in the airline would want us to believe that these universal tenets of free market economy are driven by clandestine colonial interests. The bottom line is that neither the colonial masters, nor ordinary Sierra Leoneans had a vested interest in seeing Fly Salone fail. And if the ultimate motive of government and those ruling party officials that were associated with the Fly Salone deal was to project a national pride devoid of political party politics and bragging rights, I see no reason why even government critics and opposition party members would not want to see an airline carrying the name of their country succeed. And given the analysis above, pointing fingers at other Sierra Leoneans and colonial masters is not going to take away the ultimate responsibility for the failure of Fly Salone from the management of the airline and those in government who failed to provide an enabling environment with the kind of support that would have made the airline survive and thrive.
 
 

Letting the Votes Count: The Sierra Leone Electioneering Case Study (Volume 1 of 5)

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus On Sierra Leone
July 11, 2016
 
As general elections draw near in Sierra Leone, political parties are once again raising the bar on their game in the scramble to convince voters that each of them is a better alternative. As we have already witnessed in the just ended by-elections in Port Loko and Kailahun, interesting dynamics are unfolding. In this enterprise, voters are made to believe that the ultimate outcome is determined by their votes. The right to vote and be voted for, which is generally described as full suffrage is a fundamental human rights issue in a democracy. In the exercise of a political franchise, every vote, whether direct or through a representative, is expected to count towards the final outcome of an election. This ideal, though often questioned, is in theory expected to hold true in democracies around the world. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, voters go to polls believing that their votes will count in determining the ultimate winner or outcome. But in practice, the degree to which these rights are guaranteed varies widely by country.
Even in the greatest known democracies of our time, voters have at one point or another being left feeling disenfranchised afterwards. The is because, in democracies, participants as well as those who are expected to preserve and protect political franchise are humans--political animals by nature as described by Aristotle in the Politics. And in the same context, it is believed that the sense of good and evil, as well as just and unjust is not only unique to, but moreover considered a fundamental set of characteristics of humans. The good and just in humans would otherwise naturally lend themselves to a great deal of commitment to the protection of everyone’s rights to suffrage in an election process. However, with competing demands for power, which in turn commands respect, and in some instances translates into money, humans by nature can become selfish. This is more prevalent in the African context, where corruption continues to be a major hindrance.
In principle, there are rules in place designed for the most part, to protect political franchise and ensure a level playing field for all.  But in the quest for power, many would rather let the end justify the means. And in the event rules are bent, circumvented, and in some instances out rightly broken. Even the world’s most admired democracy—The United States of America is not immune. The American political series, “Race for the White House”, which premiered on March 6, 2016, exposes not only the beauty of American politics, but brings to light the bad and the ugly in the history of notable campaigns and electioneering in the history of the United States. In the case of Sierra Leone, like many other African countries, it is a totally different story. That story is what I have decided to tell and analyze.
I have had the opportunity to study, follow, and in some cases come close to activities surrounding electioneering in Sierra Leone. The outcome of almost every presidential election in Sierra Leone was challenged by the loser as not being free and fair. In recent times, from the 1996 elections in which a significant portion of the country’s population behind rebel held areas at the time did not vote, while others risked their limbs and lives amid rebel threats to vote; to the 2007 elections that concluded with votes from 447 polling stations in Kailahun District, the stronghold of the incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) at the time cancelled; and to the 2012 elections, the outcome of which was challenged by the opposition SLPP in the Sierra Leone Supreme Court. And of course, not to mention elections conducted under the three-decade one-party dictatorship of the All People’s Congress (APC) of President Siaka Stevens and Brigadier Joseph Saidu Momoh, which did not only made mockery of democracy, but gave election a new meaning.
The outcome of the coming 2018 elections will be more than likely challenged. This piece is part of a series of articles that I will be publishing on the subject of electioneering in Sierra Leone. As an advocate for free, fair and transparent elections, my goal is to educate voters as well as candidates on the intricacies of the electioneering process, as well as highlight safeguards required to prevent fraud and abuse. While the likelihood of a challenge to the outcome of the next elections cannot be reduced to zero, some of those risk factors that bring into question its credibility can be reduced to an acceptable level. Whether at the presidential, parliamentary, or local levels, candidates can use the pointers in this series as guides to put in place measures geared toward ensuring a free, fair and transparent elections. The guides provided in this and the subsequent pieces in this series can also be used to plan for the elections.
Let me begin with an analogy. In a football match for instance, winning is a function of how well the team executes on the field during the game, as well as how well the team prepares ahead of the game. The preparation includes putting together the best combination of players for the respective formations and positions; practicing together, developing and mastering goal scoring tactics; maintaining good health, emotional and physical fitness of the players; studying and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents; capitalizing on home-field advantage to the extent possible; ensuring that the referees and linesmen are free of biases; and expecting that all players will play by the rules or be penalized accordingly. As a result, planning well ahead of the game as well as executing flawlessly on the field are both critical to wining. For example, fans witnessed yesterday how Portugal, the underdog was able to adjust their strategy and still win the 2016 European Championship in the absence of Ronaldo, who left the field after twenty-five minutes of play due to injury. The same goes for elections.
In this and a few other articles that will follow as part of a series, I will examine how elections have been won and lost in Sierra Leone during recent times, with specific focus on planning for the elections as well as execution on the day of the elections. The analysis and conclusions that will be reached in these articles are based on my personal experience; corroboration with key stakeholders and election participants; as well as conclusions drawn from reading several election-related materials and authoritative publications pertinent to the Sierra Leone case.
My analysis will cover among others the critical role of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and other key institutions such as the police, the courts and the media; milestones critical to electioneering process including census, constituency boundary delimitation, and voter registration; campaigning and campaign message; the role of election observers including local and international observers; and election management including staffing of polling stations and tally centers, and protecting ballots and election results. In the next piece, I will cover the role of the NEC and other key institutions. 

