Category Archives: Leadership

Gallery

Salone Cabinet Ministers: Are they STAKEHOLDERS or STICK-HOLDERS?

This gallery contains 3 photos.

In a recent post on social media, one group of Sierra Leoneans who had scheduled a meeting for dialogue on social issues were criticized for inviting cabinet ministers and other unelected officials. Some of the ministers invited were widely viewed … Continue reading

ACC Arrests Teachers and Students for Alleged Examination Fraud: WAEC Finds the Perfect Scapegoats

It is by no coincidence that having been in the hot sits recently about corrupt practices, the Sierra Leone branch of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), with the help of the country’s “corruption czar” Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), has now found the perfect scapegoats to divert negative attention from the agency.

It is unfortunate that instead of truly looking into WAEC malpractices that are dumbing down generations and hurting the entire education system in the country, the ACC, as usual, has stepped in to pick on the little fish in order to shield and protect the big fish in the pond.

Just a few weeks ago, during the National Primary School Examinations (NPSE), exam questionnaires were being re-used because there were not enough printed for the number of students who showed up to take the exam. Instead of each student receiving a clean exam questionnaire, they had to take turns; one set of students waits for the other to complete the exam so they could use the questionnaires.

When WAEC was confronted with this issue, the agency and its partner, the Ministry of Education, went on the defensive on every media outlet that would give them the time.

WAEC officials were claiming to have been instructed by the Ministry of Education to administer the exam to each and every student who shows up on the day of the exam, with no exceptions. According to WAEC, this meant that students did not have to be on the registration roster to be allowed to take the exam.

This argument is totally contradictory to the WAEC requirement that students who take national and sub-regional exams must pre-register weeks or months before the exams. Exam questionnaires and other materials are then ordered by WAEC based on the number of students who register for each exam. This is the logical procedure.

However, WAEC Sierra Leone claims to have ordered exam questionnaires based on the number of students who registered for the NPSE. The agency even claims to have ordered a surplus number of questionnaires for the exam. But, according to WAEC, school officials, especially from rural school districts, had failed to register their students accordingly. And that those unregistered students showed up for the exam anyway.

STUDENTS IN A PRIMARY CLASSROOM

Thus, WAEC blames the shortage of questionnaires on thousands of unregistered students showing up on the day of the exam. And because of their agreement with the Ministry not to turn any child away on exam day, WAEC officials claim they had no choice but to re-use exam questionnaires to accommodate the influx of unregistered exam takers.

We find this to be a very crafty excuse, which in our view, is WAEC’s and the Ministry’s way of dodging responsibility for their failings. So the truth will never be known about why WAEC did not have enough exam materials; worst of all, WAEC officials have no incentive to correct their malpractices because they could always put the blame on others.

It is sad that corrupt agencies and their officials have mouthpieces that speak for them in the media, spread their nefarious falsehoods, which we find very insulting to the people’s intelligence. Conversely, the people on whom all the blames are being dumped have no mouthpieces to speak for them.

ACC alleges to have arrested teachers and students in response to a ” a tip off.” That the teachers had acted as “examiners” during the exam and were marking the exams when they were arrested. Our questions:

  • Should this tip-off have gone to ACC or WAEC officials for action?
  • Why are teachers who are “Examiners” also marking exams?
  • Do WAEC officials supervise the examiners and markers?
  • Why are teachers who act as “examiners” also allowed to mark those exams?
  • Who does it benefit when “perpetrators” are so dramatically arrested by ACC?
  • When did cheating on exams become an arrestable offence in Sierra Leone?

We believe that the so-called tip-off was nothing but a concerted effort to find scapegoats in order to allay negative attention that has been swirling over WAEC recently. These arrests also show that WAEC and the Ministry of Education are not intending to do what it takes to clean up their malpractices. The same people they are failing to serve, the students and teachers of Sierra Leone, to whom they provide no resource support, are the same people they prey on as scapegoats to cover up their corruption.

ACC further alleges that the teachers were found marking exams in a secret location where students had been invited to retake the exam upon paying a fee the teachers charged.

