On 31st January 2017, the Chief Executive of the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), Abdul M. Fatoma was summoned to Parliament to respond to questions relating to our Accountability Campaign, in which we have been asking Members of Parliament to be accountable to the citizens of this country for all the moneys they have received either as Community Development Fund (CDF) or donor funds provided for capacity building of Parliamentarians.
Mr. Abdul Fatoma was approached by Police officers immediately after he came out of a radio programme on Radio Democracy 98.1, where he was guest on their flagship ‘Good Morning Sierra Leone’ programme and was escorted to the house of Parliament where he was arraigned for questioning. He was later taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he has been detained on charges of incitement and disaffection against Parliament.
We the staff of CHRDI strongly condemn the actions of Parliament against Mr. Abdul Fatoma who was only making his own contribution to improving the welfare of poor Sierra Leoneans by calling out corrupt politicians and perpetrators of bad governance in Sierra Leone. We believe that the Accountability Campaign against Parliament is a national call which has given a deeper meaning to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Sierra Leone, the legislated obligations of the Sierra Leone government and specifically the people’s representatives in Parliament.
We would like to remind the Speaker of the House, all Honourable Members of Parliament and the Administration of Parliament to endeavour to disclose all documents detailing how members of the Sierra Leone parliament and officials of parliament spend the Community Development and Constituency Facilitation funds, expense allowances and capacity building training funds provided by international development partners and Sierra Leonean taxpayers.
We shall also continue to remind the Speaker of the House about his mandate under The Anti-Corruption Act, 2008, PART IV, (36.(1) (2) and 37.(1)) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which the Sierra Leone Government signed on to on the 9 December 2003 and ratified on 30 September 2004 and which came into force on 14 December 2005.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights clearly states that; “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
We still have evidence in our possession about funding provided to Parliament by the following donor organisations from 2011-2016 and for which we still believe little has been reported on how they were expended;
1, Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)
· Project: Capacity Building for the Parliament of Sierra Leone (National Parliaments and Parliamentary Institutions)
· Project start date: 2012 Project end date: 2016
· Project Amount: $2 000 000 (two million US dollars)
2, The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – from the country Consolidated fund account:
· Project: UNDP Support to Sierra Leone Parliament.
· Project start date: 1 January 2008. Project end date: 31 December 2016
· Project amount: $1,692,603 (one million, six hundred ninety-two thousand, six hundred three US Dollars) for 2011 to 2015.
We also know that a total amount of LE 41,683,667,028 was received by Members of Parliament between 2011 and 2016 for Community facilitation and community development funds.
Since we launched our Accountability Campaign in late July 2016, we have not receive any response to our call. Instead, a few members of Parliament, including the Leader of the House have been on a media campaign to intimidate all journalists not to publish our articles and further resorted to attacking the credibility of Mr Fatoma. They have engaged in the surveillance of activists and civil society and labelled civil society organisations as “agents of foreign interests”.
We want to remind the Honourable Members of Parliament that our main focus is on the ordinary constituents and how they can be in better control of their representatives in Parliament, promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Our call was to improve and ensure the effective implementation of the anti-corruption legislation in respect of parliamentarians and other government officials.