MambaTV Report: The Arrest of Sierra Leonean-Born Mohamed Bailor Jalloh for Alleged Attempt to Support ISIL and Its Implications for Sierra Leoneans and the Sierra Leone Government

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
July 7, 2016
 
On July 3, 2016, former United States Army National Guardsman, Sierra Leonean-born and a naturalized United States citizen, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh was arrested and charged for “attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)”. On June 5, 2016 Jalloh was arraigned in The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia.
According to the 21-page affidavit of complaint which is now in the position of MambaTV, the accused is charged with “attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIL, including the service of assisting in the procurement of weapons to be used in an attack on U.S. soil in the name of ISIL and money to assist in the facilitation of individuals seeking to join ISIL, knowing that the organization is a designated terrorist organization, that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity, and that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B.”
The affidavit further alleges that in March, 2016, a deceased member of ISIL brokered an online introduction between Jalloh and an individual in the United States who was an FBI confidential human source (CHS). The affidavit added that the initial contact between the FBI source and Jalloh took place on or about March 27, 2016. Between March 2016 and July 3, 2016—the date of his arrest, Jalloh was under FBI surveillance according to the charge records. In that period, Jalloh allegedly engaged in several activities consistent with an attempt to support and/or take part in a terrorist activity.
 
In the United States however, Jalloh, the accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond a “reasonable doubt”. He is therefore entitled to due process and will have the opportunity to be heard and/or be represented by counsel in a competent court of law. Until such time, Jalloh will be presumed innocent.
 
Since the news of Jalloh’s arrest first broke on social media, Sierra Leoneans both in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone diaspora have reacted in surprise. As a largely religious tolerant people, with no record of religious extremism, Sierra Leoneans are surprised that one of theirs could be charged with such a crime. As expected, Jalloh has also been subjected to scrutiny in the Sierra Leone social media. While there are those who believe that Jalloh should be left alone to have his day in court and allow the court decide, there are others who are critical of his recent activities in the Sierra Leone community both in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone diaspora. The latter is clearly concerned about how Jalloh’s recent activities as alleged in the affidavit, and his interactions with the Sierra Leone community may implicate and/or expose other Sierra Leoneans or Sierra Leone organizations to increased scrutiny. 
 