This shows a fundamental flaw in WAEC’s practices. As the agency that administers all exams, it should actively supervise all exams and examiners, in order to maintain integrity of their agency, the exams and the education system. Can WAEC explain…

  • Why teachers who act as examiners are the same who mark the exams?
  • Were the “said teachers” marking the exams outside the proper protocol?
  • Why are WAEC officials not being arrested for not properly supervising exam marking?

ACC apparently “raided” the location where the teachers had been marking the exams and claim to have found five students retaking the exam at the time of their arrest. This is a very illogical strategy and warrants many questions:

  • How does this dramatic raid impact all the exams that were being marked in that location?
  • Were there any WAEC officials at the location where exams were being marked?
  • What was found in the raid that amounted to the arrestable offense?

ACC officials further claim to have arrested the landlord of the premises along with the teachers and students and are keeping them in custody as the investigations ensue.

This is another fundamental flaw in the WAEC system. Is there no standard rule on where exams could be marked? In this case, the landlord is being dragged into the case to make it more dramatic. If WAEC has rules and regulations on where exams can be conducted, then it must also have rules and regulations on where those exams can be marked and under whose supervision.

If there are such rules, then it should be standard procedure for exams that are not conducted and marked under prescribed  procedures be systematically rejected by WAEC. This would reduce the incentive and opportunity for corruption.

ACC claims to have made the arrest as a move to improve the integrity of the education system. This could not be farther from the truth.

We argue that the arrests were part of the ACC’s modus operandi. Whenever a government institution, official or some other big fish is caught red handed in corrupt practices, such as WAEC has been caught recently, the ACC makes a dramatic arrest of a scapegoat, which puts the issue on the back burner of public discussions and life goes on. Meanwhile, the real criminals continue their shady activities in even more reprehensible ways.

A TYPICAL PRIMARY SCHOOL CLASSROOM

The issue of rich and influential people using their wealth and power to give unfair advantages to their not-so-bright sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, is an age old problem in Sierra Leone. This has robbed many bright people of their rights to quality education and loss of many other benefits that are supposed to be based on merit. University scholarships and study abroad scholarships have always been funneled to students with social and political connections, regardless of their academic standings.

ACC does not help the children and youth of Sierra Leone by helping WAEC shift blame onto teachers and students, who may or may not be innocent. It would serve the education system better if WAEC would systematically condemn exams that are conducted or marked outside of proper procedures. This would reduce the incentive for fraud and eliminate opportunities for rogue teachers to sell exams.

Mama Salone is by no means condoning fraud or malpractices by faculty and staff in the school systems of Sierra Leone. We believe that there should be a consistent and systematic process of exposing and expelling faculty and staff who are found to be involved in fraudulent activities in the schools.

 

Dramatically arresting teachers and students is not the solution!

 

News sources:

AWOKO Sierra Leone News

Sierra Leone Telegraph

Image

709 Carat Gem On Bid in Sierra Leone

Gallery

A message for Hawa Kamara: Miss Universe, Sierra Leone 2016.

This gallery contains 3 photos.

You were given the cause to post a video in response to the pornographic video put out on social media to malign you. Keep smiling girl, it looks good on you!! Without seeing the maligning video, it is nonetheless obvious … Continue reading

Gallery

Giant Diamond Found in Sierra Leone: Jubilation or Tribulation?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

The biggest news out of Sierra Leone for the past couple of days has been the discovery of a giant diamond, which the Sierra Leone State House describes as a  706 carat diamond. This precious stone was found by a … Continue reading

People of Kono District Must Unite to End Structural Injustice

The chronic polarization of Kono peoples must stop. While they are asleep by their focus on superficial divisions, the criminal political elite of Sierra Leone is robbing them blind of their land and their human and peoples’ rights.

When a leader wants absolute power but still needs the outside world and donors to see him as a “democratic” leader, he crafts laws that give legitimacy to his nefarious plans; in this way, outsiders can ignore what he does in the name of sovereignty. This is how the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 came into being in Sierra Leone, at the behest of the current President Ernest Bai Koroma, the “Supreme Leader” with absolute power in “democratic” Republic of Sierra Leone.

