Anti-graft agents blocked from questioning former Sierra Leone president

UMARU FOFANA

ANTI-GRAFT investigators in Sierra Leone were forced to abandon a mission to interview former President Ernest Bai Koroma in his northern hometown of Makeni when his supporters blocked the road and threatened them.

Koroma’s successor, President Julius Maada Bio, has led a campaign to call to account the previous administration that Maada Bio says took the country to the brink of economic collapse.

Koroma denies any wrongdoing and has said corruption allegations are part of a long-running smear campaign.

Agents from the Anti-Corruption Commission (AAC) were unable to access Koroma’s residence, which is among assets worth $200 million the government has ordered Koroma and other officials to forfeit or repay.

“Hundreds of youths have occupied the streets, blocked the roads… and have basically threatened that if anybody attempts to access the president they will attack,” said Francis Ben Kaifala, the head of the AAC.

“We decided to withdraw our investigators and bring them back to Freetown so as to de-escalate the situation.”

Koroma’s opposition All People’s Congress party denied there were any roadblocks, or that the crowd was hostile.

“He was ready, he was willing to do the interview… but in the end the anti-corruption officials decided to return to Freetown of course the fault is not on the former president,” said Sidi Yayah Tunis, the APC’s spokesperson.

Koroma was willing to cooperate with the officials whenever they decided to return, Tunis said.

“I cannot deny that you have few supporters that gathered around the residence showing solidarity, but Makeni as a whole was calm.”

Last week Koroma and 111 officials were barred from leaving the country after a judge-led inquiry accused them of illicitly enriching themselves during his 2007-2018 tenure. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.