For example, sources closed to the family have now confirmed that Jalloh’s father, Mr. Abu Bakarr Jalloh, a former minister of Mineral Resource and the 2002 running mate to President Ernest Bai Karoma under the All People’s Congress (APC) party ticket, is in fact the current Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Libya. Charge records submitted in the affidavit also alleges that Jalloh intended to join ISIL in Libya. There are implications here for the Sierra Leone Government. And the Sierra Leone Government must, in this case demonstrate and re-assure the United States Government of its commitment to the fight against global terrorism. Also, several photos making rounds on social media are purported to be that of Jalloh dressed in the APC party t-shirts and flanked by senior party and government officials, including a deputy commissioner and a notorious body guard (or former body guard) of President Ernest Bai Koroma at APC functions.
 
These photos raise several questions about Jalloh’s relationship with the APC party, APC officials and the Government of Sierra Leone, as well as his activities in Sierra Leone during the period in which he was under FBI surveillance. And in the bigger scheme of things, this episode may expose Sierra Leoneans in general to additional scrutiny, including at airports around the world, and in the United States in particular. Please join MambaTV on Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 12:00 EST as we bring your more details regarding this episode and analysis of its implications for Sierra Leone Government and Sierra Leoneans in general.

MambaTV Investigates: Independence Day Standoff Between the Police and Members of the Opposition SLPP

Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
April 28, 2016
 
While others celebrated across the country to commemorate Sierra Leone’s 55th Independence Day, the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Headquarters in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital was under siege in a standoff between the Police and unknown plain-clothes individuals on the one hand, and individuals reportedly to be members of the SLPP on the other. The incident was reportedly triggered by an early morning Police presence at the SLPP office in what was described as an attempt to prevent a masquerade without permit and its organizers from taking to the streets in celebration.
In the wake of the confrontation are damages to property reportedly belonging to the government allegedly by opposition members; allegations of use of excessive force by the Police and unknown plain-clothes individuals alleged to be members of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) working in concert with the Police; injury inflicted on a number of SLPP members allegedly by the Police and the unknown plain-clothes individuals; and arrests and detention allegedly under hash condition without bail of an estimated fifteen (15) SLPP members.
MambaTV has launched an investigation in the incident and intend to put out a comprehensive report of our findings. Our investigation will seek to answer among others the following questions:
  1. Whether a permit was required and from whom for the masquerade belonging to SLPP members to celebrate within the walls of its party headquarters and/or take on the streets of Freetown;
  2. Whether such permit was secured timely as required;
  3. What triggered the presence of the Police at the SLPP Headquarters and at exactly what time did they arrive there;
  4. What triggered the confrontation between the Police and the SLPP members;
  5. Determine who the plain-clothes individuals were seen arresting individuals within the walls of the SLPP office in a video in our possession and whether they were part of the security apparatus;
  6. Whether or not the Police and those plain-clothes individuals acted professionally or used unwarranted excessive force including the firing of live bullets;
  7. Whether all those arrested and detained are done so with probable cause;
  8. Whether the arrested individuals have been given due process as required by the laws of Sierra Leone;
  9. Whether the arrested individuals are humanely treated while in detention as required by international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it specifically relates to the Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; and
  10. Whether any evidence gathered suggests that the actions of the Police and the unknown plain-clothes individuals, and any others involved were politically motivated.
In carrying out our investigation, we intend work in collaboration with our ireporters on the ground to conduct interviews of relevant parties including but not limited to members of the opposition SLPP, members of the Police command that were involved, eye witnesses that were present, as well as attorneys representing the arrested individuals and government prosecutors. We will also gather and review pictures, videos, and all other evidence collected from the scene of the incident. We will request for documentation from the Police and attorneys representing the arrested, including but not limited to statements given by the arrested individuals, witness statements, charge records, and testimonies.
In addition, we are asking anyone out there that may have any evidence pertaining to this incident to forward them to and/or contact MambaTV via email at promotion@mambatv.com or via phone at 202-854-1755. In an attempt to keep all parties honest and bring the truth to the people of Sierra Leone, MambaTV, an independent entity has deemed it necessary to launch this investigation. In the interest of transparency and accountability, we remain hopeful that all relevant parties will cooperate with our investigation. We look forward to sharing with our readers and viewers our findings as soon as our investigation is completed.