This Act instituted a structure in which a place such as Kono District, which is the most diamondiferous district in Sierra Leone, belongs to the political elite and their network. A quick glance at the act tells you that in a place like Kono, the people have lost all rights to their land; the land and what it contains not only belong to the president and his cronies, they have absolute power over the people. This law has taken the people of Kono into a deep hole from which they must find a way to crawl out.

Mining-1

Mines and Minerals Act of 2009- Section 2 – Ownership of minerals

(1) All rights of ownership in and control of minerals in, under or upon any land in Sierra Leone and its continental shelf are invested in the Republic not withstanding any right of ownership or otherwise that any person may possess in and to the soil on, in or under which minerals are found or situated.

(2) The Minister shall ensure in the public interest that the mineral resources of Sierra Leone are investigated and exploited in the most efficient effective and timely manner.

We have all decried the constant police brutality against the people of Kono, especially the youth, whenever they try to protest the injustices they are facing. We have wondered about the arrogance and over-confidence of cabinet ministers who operate in Kono. These ministers are well known for threatening, intimidating and ordering police to arrest, imprison and even kill Kono people who raise their voices against the injustices they face. The absolute power and impunity of Kono ministers are based in the laws.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ancestral homes are bulldozed daily and people of Kono are relocated by foreign owned mining companies to shabby new locations far away from schools, markets and hospitals. Schools that have existed for decades are bulldozed and relocated to areas that are inaccessible to the children who attend them. The list goes on and chronically corrupt politicians, their network and local leaders continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the people’s lives and livelihood.

The daily or weekly kimberlite blasting by a powerful mining company, Koidu Holdings aka OCTEA, has been causing so much physical, psychological and emotional havoc on the people of Kono;  the tremor caused by the dynamite blasts leads to many miscarriages among pregnant women in the vicinity, it also leads to psychological trauma, especially for older survivors of the decade long war. But it is all legitimate because the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 says it is,

Section 36: Compulsory acquisition of private land.

(1) The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, compulsorily acquire private land or rights over or under private land for use by the holder of a large- scale mining licence.

As a result, the people of Kono are internally displaced and are facing serious oppressive treatment by the police and the government officials they take orders from. Protecting the source of their diamond wealth has led the politicians and their vulture western investment partner companies to commit serious abuse of human rights in Kono District, yet, these atrocities may seem legally justified based on the mining laws.koidu-holdings-company-2

In one rare video report of atrocities in Kono, (which may well be a government commissioned propaganda report), a government minister is asked to explain the situation regarding the recent Congo Bridge destruction and mishandling of the youth and other citizens who tried to protest in Koidu City. Part of the minister’s explanation is that the bulldozing, digging, dredging, etc., were being done to “remove unsuitable materials…to protect the people and their interests.” It is very obvious from his responses that the overconfident minister is fully aware of the injustice of this mining activity, which is leading to the loss of a vital bridge and the lives and livelihood of the people. The Mining Act of 2009 provides legitimacy for this minister to claim that he has commissioned a mining company to “remove unsuitable material…,” a language borrowed from the law,  which gives him the power to order the wrath of police brutality on the people, which in the last incident, resulted in serious injuries and at least one fatality that we know of in Koidu City.

Diamonds have been mined in Kono District for over 80 years; but the previous regime of the late President Tejan Kabba and the current regime of President Ernest Bai Koroma are probably the worst in history for Kono and its people. Things are only going to get better for Kono District and its people when,

  • the people use their collective political powers to demand changes in the structure that the current regime has put in place in the guise of a mining law.
  • Kono people unite in holding their legislators accountable for partaking in the drafting and passing of such laws.
  • People of Kono realize that politicians are false prophets, their promises are fake and only meant to deceive them into giving them the very powers they end up using against them.
  • the people of Kono use their voting power to push for changes in the laws that have built the structure in which they have lost their birth rights to their land.

The people of Kono must unite and find legitimate means of using their collective voices to uplift themselves out of this hole dug by crafty laws drafted by crafty politicians.

