Sierra Leone's president has signed
a new anti-corruption law fulfilling a promise made during the electoral
campaign. The president has also declared his assets, becoming the first Sierra
Leonean head of state to do so. From Freetown reporter Kelvin Lewis has details.
Leone's anti-corruption commissioner, Abdul Tejan Cole, says it's mandatory for
public officials, including the president, to declare their assets. The new
anti-corruption law, he says, brings Sierra Leone in line with international
"There will be no hiding place for
individuals who are corrupt in our country,' he said,"and they can no longer go to other
countries to hide. This new bill has an entire section that deals with mutual
cooperation and makes provisions for the extradition of those who are corrupt
-- not only Sierra Leoneans here [but those who go abroad]. [The bill also
deals with] foreign nationals who come to Sierra Leone having committed corrupt
acts in other countries."
The new law increases the number of
corruption offences from the nine already on the books to 29. It also provides
for stiffer penalties.
As President Ernest Bai Koroma signed
the bill into law, he commented on its wider implications.
"I believe this is a clear
indication of our commitment as a government to fight corruption" he said. "What we are
doing today is unique, not only within the sub-region, but even in Africa. It
is a clear message to all Sierra Leoneans that this cancer that has taken up
our society must be addressed with all seriousness and commitment."
The president said less corruption
will mean less need for foreign aid.
"I have been moving around
ministries and talking to civil servants, and from my experience I believe we
can substantially reduce corruption in government. We can also reduce the
leakages that are happening in our revenue generation. We have no business…asking
for assistance if we can do it on our own. I think we must look inwards first
and have a serious fight to reduce corruption in our ministries."
President Koroma says he hopes the
new bill will deter corruption. He has also made history as Sierra Leone's first sitting
president to declare his assets to the Anti-Corruption Commission. He will declare
them again when he leaves office.
Under the new legislation, public
officers will have to do the same. Those who fail to declare the assets of their
family members or make false declaration could be jailed for up to a year or
fined a maximum of 60,000 dollars.