''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 2

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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27 FEBRUARY 2002UK Development Secretary Clare Short


I am very pleased to be visiting Sierra Leone again at a very important time in the history of the country. I am of course very pleased that the long, cruel and destructive civil war is over and has been formally declared to be over. This is a very important achievement for the people of Sierra Leone and offers them the prospects of a better future. It is also an important achievement for the United Nations and personally for Ambassador Adeniji and his team. We have had too many failed peace keeping operations in Africa. And as we know, the Sierra Leone operation started badly – with the taking of hostages. This was an inauspicious beginning but the international community – and the UK in particular – was determined that we would not fail this time.

And we have not failed.

But one of the things I want to spell out today is that we have not yet succeeded either. We have done only half of the job. The rebels are disarmed, the territory is all under the control of the legitimate government, backed by the United Nations. Refugees and displaced people are returning home in increasing numbers. And the country is preparing for a democratic election. But let us be clear that Sierra Leone is not yet secure. It does not yet have well organised national institutions providing justice and security, health care and education and the conditions for economic growth and increasing prosperity for all. And unfortunately the tradition of people seeking political office to line their own pockets and that of their family, rather than to improve the life of their country is still widespread.

Today I want to say, in no uncertain terms, to all who are planning to contest the forthcoming elections, that this tradition of corruption must be brought to an end. Sierra Leone has a long history of terrible misgovernment – not because it is poor – but because it is naturally rich. The colonial regime, neighbouring countries, rebels and governments since independence, have all misused this country because they wanted access to the rich minerals – diamonds and rutile with which nature has endowed this beautiful country. Sierra Leone will not have a secure and happy future unless the people of the country approach these forthcoming elections with an absolute determination that corruption will be rooted out of public life and that the rich natural resources will be managed transparently and properly so that they bring real benefits to the people of Sierra Leone.

I want to make clear today that the UK Government is committed to stand by Sierra Leone for the long-term provided that we have a strong mutual commitment to the building of a competent, transparent and un-corrupt modern state. Before saying more about that I want to say something about the prospects of the people of Africa as we look forward to our new century. Africa has suffered many cruelties from history – slavery and colonialism, independence boundaries inherited from a colonial carve up that cut across natural groupings of people and geography. And then the Cold War with arms being supplied and aid being used to tie governments to the protagonists rather than to democracy and development for their people.

For these and other reasons of misgovernment and geography, Africa is the poorest continent.

The levels of poverty are deeper than anywhere else in the world – 46% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are living in abject poverty – on less than $1 per day. And poverty in Africa is deeper than it is elsewhere. On present trends, the world is on course to meet the international target, agreed at the Millennium Conference of the United Nations, of halving poverty by 2015 and life will get steadily better for the poor of Asia. But on present trends poverty will get worse for the people of Africa. If Africa is to reach the target, then sub-Saharan Africa needs 7% economic growth every year across the continent until 2015. There are some countries that are achieving these rates of growth – Botswana, Mozambique and Uganda. I am hopeful that some of the new reformers will move forward to these levels of growth – South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia. But we must all be clear, at present rates of economic growth, Africa is set to become steadily poorer. On present trends, population growth is outstripping economic growth and that means poverty will grow invincibly.

We must all commit ourselves to change this trend. That is the purpose of NEPAD – the New Partnership for African Development – an agenda for major reform led by African countries. And this is why the UK, alongside other OECD countries – with the passionate commitment of our Prime Minister, Tony Blair – is strongly committed to forging a new partnership for African development in order to offer the people of the continent a better future.

And if this is to be done we must work together to resolve the current conflicts which are engulfing the continent and we must ensure that future conflict is prevented – because the evidence is clear that the greatest risk of future conflict is that a country has recently been engaged in conflict – and this is a warning to Sierra Leone.

Currently 20% of the people of sub-Saharan Africa are living under conditions of conflict. This is causing enormous suffering, displacement and massive refugee flows and it is also damaging the economic prospects of the continent. Obviously countries in conflict tend to suffer economically but the reputation of the continent for conflict reduces the prospects of inward investment and the crucial technology transfer that it brings for all countries in the continent, including the economic reformers. The World Bank estimates that conflict is costing 2% economic growth each year across the continent. Clearly we must do better in resolving conflict if Africa is to reduce poverty and promote development.

