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SPECIAL REPORTS : Afsatu Kabba  

ACC, Gloria Newman-Smart & Afsatu Kabba: What Lessons for Sierra Leone?
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Oct 13, 2010, 18:04
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To start off with, let me state that whilst I have not missed a single one of the sessions throughout the entire trial of Haja Afsatu Kabba, even though I arrived in Freetown on Monday night from London, I made a decision yesterday Tuesday October 12th 2010, NOT to attend the delivery of Honourable Justice Samuel Ademusu’s Judgment against Haja Afsatu Kabba because based on certain nuances and my own wide information network, I had a fair idea of what it was going to be and knew it would not be pleasant to my ears or the ears of any of the avowed sympathisers of Haja Afsatu Kabba.



So, whilst many people thronged to the Courts yesterday morning, I decided that I will not subject myself to sitting down and listening to any judgment being rendered by a Contract Judge rendering a decision, after he had listened to a bunch of witnesses testifying anonymously behind curtains against a woman whom the current Ernest Bai Koroma led system has offered as a sacrificial lamb; in the same way the former SLPP Government of Tejan Kabbah offered the late Gloria Newman-Smart as their own sacrificial lamb. In this article, I am not going to pay much attention to the judgment but to what lessons can Sierra Leoneans learn from the past five years of the so-called fight against corruption in Sierra Leone viz-a-viz Gloria Newman-Smart and Afsatu Kabba.



Sometime in the middle of the Year 2005, the late Gloria Newman-Smart fell afoul of the then SLPP powers that be when she was reported to have been one of the top kitchen cabinet advisers of Charles Margai who was to lose the fight for the SLPP Leadership to the then Vice President Solomon Berewa and form a new party. Newman-Smart had made no secret of her preference for Charles Margai over the other contenders and a photograph of herself and Margai in Bo was rumoured to have been handed over to certain persons in Freetown who then decided that she must be removed from office as Chief Immigration Officer and disgraced so that she could not be a potent political force.



At that time, the Tejan Kabbah regime had been smarting from the uproar over the Government’s reaction to the illegal detention of SLPP Fisheries Minister Okere Adams in his pyjamas by the DFID-funded Anti Corruption Commission which arrest and detention of Okere Adams had been spearheaded by British born, DFID-funded Andrew Felton. The Government had come out strongly in a statement in support of the Cabinet Minister and DFID alongside the British High Commission in Sierra Leone, had reported back negative reports to the Foreign Office who had ensured their displeasure with the SLPP Government’s ‘interference’ in operations of the ACC, was transmitted to Freetown.



Tejan Kabbah’s regime needed to show the British Donors, who were funding a significant chunk of our budget, that they were serious in the anti-corruption fight and since Gloria Newman-Smart, being the daughter of SLPP strongman Professor Newman-Smart, was herself a strong SLPP partisan, she was the ideal sacrificial lamb especially as most people outside of deep political circles would not have known she had fallen afoul of certain SLPP Leaders with her Margai alliance. All what the public would see was an SLPP Daughter caught in the fight against corruption by the British at ACC! That the allegations were ludicrous (she supposedly did not account for a mere $500 in passport fees), was oversighted as journalists and civil society activists took to the rooftops to proclaim that the fight against corruption was now at a height and had roped in a top SLPP woman in the person of Gloria Newman Smart. What happened is History as Gloria Newman-Smart was eventually vindicated by the ACC on October 3rd 2005 only to die in hospital a few days later, on October 9th 2005.



It is important to note at this point that Gloria Newman-Smart, like Haja Afsatu Kabba at Fisheries, raised an unprecedented amount in revenue at Immigration Department. Gloria Newman-Smart raised TWO BILLION LEONES in six months. Prior to that, the Immigration would raise less than half a billion leones per annum!



Now, this very successful lawyer lady, Gloria Newman-Smart was close to one of the most powerful men in the SLPP back then; the State Chief of Protocol Soulay Daramy. Although they were no longer together, they were still good friends having lived together in London for many years in a relationship. She was also very close to the then President, Tejan Kabbah who looked on her as a dear niece who had answered to his call to the Diaspora to return home to help him after the war.



Gloria Newman-Smart was also a very close relative to one of the most powerful men in the Judiciary, Supreme Court Judge Hon. Justice Maitland Emeric Tolla Thompson whose daughter, Lawyer Glenna Thompson, had not only been taken under Gloria Newman Smart’s wings in London but Glenna had studied under Gloria Newman-Smart at her Cardinal Law Firm based in the United Kingdom.



