October 2, 2022

If SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) fails to come back for a second term, the failure could not be unconnected to Professor David Francis’s recommendations and advice. Prof Francis misled President Julius Maada Bio with the recommendations of the so-called ‘Governance Transition Team (GTT) of 2018.

Francis should be held responsible for SLPP’s maladministration that has hallmarked Bio’s leadership from beginning to end. Despotism, Autocracy, high-handedness, abuse of human rights and civil liberties, illegal and rampant dismissals from the public service, intolerable hardship and economic stagnation are characteristics of a state whose government has been misled by those with axes to grind.

President Julius Maada Bio has been misled from the onset by Prof Francis in his biased report titled:   ‘Report of the Governance Transition Team, 2018.’ The report brainwashed government into resorting to brutal actions that will hunt SLPP after it leaves the political stage.

Prof Francis who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs was Chief Minister when Bio’s administration was initially installed. The chief ministry is strategic to government since it supervises other ministries and approves government policies. The Chief Minister who wears the cloak of a prime minister supervises   ministers, heads of parastatals and other agencies of government as well as Sierra Leone’s principal representatives abroad.

The wide powers enjoyed by Professor Francis intoxicated him so much that he planted a seed of discord between ruling SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) and main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) as early as 2018. The adage: power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely is relevant here.

Francis’s rich credentials in governance, human rights, security and peace studies have never benefitted Sierra Leone. Instead of using his education and experience he got while sojourning in UK for peace and stability in a post-conflict state like Sierra Leone, Francis used it to tear society apart without compunction.

He led a team of SLPP hardliners to author a report whose implementation by the Bio administration is fanning the pillars of ethnic conflict in an ethnically divided society such as Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans had expected from the outset that Professor Francis would pay attention to only matters of governance especially handling of state money.

But, the country was taken aback when the former Chief Minister got down to issues of tribalism in state governance. “Ethnically favoured appointments constituted roughly 71 per cent of all senior and middle level appointments and postings to the country’s foreign missions made by former President Koroma’s government. Despite its rhetoric about inclusive governance, the former government of President Koroma pursued a policy of tribalism and nepotism in its recruitment and promotion of personnel at State House, government agencies and commissions and diplomatic postings,” a portion of the GTT report reads.

Prof Francis also went on to state that ethnic favouritism was also reflected in the APC government’s award of contracts, scholarships, bank loans, and regional distribution of development projects with the neglect of Kenema in terms of roads being most glaring. The southern district of Kenema is the hometown of Minister Francis, and claims of the district being the most neglected also further exposes Francis’s bias of his so-called GTT report.

The Professor has an emotional attachment to the backwardness of Kenema over the years. He also clearly showcases a long-borne grudge for President Koroma and his government for discriminating Kenema from development projects. Prof Francis also greatly missed the point here.

Facts are clear that Kenema was never neglected by former President Koroma, a man known for his love for humanity.

It is the people of Kenema that neglected themselves. All former 14 districts in the north, south, east and west tasted fruits of the ‘Agenda for Change (AFC)’ and ‘Agenda for Prosperity (AFP)’ although the latter was badly affected by the Ebola outbreak in May, 2014. AFC and AFP are straplines of APC government for the country’s overall development.

If all districts in Sierra Leone prospered in terms of good roads, energy and other essential services in the Koroma regime, why not Kenema?

The answer is simple: Kenema’s political fanaticism held them back. They needed only SLPP to develop their community.  The Anti-Corruption Commission Chief, Francis Ben Kaifala was accused of inciting his Kenema people to put on black, and mourn for the death of democracy in Sierra Leone during the hay days.

While other districts were progressing, Kenema was mourning with the hope that their town would develop when SLPP comes. They never saved for a rainy day.

Now SLPP is here, and Kenema is still backwards in terms of everything. Kenema’s principal streets are still dusty in the dries and muddy in the rains. The town still bleeds under SLPP rule as it struggles for energy, water, health and other social amenities. What a great disappointment?

 Bio’s SLPP, unlike other SLPP, is the weakest in Sierra Leone’s political history. Government is weak because he listened too much to Professor Francis who was unfolding his long-held grudge through the machinery of state governance.

Francis’s report also spoke about how government contracts were awarded to relatives and close friends of former government officials. “The Governance Transition Team has uncovered evidence of the former APC government facilitating the inappropriate acquisition of state assets and properties by relatives and close friends of former President Koroma. There is also evidence of inflated government contracts inappropriately awarded to such relatives and friends,” the report also reads.

Owing to this gloomy picture which Francis has painted for the APC, he recommended to government to act immediately and without much thought and consideration. Francis recommended that Audit Service Sierra Leone must audit all MDAs to establish how public assets and funds were utilised by the then APC government.

He also recommended for the setting up of a judge-led commissions of inquiry to investigate the past government which he had already convicted in his report. He referred to the Koroma-led government as “a criminal racketeering enterprise.’

Owing to a compelling case presented by Francis, Bio acted robustly. The immediate 2018 period ushered Sierra Leone into an era of rampant dismissals in public institutions. Northerners who occupied offices of trust were arbitrarily removed and replaced with south-easterners.

State House, Statistics Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, Office of Diaspora Affairs among others are places where the highest spate of dismissals have taken place. The motive is to ensure that the number of south-easterners in the public service far surpasses that of northerners. The trend continues.

The continuous replacement of northeners by south-easterners in government offices raises fear of a Mende hegemony in Sierra Leone. It is the handwork of professor Francis. The recommendation to have all-out and multi-faceted commissions of inquiry was also implemented without let although the move was not supported by a majority of parliamentarians, and even the people of Sierra Leone.

The commissions are all-out and multi-faceted in that it is the first time commissions of inquiry looked into every aspect of state governance including assault on children. Those found wanting have been punished. Their assets and estates have been forfeited to the state including those of the deceased.

Houses of the deceased  Momoh Conteh and Minkailu Bah have been confiscated.

Conteh was head of National Telecommunications Commission while Bah was Minister of Education. The posthumous punishment took many Sierra Leoneans by surprise as the dead, most times,  are not guilty of crime.

Case files and trials are stopped immediately the court is convinced by sufficient evidence that the accused is dead. The implementation by President Bio of all that what was recommended by Prof Francis landed Sierra Leone into a terrible nightmare. The protests and civil disobedience that characterised the country in the initial stage of Bio’s leadership captured the attention of the international community.

A US-based media agency, Africanist Press says in one of its publications that; “protests, social unrest, violence…do not appear in society without a cause. When democratic expression is repressed, when the voices of the oppressed people are suppressed, when state violence becomes unbearable, the end products are social unrest and mass protests.”

Africanist press which quoted America’s renowned civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr maintains that “protests is the language of the oppressed.”

The iconic civil rights leader made the declaration at a time millions of African-Americans were taking to the streets to protests worsening poverty, police brutality and the discrimination against blacks in the United States during 1960s.

It is the same with President Julius Maada Bio who acts on the advice of Prof Francis.