By John Kay: Why is it so easy for Sierra Leone leaders to be corrupt?

Below are some of the reasons:

  • Because they can get away with it. There are no consequences to their actions. The people in charge of institutions meant to oversee the government have either been compromised by the leader or they don’t have the political power to do so or they’ve been appointed by the leader to aid in helping loot the country. Which leads to the next answer.
  • Because of the lack of strong independent institutions. Democratic governments all over the world operate on the premise of a government comprised of 3 independent institutions; the presidency and his government, an independent judiciary, an independent parliament. In most African countries especially in Sierra Leone we have a strong presidency, a weak judiciary which acts as a rubberstamp for presidential decisions, a weak parliament which enacts laws meant to protect the president. Without a lack of strong independent institutions the president or leader can do as he pleases which makes it easier to be corrupt.
  • Because of Tribal politics. Today Sierra Leone is deeply tribally divided. This is probably the biggest reason why our leaders are corrupt and their followers allow them to be corrupt. Sierra Leone traditional society was a communal society. A child did not belong to the family, he belonged to the village and the community and in many cases, he still does. The success of man is also the success of his village or community. For example, the first Africans to be educated were financed by the village. Villages got together and did a fundraising so that so and so’s son could go off to university and get a degree. When the young man or woman graduated, the entire village celebrated the graduation. Even upto now university graduations are a big thing for most Africans. Villagers will hire buses to shuttle to the big city and see one of their own graduate. Soon the graduate will have a lot of pressure to help his family, extended family and community progress . If the graduate gets a position of influence in the government, his community is willing to look the other way while he dips his hands into the cookie jar as long as some crumbs are available for his community and tribesmen. This leads to a situation where some Sierra Leone leaders are fine with corruption as long as it is someone from their tribe or community being corrupt. If it’s someone from another community there’s grumbling and mumblings about how that community is so greedy and corrupt. If the corrupter is one of their own, it’s fine because it’s our turn to eat anyway!
  • Because closely tied to the above reason. In Sierra Leone non functional or national pension schemes that can take care of citizens when they stop working. So a leader who gets into power knows he has a short space of time to make as much money as he can before he retires or is pushed out.