References
Watch a video showing a light sample of OCTEA Dynamite Blasting in Kono

Mines & Minerals Act, 2009

A Call for Kono People to Instrospect & Unite

 

 

Image

Lives In Sierra Leone Endangered by Government Officials: Trash Gate

On January 9, 2016, a newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon, The Daily Star, reported, “Sierra Leone agrees to take in Lebanon trash.” The report goes on to say that this comes after a nearly six months trash crisis in Lebanon. The country had apparently entered into contract with a company in the Netherlands, Howa BV to search for a dumping ground for its non recyclable waste. In other words, it useless trash.

464177_img650x420_img650x420_crop

Photo Credit: The Daily Star. Lebanon Trash

It took this newspaper report in Lebanon for people of Sierra Leone to know that their government was about to enter into a secret agreement to bring roughly 200,000 tons of trash into the country from Lebanon. Otherwise, people in Sierra Leone would have never found out. If ever, they may have found out after the deal was done, every participant was enriched from the proceeds.  Perhaps the poverty ridden masses would have found out after some mysterious illness overtook them.

In a letter from a Sierra Leone government official, dated January 7, 2016, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone, advises the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, with whom the agreement is to be signed,

If the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Chief of Staff agree on the legality of the transaction, then there will be no difficulty to sign an agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and your Chamber…It should be noted that the President, Dr. Ernest Koroma, has the final say on this matter.

Civil Society has no say

According to Alhaji Kargbo’s advise above, civil society, as stakeholders who pay the ultimate price should this turn out to be disastrous for health and lives, they are clearly being overlooked and dismissed as irrelevant in the matter.

Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, at the date of signing his letter of acceptance for the Lebanese trash, was holding the title of “Special Adviser to the President” as well as a newly “Elected Member of Parliament.” This shows that in Sierra Leone, it does not take a high level government official to enter into contracts that may potentially  harm the people. Also as an Elected Member of Parliament, he is supposed to represent and serve the people, as such, overlooking the people’s relevance in his dealings of this sort is injurious and a disservice to them.

As a preemptive defense, Alhaji Kargbo states in his letter, that the trash “…should not be of any toxic nature…be part of development of fertilization for agricultural purpose.”

He also stated in a BBC radio interview that the purpose of the trash was for his Dutch business contact to set up a fertilizer plant in Sierra Leone.

If this were true, it makes one wonder:

  • What should come first: the fertilizer plant or the trash?
  • Why isn’t there any record of exchanges regarding a fertilizer plant but there is an exchange for trash transfer?
  • Is it in the terms of reference of the “special adviser” to the President to broker such deals?

Apparently, this is how all “investment” contracts are entered into in Sierra Leone. It does not have to be in the job description of the contracting official. The evidence of this danger is in numerous parts of the country, where mining and non-food agricultural land grabs are taking place. People in those regions are enduring a plethora of injustices from effects of contracts that they were never part of making.

A boy walks through the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. The river is effectively a giant sewage and everyday new garbage arrives in the water from the hills around. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A boy walks through the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. The river is effectively a giant sewage and everyday new garbage arrives in the water from the hills around. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

This is a country that has never figured out what to do with its own trash

But our government officials want us to believe that we have room to accept thousands of tons of trash from other countries, in the name of “developing agricultural fertilizer;” when in fact the Lebanese news paper report indicates that specialists have declared the Lebanese waste “infectious and compacted.”

Freetow-slums

Slum in Freetown Sierra Leone Living on heaps of trash

The worst danger is the fact that this deal, and others like it, are motivated by financial incentives. The Lebanese are ready to pay millions of dollars to get rid of their trash, and a few individuals in Sierra Leone stand to gain a great deal. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo may become a scapegoat and released from his post to shut us up and defuse any tension at this particular moment.

However, this deal might go through at a later date, after a more discrete transaction can be brokered. There are many more officials in Sierra Leone government who are, at any point in time, striking deals just like this. We often find out when out of no where, our people start dying like flies from a mysterious foreign disease they cannot pronounce.

Susan-Bay-Slum-Freetown

Susan’s Bay Slum. Sierra Leone Photo Credit: Zander’s Blog

There must be an uproar of civil society. Why do we only rise up when the issue is “politics?”

The people of Sierra Leone must demand transparency and detail information about all such contract deals for which the people are the ultimate victims.

Reference

The Daily Star – Lebanon