The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in its recently published Country Report Human Rights accused the government of Sierra Leone of serious corruption.
“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government or on behalf of government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although the laws were not enforced,” the report outlined.
The report further brought to light what they described as the ‘bias nature of the fight against corruption.
They noted that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) recovered 187 million leones ($14,400) in a case against Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, for alleged inappropriate use of Freetown City Council funds (a third party reimbursed the government) but that some observers accused the ACC of targeting opposition politicians, such as Mayor Aki-Sawyerr, while failing to investigate credible allegations of corruption against the ruling SLPP party, including those close to the president.
The report explained that in May 2021, the ACC announced an investigation into the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations for the alleged misappropriation of $4 million earmarked for the renovation of the chancery in New York, pointing out that the ACC charged five persons, including two former heads of chancery, two financial attaches, and a contractor.
“In November 2021, the ACC invited the 2018 presidential candidate of the opposition APC, Samura Kamara, to answer questions regarding these renovations, which occurred during his tenure as foreign minister from 2012 to 2017. According to reports, Kamara was investigated, arrested, and then released on bail. The trial continued at the High Court as of year’s end,” the report stated.
That In November 2021, President Bio announced the convening of a tribunal to investigate widely respected Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce and her deputy, Tamba Momoh, officially triggering their suspension due to allegations of misconduct.
That on March 17, the tribunal commenced, and several civil society organizations condemned the suspensions, stating the move was intended to forestall the impending release of an auditor general report allegedly accusing the administration of corruption and the president and his wife of fraudulent spending during international trips.
“According to a Transparency International survey in 2021, 52 percent of public service users reported having to pay a bribe,” the report added.
The report furthered that Police frequently exacted bribes at checkpoints, falsely charged motorists with violations, impounded vehicles to extort money, and accepted bribes from suspects to drop charges or to arrest their rivals and charge them with crimes.