Peace in Sierra Leone comes at an important time. Sierra Leone is a small country, but it has established peace at a time when there is a real possibility of peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country as big as Western Europe that is also endowed with rich minerals. And there is also the beginnings of a commitment to a peace process in Sudan – the largest country in Africa that has been engaged in civil war for all, but 10 years, since independence in 1956. And on top of this, the recent news from Angola could mean the chance of peace there too. And if these three massive, naturally endowed countries can move forward to peace, the prospects of the continent will be transformed and Africa could look forward to a much brighter future.

I suggest that we should all commit ourselves to grab hold of this historical opportunity to consolidate peace and focus on development and offer the people, and particularly the children of Africa, a better future. And for those who are cynical and believe that politics and politicians are driven by selfish national interests and no other motive, let me make clear, it is morally right that the people of Africa be given a better future, but it is also in the self-interest of the wealthiest countries.

September 11th and its aftermath has shown the trouble that one failed state can bring to both its people and the world. If Africa continues to get poorer, we will have a series of failed states – almost a failed continent as the near neighbour of Western Europe. The consequences in conflict, crime, refugee movements, disease and environmental degradation threaten the people of Europe just as they threaten the people of Africa. But – as I have said – the risk of a return to conflict is greatest in the countries
that have recently been in conflict and this brings me back to Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone will not be safe whilst West Africa remains unstable. And if this is to be achieved, Charles Taylor must cease to fund rebel movements in the region. Let us hope that the meeting of the Mano River Union’s leaders in Morocco will produce results. But Charles Taylor should be told firmly and clearly by the people of West Africa that they will not permit him to continue to destabilise their future and the prospects of their children.

For Sierra Leone the other great threat for the future is corruption. Corruption, either grand (the looting of state coffers by those in public trust, the illegal trading in diamonds) or petty (the charge demanded by a low-ranking official for a service that should be free), remains endemic in Sierra Leone. It has become a way of life for many. Society has come to accept, even expect, corruption. As always the poor suffer most, and the poorest of the poor most of all. They are denied access to education, healthcare and medicine because they cannot afford to make the extra payments demanded by corrupt officials.

They are denied justice when the legal system is twisted by bribery. And they suffer when corruption diverts scarce resources away from development or deters essential domestic and international investment. The system for prosecuting those found out is itself corrupted by inertia, and the failure to punish those responsible. The temptation therefore remains. Too many of the people entering politics and the civil service in Sierra Leone do so in order to make money. Personal gain, or loyalty to family, tribe or party, is put before national interest. And the consequence of this is that the country is damaged and everyone loses out. These problems are not, of course, confined to Sierra Leone – they flourish wherever systems are flabby, wherever the institutional environment within government is weak and ineffective, and wherever transparency and accountability is lacking. And let us be clear, the difference between OECD countries and developing countries, is not that one set of people are more moral or more corrupt than another. As you all know, Western Business and, in particular, arms dealers, have in the past tended to spread bribery and corruption. But we currently have a chance for a leap forward.

The OECD Convention on Bribery requires all OECD countries to strengthen their law to make bribery of a public official abroad a criminal offence. The Convention also requires us to cease to make bribes tax deductible which – to our shame – they have been in many countries up until now.

In Sierra Leone, as in many other countries, while financial systems are weak people will engage in corruption. Departmental budgets are not linked to clear objectives, the Public Accounts Committee and other Parliamentary Committees are unable or unwilling to exercise their authority, and Parliament lacks the degree of independence it needs if it is to be able to apply checks and balances to government actions. Many areas of government have never been audited.

Lack of information on government expenditures prevents the people from holding government to account. Even when information is available, civil society is weak and there are few channels through which it can engage effectively with government. There is also a lack of capacity in the local press and other media to investigate and expose corrupt practices in government.

Sierra Leone has got to clean up its act fast if it is to remain at peace and offer a better future to its children. There is a need to root out those practices that corrode public trust, impoverish those who are most in need, and choke off investment and economic progress. Now that government control over the country has been re-established, there is an urgent need to ensure that government services are delivered in outlying areas. Financing these services effectively will require a reduction in both petty and grand corruption. The problem has got to be dealt with promptly and effectively if Sierra Leone is to attract the levels of donor support and investment that is needed to fund reconstruction, regenerate economic activities, and deliver government services throughout the country.

What needs to be done?

In order to tackle these problems, the existing anti-corruption programme must continue. And let me make clear, President Kabbah has made a strong personal stand against corruption. It was on his personal initiative that the Anti-Corruption Commission was set up. But he has had only a handful of Ministers and officials helping him. And this is not good enough. Whoever wins the election, there must be a much stronger commitment to anti-corruption and the UK will make this a strong condition of all our future help to Sierra Leone. The country needs to start work immediately after the election to set out a coherent strategy for dealing with the problem. The strategy needs to be about stopping corruption and strengthening financial management and accountability within government. For its part, the international community needs to get behind this strategy and give it its full support.

