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S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 6

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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Friday June 22, 2012 - UN Security Council says it has been assured by President Koroma that the 4.5 million dollar arms ordered for use by the police have been transferred to the military as well as receiving a commitment from him that the November polls would be free, fair and transparent.South Africa's UN Security Council Ambassador Baso Sangqu delivers his report on the May 23rd visit to FreetownThis is a Charles Taylor fighter. This heavy machine gun is a part of the arms consignment bought for the APC police - Photo: UK Daily Mail

The UN Security Council team that visited the West African countries of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone between 18 to 24 May 2012 has presented a report of its visit at the 6777th meeting of that body. The co-leader of the team that visited Sierra Leone on 23rd May was led by the South African representative on the Security Council Baso Sangqu. His report was submitted on his behalf as well as that of  ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom.

In his briefing, Ambassador Baso Sangqu told the Security Council that they met with President Koroma and some of his ministers as well as what he called "the people of Sierra Leone" which included civil society groups and other key players that are not a part of the smoke and mirrors theatrics manipulated by President Koroma. These were real down to earth people who feel and know the pulse of what really obtains on the ground in a country still trying to put a terrible history of lawlessness and unbridled violence in the realm of the past.

"At our lunch with civil society, we met representatives of womens' groups who shared the ideas about peace building and reconciliation including on the question of reparations for war victims. All speakers stressed the role that women can play as an early warning system for potential conflict and spoke in favour of greater representation of women in Parliament...The progress that Sierra Leone has made since the civil war ended ten years ago is remarkable...Of course huge problems remain including high youth unemployment, infrastructural dilapidation and lack of institutional capacity - but there are ground for optimism that Sierra Leone is on the path to building a lasting peace."

It is worth noting the observations of the UN team with regards to the pending elections and the purchase of the 4.5 million dollar worth of arms in a country where the vast majority of the people still find it difficult to get one square meal a day and where the health system is so laden with corruption, as with all other government entities, that getting any serious medical condition is a death sentence for the poor and unconnected.

First, the UN team noted

"As you might expect Mr President, the forthcoming elections featured prominently during the Council's visit. We received a clear and welcome commitment from President Koroma to a free, fair and transparent process. Our discussions with all political parties and the national electoral commission reassured us that good progress was being made in preparing for November's poll.

Whilst we heard that the political environment in the country continues to be determined by intense rivalry and mistrust between the two major political parties, the Council was encouraged by the signature by all the political parties of a declaration agreeing to control the elections fairly and not to resort to violence. In our meetings with the military and other representatives from the security sector, we are encouraged by the commitment that we heard to the army and police neutrality."

There we have it - concerns about just how the November elections would be conducted by a government whose head, President Ernest Bai Koroma is quite willing to go to any lengths, legitimate and/or otherwise, to get his much-desired second term and hence continue to have his thieving paws on the country's money purse never mind the fact that time and again audit reports have shown a somewhat institutionalised regimen of corruption and a deliberate lack of accountability and transparency in the arena of managing the country's finances.

The UN Security Team has noted the pledge of the security forces - police and army to remain neutral. We would have praised such a statement as well-intentioned but given the fact that such a commitment is coming from a set-up that could never be trusted, given its penchant for lies, more lies and damned lies, such a "commitment" is a mere smoke screen with the Ernest Bai Koroma junta/set-up quite willing to use all means necessary to get its way.

The 4.5 million dollars worth arms purchase just as the country was getting ready for crucial elections in November this year also came to the attention of the UN Security Council team.

"On the issue of the purchase of weapons for the use of the Sierra Leone police, President Koroma reassured us that these weapons were transferred to the armed forces of Sierra Leone in the presence of international observers. A further mark of the progress that the Council observed was the pride that the Sierra Leone government and the military conveyed to us about the government and the military conveyed to us about the forthcoming deployment of their armed forces as peace keepers to the AU mission in Somalia, AMISOM."

It is to be noted that none of the President's mouth pieces have reported on the actual handing over of those weapons, nor have we seen pictures of the transfer of these weapons to the military - a clear indication that the smoke and mirrors exponent was at his old game of deception again.

Again we ask for proof that these weapons have indeed reached the armoury of the military - which raises another question?

If the war weapons bought for the police have been transferred to the military, this would mean that the 4.5 million dollar worth of weapons are still within the reach of the security forces which could well mean that there is the possibility of the arms getting back to the police as long as  they have not been put beyond reach of the security forces.

In a letter from the head of the police, Gestapo Chief Munu to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning requesting duty free concession and clearance for special permit, it should be noted the "goods are carried in three 20ft containers" and the movement of such a convoy would have been witnessed by all as it made its way to "the central store at Kingtom" for use by the Police.

We would also request that the UN Security Council closely monitors these weapons lest they be sold out to the various factions that are threatening the stability of the West African sub-region as now witnessed by border clashes between Liberia and Ivory Coast that have left at least 7 (seven) UN peace keepers (blue helmets) dead.

We had witnessed, in the past, uniforms of the security forces changing as befits the situation and given the desperation of the Ernest Bai Koroma government for a second term, we would not be surprised to see the same set of arms in the hands of OSD personnel wearing colours similar to the military.

With wives of military top guns marching on to State House to pledge allegiance to the President, this sets the scene for the military openly becoming a part of the ruling party's agenda and hence no longer apolitical. This renders the assurances given to the UN team worthless.

We would urge that these weapons be put beyond the reach of the security forces of Sierra Leone until well after the November elections and that each of them be accounted for.

We would also want to know why the Police head should be asking for duty free concessions for the company that imported the weapons and what financial gains were accrued from this deal. In simple terms what amount went into the pocket of Francis Munu and his handlers. We have seen this before in the India rice deal which still remains unexplained and we would not want to see this repeated.


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