Excerpts from Socfin 2014 Annual Report Raise More Questions About Its Operation in Sierra Leone

By Mustapha Wai
Host, MambaTV Focus on Sierra Leone
March 24, 2016

 

A review of the 2014 annual report of Socfin Group, the parent company of Socfin Agricultural Company, Sierra Leone Limited discloses a set of interesting information. Socfin, SL Ltd., is one of the agricultural companies accused of land grabbing in Sierra Leone. Socfin operates in Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District, Southern Sierra Leone.
 
Last month, six landowners were jailed in Sierra Leone after being convicted for destroying 40 palm plants belonging to Socfin. Hon. Shiaka Sama, the leader of the six was released weeks into his conviction after his fine in the amount of $10,000 was paid. The remaining five are still behind bars, pending payment of their fines which totals $30,000. Such fines for allegedly destroying 40 palm plants raise eyebrows in a community where the average Socfin worker receives $2 per day, and where questionable land deals have reportedly left landowners receiving a one-time lump sum of $220 per acre and $5 per acre per year in rent on 50-year leases.  Many legal minds have found it difficult to establish the basis for such an exorbitant fine. The fines do not appear to be consistent with any existing sentencing guidelines in Sierra Leone. It begs the question whether the sentencing was motivated by factors other than the fair dispensation of justice.
 
Below are excerpts from Socfin’s 2014 Annual Report that I find very interesting, if not questionable:
  • That land under lease in Malen Chiefdom are state owned
  • Current lease concession is 17, 812 Hectares of land
  • Of that amount 11,057 hectares of oil palm planted
  • Oil mill construction nearly finished
  • Permanent employees 1,114
  • Daily workers 3,468
  • Contractors 191
  • Expatriates 20
  • Total employees 4,803
 
SOCFIN on Corruption: The Code of Conduct clearly prohibits any form of bribery and corruption. All of our employees, from management to our estates, are expected to act with integrity, which is an integral part of our Company’s values. We are opposed to bribes in any form and any employee found to have engaged in bribery or corruption will be severely dealt with by the Company and to the full extent of the law (Socfin 2014 Annual Report, p31).
 
SOCFIN on Labor Management: SOCFIN pursues a constructive social dialogue with its employees and their representatives. Currently, most of the estates have written procedures for Communication & Negotiation and Complaints & Grievances. We are in a constant process of improving these procedures. These procedures are described in the Company’s official documents and communicated to staff by their representatives. We are continuously striving to improve our grievance procedure to ensure that all employees feel comfortable expressing workplace grievances. Following the complaints and grievance procedure in vigour, employees can write down their complaints in a record book that is kept at each site. During monthly meetings between management and staff representatives, these complaints are discussed and a formal reply or solution is prepared. Employees are represented by their union representatives and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). We inform our employees through notice boards, newsletters and radio jingles (Socfin 2014 Annual Report, p20).
 
Questions:
  1. Is the land in Malen Chiefdom that is subject to the Socfin lease owned by the Government of Sierra Leone as claimed by the report?
  2. Given that several other sources have stated that land under the Socfin lease in Malen Chiefdom is limited to about 6,500 hectares, is Sofcin actually holding lease to 17,812 hectares of land in Sierra Leone as claimed in the report? If so, where in the country specifically?
  3. Does Socfin actually employ 4,803 workers in Sierra Leone as claimed in their annual report?
  4. To what extent does Socfin actually enforce its anti-corruption code of conduct in Sierra Leone?
  5. To what extent does Socfin actually enforce its labor relations and grievances code in Sierra Leone? How has such implementation help address concerns raised by landowners and workers in Malen plantation?