The much anticipated Commissions of Inquiry meant to probe into the affairs of the former government has been inaugurated in Sierra Leone.
The inauguration ceremony on Tuesday was presided over by President Julius Maada Bio who used the occasion to reiterate his determination to uproot corruption in governance.
Mr Bio said that graft was a national security threat, citing the report of the post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission which singled out corruption as one of the causes of the 11 years civil war that ravaged the country.
He said corruption had thrived because there was lack of political will to fight against it, noting that it had all been a lip service with sham trials and backdoor processes.
Three separate commissions, headed by judges from Nigeria, Ghana and
Sierra Leone, will hear testimonies from witnesses that will include former officials who served in the administration of former President Ernest Bai Koroma from 2007 to 2018.
The three judges took their oath of office earlier in the morning of Tuesday in front of the President at State House. Justice Biobele Georgewill of Nigeria, Justice Bankole Thompson of Sierra Leone, who was based in the US, and Justice William Annan Atuguba from Ghana will each serve as chairmen and sole commissioners of each of the three commissions which will sit in the premises of the former Special Court.
The commissions was necessitated by findings of a presidential committee set up in April by President Bio shortly after he was sworn-in, following his election.
The findings by the Government Transition Team (GTT) revealed massive corruption in government.
But the formation of the commissions and the run up to the inauguration of the hearings had been shrouded in controversies, characterized by a heated public debate occasioned by strong opposition from Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) party which sees the move as a witch-hunt.
APC officials have cited several reasons for their objection, among them the absence of a rule of evidence in the process.
They also say the GTT report, which informed the formation of the commissions, deliberately left out people who served in the Koroma administration but who are thought to be close to the current regime.
However, President Bio was clear in his warning to those who will be invited to
“All those who will be invited by the Commissions must comply. Anyone
who fails to comply, and I repeat, anyone who fails to comply will face the full force of the law,” he said in his statement at the compound of the former Special Court for war crimes located in the west end of the capital, Freetown.
Hearing proper of the commissions will start next Monday, according to Minister of Justice, Priscilla Schwartz, who reiterate calls for those opposed to the commissions to respect the laws of the country.