I am the minister of Foreign Affairs and International co-operation of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a country that has just come from war. 12 years of devastating civil war and as a result of that we found that 70 percent of our people live below poverty line they cant afford a meal a day.
The global crisis that is affecting the world in terms of rice has affected us tremendously because it means that number has increased to about 90 percent.
So between May to September 90 percent of Sierra Leoneans will not afford a bag of rice.
That will increase, not only increase the level of poverty but it means it will be huge starvation problem in my country which will create a lot of political instability, so a country that is coming from war has the potential to return back to war and violence because people cannot feed themselves.
So my appeal is for you to talk to your government and ask them please, please to support the campaign for increasing WFP (World Food Programme) and the World Bank and to make sure that they put more money into feeding poor Africans.
I am speaking on behalf of the voiceless, millions of Africans that cannot speak for themselves.
I am here to represent them and I'm asking you to please appeal to your government to make sure they support this appeal because if not there's going to be huge starvation crisis in Africa.
I thank you very much for your support.
This appeal was later translated into India offering a rice deal to Sierra Leone which, it appears was used to corruptly enrich the Foreign Minister, Trade Minister A. P. Koroma, President Koroma's relations and a host of others. And that's apart from a reported one million dollar customs duty waiver.
The opposition SLPP leader John Benjamin in a letter addressed to President Ernest Bai Koroma and sent to the media raised questions over this deal with no answers provided.
" There is also documentary proof that about US1 million duty waiver was granted to Harmony Trading Company (now defunct) operated by your younger brother-Sylvannus Koroma. Immediately it benefitted from the waiver, Harmony Trading metamorphosed into a brand new company called Sierra Commodities Ltd. These mercurial company(s) benefited from two ship loads of rice negotiated for Sierra Leone by Mr. Alimamy P Koroma, former trade Minister and Zainab Hawa Bangura, Foreign Minister. Though the consignments were meant for sale to the Public at concessionary rates, we are inclined to believe publications in Indian newspapers that a substantial part of the consignments was diverted to Dubai where they were sold at market price. To pull wool over our eyes, the remaining quota which was eventually brought to Sierra Leone was never tendered but given to Harmony whose only qualification is its closeness to the Presidency.
We are concerned that Harmony Trading was fleecing our poor people at a time when the global economic conditions had made it very difficult for the average Sierra Leonean to make ends meet. Our MPs were furious that the duty waiver they negotiated only ended up lining the bottomless pockets of a private businessman contrary to its intent of cushioning the effects of the global food crisis.
Your Excellency, we are also reliably informed that the Board of the Government owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, under the Chairmanship of Sheki Bangura (husband of foreign Minister – Zainab Bangura), has further endorsed the extension of a Multi-Million Dollar Credit Line to your brother’s rice company under very questionable circumstances following a bitter litigation between your brother, Sylvannus Koroma and his overseas partners from Switzerland, Mr. Njack Kane of Novel Commodities. Your Excellency’s declared commitment to the rule of law would suggest that the Ministry of Finance and the National Revenue Authority explain whether Harmony Trading Company is an exempted organization under the customs code.