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December 09, 2010

Wikileaks Cable Suggests Sierra Leone Government Involvement in Cocaine Bust

by Fid Thompson

Among the 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by the Internet site Wikileaks, one cable reveals controversial comments on Sierra Leone's handling of the so-called cocaine plane abandoned at the country's airport in 2008.

One of the 250,000 US diplomatic messages published on the website WikiLeaks, has caused a stir in the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

The cable refers to an incident in July 2008 when a plane loaded with 600 kilograms of cocaine was found abandoned at the country's airport.

Chargé d'affaires for the US Embassy in Freetown, Glenn Fedzer, wrote in the secret cable that President Ernest Bai Koroma personally directed police not to investigate then Transport Minister, Kemoh Sesay.

Sesay's brother Mohamed, arrested as a key suspect in the cocaine bust, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.

Sierra Leone's government disputes the information in the cable, saying it reflects the subjective viewpoint of an individual and is not based in fact.

Unisa Sesay is Communications Director at the Office of the President:

"Absolutely, as I said, they are far removed from reality and one starts doubting in fact the sources of this type of information," said Sesay. "Because you know our newspapers are full of a lot of speculations, rumors. So I mean it is absolutely untrue- What is in those cables is not true at all."

The cable also suggests that the appointments of Kemoh Sesay as Transport Minister and his brother as manager of the National Football team were possibly made to facilitate drug trafficking.

Corruption was a major factor triggering Sierra Leone's long civil war. The conflict, which saw tens of thousands killed and millions displaced, also destroyed the country's infrastructure and crippled the economy.

Sierra Leone has since made progress in its fight against graft. The newly-empowered Anti-Corruption Commission has convicted several high-profile public officials this year. Much of the push to control corruption has come from President Koroma himself who has said there will be "no sacred cows" in his government.