Despite all these powerful men back then, Kabbah, Daramy, Tolla-Thompson, with whom she was strongly allied to, not a single one of them dared to lift a finger to assist Gloria Newman-Smart when she was being hounded by the Anti Corruption Commission over a period spanning many weeks. She wrote letters pleading for assistance from the humiliation and molestation which at one point got to be so bad that she was almost stripped naked in front of her offices by overzealous Anti Corruption officers sent to pick her up by the British Andrew Felton. No one dared to help her because of two reasons. Firstly for fear of incurring the wrath of the British who had threatened to withdraw financial support if big fishes were not publicly caught. Interestingly, the British themselves were innocuously used by unseen local SLPP hands to deal with a perceived enemy of the SLPP Leadership because of her association with Charles Margai. Secondly, many people seeing the nonchalance stance taken from State House, advised themselves to totally distance away from Gloria Newman-Smart who was then too sullied to be associated with!



Between the harassment by the British and the overt endorsement by the SLPP Leadership, many Sierra Leoneans, even in the face of outright abuse of Gloria Newman-Smart’s rights, simply did not want to step in and say the truth that such abuse over a mere $500 allegation was unacceptable.



Today, we are faced with a scenario that is eerily similar to five years ago. Haja Afsatu Kabba has powerful enemies on whose toes she stepped and also her little-hidden ambition to have been Ernest Koroma’s Running-mate in 2007 Elections with her eye eventually set on the Presidency as exhibited by her going for the position of Deputy Party Leader last year, did not make a good combination for her. Add to this, the urgent desire for the corruption-indicted Koroma regime to have the British and other Donors to see it as a regime fighting corruption, and you have an unfolding scenario over the past few months that has seen a woman like Haja Afsatu Kabba subjected to some of the most horrifying experiences ever.



In all of this, just like in the case of Gloria Newman-Smart, Afsatu Kabba’s association with President Koroma as one of his trusted aides and her so-called tremendous influence within the ruling APC party has been song from the mouths of her detractors in the same way Gloria Newman-Smart’s association with the SLPP was loudly song as evidence of the SLPP regime’s sincerity to fight against corruption.



Our Colonial Masters, the British, are here helping us. However, they need to justify back to the British taxpayers why so much millions of pounds in fat cat salaries are being expended down in Sierra Leone by Consultants and the likes. If the occasional ‘big fishes’ are not caught and charged and found guilty, then their presence in the country and all the millions they claim to be expending to teach the Africans how to be civilised and ‘non-corrupt’ in their dealings will be questioned by the Commons and British Taxpayers. They need the occasional high profile indictment and convictions as evidence to show that the African ‘savages’ are learning how not to steal.



In this edition (Pages 2 & 3) I have reproduced an article by Oswald Hanciles on our slavish mentality as Sierra Leoneans when it comes to issues concerning the white man especially the British. I also reproduce a report on recent corruption involving British political Topguns. As shown in those articles, Sierra Leoneans can behave like SLAVES to the white man. Many of us are not emancipated enough to see through what we have been brainwashed into... As long as something is associated with the white man or is endorsed by the British, many Sierra Leoneans lose all possible common sense and just act erratically dancing to a macabre tune of self-destruction under the guise of doing what the white man will find pleasing.



The British do not encourage Criminal Trials by one Judge sitting alone who subjects the Accused persons to his whims and caprices. The British respect Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which call for free and fair trials. In Britain, a trial where all the witnesses are hidden behind curtains as they testify and in which no jury is allowed; a trial where there is only one Judge on Contract and whose contract can be terminated if he does not ‘play ball’ will simply not be stomached by the civilised people of Great Britain. So, why do we allow it to happen here in Sierra Leone?



The British do not have an Anti Corruption Commission which can be turned into a tool to deal with political enemies. Under the SLPP, it happened with Gloria Newman-Smart and under the APC it has happened with Haja Afsatu Kabba who has been charged and found guilty because the regime needed to show it was ‘serious’ and ‘sincere’ in its fight against corruption. Why do we encourage such abuse of our rights here? Haja Afsatu Kabba, like Gloria Newman-Smart, was malevolently treated with armed officers raiding Kabba’s residence under gunpoint to pick up her husband and children over allegations of corruption. In the case of Gloria Newman-Smart, five years ago, under the SLPP, she was locked up in a stinking police cell and denied important medicines for a whole night and day on the orders of British Born Andrew Felton. She eventually died.



Under SLPP in case of Newman-Smart, neither the President her uncle nor the SCOP her dear friend nor the Supreme Court Justice Tolla Thompson, her uncle, could stop the abuse. The entire people of Sierra Leone watched like BIG FAT DUMMIES as a Sierra Leonean heroine who had raised an unprecedented two billion leones at Immigration in six months, was maltreated in the name of fighting corruption.

Fast forward to five years later and we have Haja Afsatu Kabba who raises an unprecedented excess of eleven billion leones at Fisheries Ministry and we all have sat in silent acquiescence as her husband was dragged one early morning from his home under gunpoint with his children and defamed all over Freetown with armed police escort and a huge ACC signed vehicle trailing him. And why? Because of allegations, the veracity of which will continue to be debated even as they continue to be ‘Lies on file’.



