CORRUPTION…the story goes on!

Fallout from the "Arms to Africa" affair

Sometime ago, 18 October 1999 to be precise, I was reading the British Daily Mail newspaper and came across a serialised feature article by Tim Spicer – the man at the centre of the "Arms to Africa" affair which temporarily rocked the British Labour government. Spicer, of Sandline and Executive Outcomes fame, was extolling his own military heroics and the benevolence of his mercenary outfits. He claimed that only he was telling the "truth about the notorious 'Arms to Africa' affair. Certainly not, from what we know of him and his dogs of war outfit!

In actual fact, the real truth of that affair is probably lying buried in archived materials belonging to the British House of Commons (Foreign Affairs) Select Committee, which investigated the notorious episode involving the public self-indictment of an otherwise very popular Labour Government. 

The series that I read in the Daily Mail was just a hyped forerunner to the launching of a book written by Spicer who makes his money nosing around and touting for business in fighting other people's wars!

I recall this story not because it has anything of significance for the future well being of Sierra Leone but only that it is in articles like these that one unsuspectingly comes across sometimes imperceptible traces of the truth, buried somewhere in amongst a tangled web of words. In the course of his discourse, Spicer carelessly lets drop some teasing suggestions that those of us concerned with transparency in government should follow up. 

I quote:

"In May 1997, I rang President Kabbah, in exile in Guinea, and asked if there was anything Sandline could do. We were later approached by Rakesh Saxena, a businessman in Canada, who offered to pay us for a study of how Kabbah could be restored to power.
  Saxena's interest was mineral concessions, but his approach put us on the spot, for we work for governments, not businessmen. 
  We spoke again to president Kabbah and he was happy to let us go ahead. So was Sam Norman, chief of the Kamajors, the guerrilla fighters who would benefit from any equipment we sent. In effect, we were working for Kabbah and his government with Saxena footing the bill...... 
  As negotiations with Saxena and Kabbah continued, I became suspicious of Saxena's background - the Thai government was trying to extradite him from Canada - and his relations with some of Kabbah's ministers... "

Question 1:  What was suspicious about the relations between Saxena and "some of Kabbah's ministers"? 

Spicer does not say what those suspicions are. One doubts if he says so in his book.  But the context in which he was writing suggests that we can assume that these were to do with suspicions of corruption and of corrupt practice or tendency.

Question 2: Who are the ministers that were relating with Saxena on behalf of Kabbah? 

Again, Spicer does not tell us. He knows who they are, but won't say. 

But one person who can give the answer to this question is President Kabbah himself.  During the period in question, when his government was in exile in the Republic of Guinea, one was aware of the movement of special "presidential emissaries" from Conakry who were globe trotting on his account. 

Apart from obvious people like James Jonah, Desmond Luke and John Leigh (our man in the US who succeeded in matching AFRC crudity and vulgarity with his own intemperate and vitriolic utterances), there were notable characters like Momodu Koroma (Minister for Presidential Affairs), SLPP General Secretary Prince Harding, Chief Sam Hinga Norman (of the CDF's  Kamajohs), and one-time Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujamah. Two of these people were known to have visited Canada at least once around that very time.

As for the man Spicer himself, his sassiness is there for all to see. After stating that "Saxena was not a proven villain and as yet the Canadians had not deported him" he goes on to claim "…his approach put us on the spot, for we work for governments, not businessmen".

Spicer knew that the Government of Sierra Leone did not have money to pay him. Surely, it was implicit that offering his services to Kabbah meant that Kabbah would have to use someone else’s money to pay him. The hypocrisy of the man! What moral distinction is he trying to make? That his business is clean but he does not mind where the money comes from to pay him? Did he not know that Saxena would pay for his services? Surely, a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Why was he so worried about being seen working for this man but was not put off by the fact the he would be, albeit indirectly, paying for his "services"? 

We must assume that Spicer's suspicions about Kabbah's ministers' relations with Saxena were verging on corruption. That could have been the only worrying aspect of a relationship with someone for whom an application for deportation from Canada was pending in relation to alleged corrupt practices in Asia.

We now await a definitive statement from the office of the President to deny the implicit charge of impropriety in the dealings between Sierra Leone Government ministers and an alleged felon.

I still smell a rat at the High Commission!

Still with the British Press and, rather coincidentally, the same Daily Mail, I again recently literally stumbled upon another gem of information, this time in the Femail Section of the edition of 18 November 1999.

But first, readers should refer to the story (click here) about the disposal, refurbishment or redevelopment of the former premises of the Sierra Leone High Commission at 33 Portland Place, London, W1. We reported then how the transactions over these premises had been conducted in semi secrecy, ostensibly for redevelopment, without the Nation being told the details. The Mission is now housed at less convenient premises incommensurate with its status and function in the UK.

We had asked specific questions about this deal but we have received no answers. 

Then out of the blue, came this blazing headline in the Daily Mail:  "Who wants to marry a millionaire?" It featured among others a 32-year-old British millionaire, worth over of £100 millions, who is desperately looking for a suitable female partner. 

He is offering as 

"Added incentives: a convertible Bentley (car), 160 ft yacht, [and] a new 24 bedroom home being converted from the old Sierra Leonian [their spelling] High Commission in London's Mayfair".

This speaks for itself or, as lawyers might say, it is a case of res ipsa loquitur

All that we can say is if there are Sierra Leoneans visiting this site who are concerned - at all - then maybe they should take the trouble to write to the President's Office and ask for an explanation as we seem to be making no headway in getting responses from them to this and other questions we have asked lately.

Should any Sierra Leonean ladies be tempted to apply, please be warned: This guy says you have to "be in your early 20s, easy going, with a career"