The UK Government stands ready to offer our help in drafting this, and in providing the technical and other assistance needed to carry the process forward. We are committed to standing by Sierra Leone for the long-term provided we have a partnership to root out corruption.

As I see it, there are five broad areas that require attention. First, fostering a new attitude in civil servants and politicians. The lead must be taken by the highest levels of government, and a clear message delivered, that
corruption will no longer be tolerated in public service. Public service must be put before private gain. Blind eyes should no longer be turned. Those caught should be shamed, prosecuted and disqualified from public office.

But we must understand enforcement action alone is never enough. Systems must also be put in place to prevent corruption. There must be proper management of the civil service, and proper remuneration to reduce the incentive to seek bribes. Transparent public procurement is essential. There is no justice and no proper enforcement of contracts without an impartial and effective judiciary. And the transparent funding of political parties is essential to guard against corruption of the electoral process.

Second, strengthening systems of control and accountability within government. We are already providing support for the Anti Corruption Commission, the Governance Reform Secretariat, the law development programme, and reform of the police and the military. We intend to strengthen this work and encourage the World Bank and others to work jointly on this.

I have already referred to the rarity of adequate audit both within government and among its agencies. The Auditor General’s Office needs to be strengthened to enable it to carry out these tasks. Depending upon the results of the World Bank-led financial accountability assessments, we may consider offering longer term technical assistance to the Auditor General’s Office. We also strongly recommend that independent audits of quasi-governmental organisations such as the University and State Owned enterprises, many of which have not been audited for decades, be conducted.

Third, the enforcement of anti-corruption legislation needs to be improved, including the investigation capability of the Anti Corruption Commission, and the prosecution capacity of the Attorney General’s Office. Those charged by the Anti-Corruption Commission must be tried fairly and promptly in order to prevent political interference in the judicial process.

Fourth, the management of the country’s diamond resources must be put on the right footing, so that the income derived can be harnessed for the benefit of the country as a whole. We have recently published an independent report that sets out a range of policy options and actions needed to achieve this aim. I hope all Sierra Leoneans who are interested in the diamond industry will read it.

Here again, rooting out the corruption that has plagued the industry is at the heart of the report’s recommendations. Better standards must be set, and adhered to.

Better policies must be established for the control and licensing of mining, both artisanal and kimberlite. Adequate security has to be put in place, to increase the confidence of investors. And marketing arrangements must be improved.

This is a long list. But Sierra Leone will remain mired in corruption if the diamond industry is not properly managed. The UK stands ready to provide the technical support needed to help the Government of Sierra Leone select and prioritise from the range of options, and then implement the chosen reforms.

Finally, the accountability of government to the people must be improved. DFID’s current programme encourages accountability through our support for the electoral process, our media development work and other programmes. We intend expanding this work by supporting the government to develop its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, through a process that is as widely participatory as possible. Our support to the Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys, and their open publication, will help to improve public accountability for government spending.

We have also just started, in conjunction with the World Bank Institute, a corruption survey in Sierra Leone, following up and extending a previous survey carried out in 2000. This will collect information about the experience and perceptions of corruption by citizens of Sierra Leone, thus establishing baseline data that will enable improvements to be monitored over the coming years.

There must be regular surveys so that we have a means of checking that progress is continuing.


New attitudes, better financial systems, prosecution of the guilty, better management of diamonds and real accountability to the people. This, then, is the agenda for change. In taking it forward, the leading role must obviously be taken by the people and Government of Sierra Leone. But tackling corruption effectively requires a real focus, coordinated action and shared responsibility.

Everyone’s energies must be thrown behind this anti-corruption strategy. It is the key to a better future for the people of Sierra Leone and the avoidance of a return to conflict.

As you know the UK is providing long-term help to train and restructure the new Sierra Leone Armed Forces, and help with humanitarian relief, DDR and the building of government capacity to provide proper services to all the people. We are currently spending £100 million each year to support peacekeeping, training of the armed forces, relief and development. We are willing to maintain our effort on the basis of a committed partnership to maintain peace, reduce poverty and promote a better future for all the people of Sierra Leone. This requires a strong determination to root out corruption.

On this basis the UK is willing to remain engaged in Sierra Leone for the long term. I hope that every politician that is planning to contest the forthcoming elections understands that the old politics is finished and that an expectation of corrupt rewards has no place in the new Sierra Leone.



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©Sierra Herald 2002