Sierra Leone leader 'not soft on corruption'

2012-11-13 09:39

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Freetown - Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has denied accusations he is soft on corruption, in a last-minute defence before November 17 elections in which he is seeking a second term.

Koroma will face top opposition rival and former junta leader Julius Maada Bio in polls widely seen as a test of the resource-rich West African state's recovery a decade after a civil war.

Koroma, a former insurance broker in power since 2007, is favoured to win but has drawn fire from rivals claiming he has done little to root out graft. An Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has failed to send a single person to jail under his rule.

"You are trying to give the impression that I, as president, should be doing the work of the judiciary and that is where you go wrong," Koroma told reporters in the capital Freetown.

"You don't expect me to interpret the law, you don't expect me to sit in the courts and pass judgments."

He said the ACC, formed by the government in 2000, was no longer a "toothless bulldog" after his administration revised laws to give it power to prosecute, and not just investigate.

Bribe allegations

Koroma's rivals, including Bio, have also attacked him for nominating his vice president Samuel Sam Sumana as his running mate despite an Al Jazeera documentary alleging Sam Sumana's office took bribes for timber deals.

Sam Sumana has denied wrongdoing, and an ACC investigation reported that it found no evidence he was aware of any payment of bribes to people claiming to represent him.

On Sunday night, Bio addressed a rally in the southern town of Moyamba, saying the incumbent had failed his people.

"The father failed, and state house is not a classroom where if you failed you repeat," Bio said in the Krio language, referring to Koroma.

Bio's party manifesto promises a renegotiation of all mineral deals as well as Sierra Leone's mining code, which he says have failed to benefit ordinary citizens.

Sierra Leone remains one of the world's poorest and least developed countries after a devastating 1991-2002 civil war, and relies heavily on its burgeoning resource sector to fund its recovery and ease rampant poverty.

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