Please Sierra Leoneans, compare and contrast the treatment of Haja Afsatu Kabba and Gloria Newman Smart with that of British politicians and actors as reported on page 2 of this edition today. Then go on and read Oswald Hanciles piece on Page 3 today. The fight against Corruption is an important fight indeed. But can any truly patriotic Sierra Leonean genuinely say that we have been fair to ourselves in how we have been using the Anti Corruption Commission as a tool to destroy people whom might otherwise have been our heroines? The selective justice nature in which the ACC has been existing all this while should make true patriots pause for thought.



One British Prime Minister John Major got so angry one time that he told his detractors to “Put Up or Shut Up!” Abdul Tejan Cole was yesterday quoted over the BBC as saying he had been vindicated by the Ademusu Judgment. He should have waited to get a copy of the Judgment where his malice in bringing stupid charges of ‘abuse of office’ was well exposed. This same man who writes the 2008 Anti Corruption Act did not know the act was not retroactive? He better just SHUT UP! He has cheaply allowed himself to be used like a cheap tool and some of us will never respect him again... Anyway, more on him and his perceived ‘vindication’ tomorrow.



Afsatu Kabba’s trial is one that for centuries to come will leave many lost in awe at how Sierra Leoneans stood by and watched as we claimed to be fighting corruption when in reality we were merely helping the powers-that-be to destroy their perceived political enemies even as the real corruption went about its business unhindered. The Anti Corruption Commission, if implemented to the letter without fear or favour, is a beautiful concept but I sometimes sit down and wonder to myself why is it that the British; also a corruption-plagued society, do not have an Anti Corruption Commission of their own given all the merits of such a beautiful concept? I also sit and wonder sometimes if Sierra Leoneans really understand that some of what is being funded in this country under the guise of fighting corruption are simply outright abuses of our human rights?



The trial of Haja Afsatu Kabba by one Judge seated alone to preside over it and whom alone makes the decision to send the Accused to jail for lengthy periods of time is so frightening that I wonder why more people do not see just how frightening it is? Especially when the Judge seated alone is a Contract Judge whose continued occupation of the position of a Judge on Contract lies largely on the largesse and magnanimity of H.E. the President, Supreme Executive of the Republic of Sierra Leone?

The invasion of the residence of a sitting Cabinet Minister by armed police personnel ostensibly to pick up her husband and children for questioning at the Anti Corruption Commission is so frightening to think about that I wonder why more people do not see just how frightening it all was?

The ‘laying on file’ of seventeen counts and the proffering of clearly senseless ‘abuse of office’ charges which even a Contract Judge was forced to throw out, is such an egregious abuse that I wonder why more people do not see the danger of what and where such abuses can lead to?

Is the Anti Corruption Commission really fighting Corruption? Or are we, Sierra Leoneans simply fighting ourselves and killing off our heroes and heroines when they fall foul of our political masters; be in the SLPP or the APC? It is time for us to start asking of ourselves what are the lessons we have learnt in the fight against corruption especially viz-a-viz Afsatu Kabba and late Gloria Newman-Smart.



Sometime in late 2005, I was in London and I attended the Launching of my friend Lans Gberie’s book at Chatham House in London. Coincidentally, at the event, I bumped into another friend of mine, the then Opposition Leader Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma, who is the current President. He, like me, had also been in London on a visit. At the occasion, Ernest Koroma drew me to the side and highly commended me for my efforts at making the world know the truth about Gloria Newman-Smart. On that occasion, he told me he would always respect me for my fearless stances taken in championing the truth regardless of whom the truth affected in powerful corridors. He reiterated to me the widely held belief that Gloria Newman-Smart’s perceived alliance with Charles Margai had caused her to be horribly vilified in the manner in which she had been which led to her untimely death. Ironically, Ernest Koroma however proceeded to condemn the removal of Val Collier by his colleagues in Parliament which had by then just happened back in Freetown. Infact, Hon. Ernest Koroma even went on to inform me that he had held discussions with important people at DFID in London and at the Commonwealth Office expressing his displeasure with the removal of Val Collier. At this point, we had been joined by some other APC members of APC London Branch who joined to condemn the move by the SLPP-dominated Parliament. If Ernest Koroma or the others had thought they would get endorsement from me, they were wrong as I quickly asked of the then Opposition leader if he did not realise that Gloria Newman-Smart had been vilified under the leadership of the very same Val Collier at the ACC. He mumbled an answer about how bad Tejan Kabbah really was for the country and what a disaster Solomon Berewa would be if elected as Berewa would use the ACC to trample upon all his political enemies. According to Ernest Koroma, it was not Val Collier who was to be blamed but the SLPP Leadership who had used Val Collier’s Anti Corruption Commission to deal with Gloria Newman-Smart. #END#

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