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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

The Real Issues Behind the Wanza Debate: Axioms of Chernoh Alpha M.Bah
By Chernoh Alpha M.Bah
Sep 12, 2008, 18:20
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Axioms of Chernoh Alpha M.Bah
076-757924/033 213399 Email: africanists@yahoo.com


Mohamed Kamel Wanza has become a household name in Sierra Leone during the last couple of days. As a matter of fact, his name has featured in the pages of our newspapers during the last few weeks more frequently than Ernest Koroma, the president of the country.


So much is being talked about and various explanations have been marshaled as to why Wanza must be paid. APC and SLPP leaders are mounting accusations and counter accusations with each blaming the other for the controversy.


Yesterday, Information Minister Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo told the Exclusive newspaper that the Wanza controversy is the product of a mess that was left behind by the NPRC military junta and the former SLPP government of Kabbah that the APC is trying to clean in order to restore state respectability.


Of course the Wanza controversy, which sprouted from his claim of a 75 billion Leones owed him by the government of Sierra Leone for a gunboat he allegedly supplied to the NPRC military regime in the mid 1990s was hastily anchored on the premise that former president Kabbah refused to pay an honest debt for a supply that was genuinely delivered. From that standpoint, the debate has been further shifted to Wanzas supposed gratitude to the SLPP during the election campaigns of 1996 and then to the prudent magnanimity and determination of Ernest Koromas government to rid the country of any scars injuring the countrys relations with the outside world.


It is completely unfortunate that the issue has taken this dimension. The fact is no meaningful political debate on an issue of national concern will occur in this country without being obscured and interrupted by blotched alliances to horrible partisan and ethnic networks and interests.


The Wanza controversy is a national issue of public interest that should be devoid of any partisan ambitions and clandestine individual objectives and aspirations. It is my view that debating Wanza from the standpoint of the so-called SLPP versus APC good leadership reduces the significance of the question, and by implication gives way to political and administrative dishonesty and deceit.


The centrality of the contradiction is Wanzas alleged 75 billion Leones debt to the government of Sierra Leone. Does the government of Sierra Leone owe Mohamed Kamel Wanza such a colossal amount of money? If yes, under what circumstance was such a debt supposedly incurred and for what purpose? What were the terms of reference for such a debt? And why did the government of Kabbah refuse to accept Wanzas claims? And also why is the current government of Ernest Koroma so zealous and enthusiastic about paying Wanza?


Answers to these question will help us to situate the issue in its actual context whether we should pay Wanza or not and for what reasons?


Quite frankly, there are several issues of national concern that should attract our attention than the controversial Wanza claims. The fact that the government of Ernest Koroma puts premium on paying Wanzas disputed debts during such a time when the economy is almost in shambles renders the entire issue suspect and questionable. That Wanza should be of immense concern to the APC than issues like the fading Koroma electricity, the escalating rice prices, the exorbitant import duties, the food crisis and the impacts of global economic recession is quite puzzling.

Imagine what 75 billion Leones can do if it is directed towards agricultural development, health, education and road construction, or even housing? These are the most pressing problems faced by the masses.

 

Whether we owe Wanza or not, government should direct energies on developing the welfare of the masses than strive to satisfy the interests of some foreign nationals and multinational organizations at the expense of the welfare of the citizens. 


The argument that we have to pay Wanza as a way of restoring state respectability and satisfying World Bank and IMF conditions for loans and other forms of assistance makes no sense. It is absolutely pointless and kaput. The heavy reliance on private sector and multinational corporate capital inflows in the world makes it hardly for any country within this global capitalist economy not be riddled with fiscal debts and budgetary deficits.


That the Wanzas group of companies allegedly funded the campaigns of some of the political parties and military groups that ruled this country during the last fifteen years, with Ernest Koromas government inclusive, should be a matter of outright concern to the masses of this country. In my view, Wanza might not have been genuine with his group of companies. Trading with a military junta that wrestled political power through a coup must have been driven by a chronic desire for profit at all costs.


This is why we say convincing reasons as to why we have to pay Wanza are needed otherwise we would be forced to believe that the APC might be rewarding him for his alleged financial support to the current government during last years election campaigns.


If not why should payment of pensions and gratuities to past government functionaries and salary increments not be of urgent significance to us? Which is more important Wanza or the former states functionaries?


Returning back to I. B. Kargbo, he argues that the so-called refusal of the past government of Kabbah to pay Wanza causes embarrassment to the state and that it could have been avoided if the SLPP government had not approached the matter with hate, rancor and dislike for Wanza. 


If this is the case we pose the questions: was Kabbah the one personally indebted to Wanza? And why was the SLPP averse to Wanza and in contrast what makes Wanza so loving and appealing to the current APC government?


The fact of the matter is money that will be paid to Wanza is not something that is going to come from the accounts of former members of the NPRC junta most of whom are now completely cash-strapped and broke. Neither is it coming from the SLPP or the APC. It is taxpayers money the peoples wealth and resources. These could be used on any social service delivery project than given out as pay back to some Lebanese financier claiming African citizenship and roots.  After all, the gunboat for which Wanza is claiming such a colossal amount of money was never supplied and used by the people.


So why should APC government functionaries develop hypertensions over such a shady and dubious deal between some military ruffians and some profit seeking Lebanese? Is it because of national interest or partisan interest? Hell No!


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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