Few months to his death in May 1988, former President Siaka Stevens requested his friend, The Gambian President, Sir Dauda Jawara, to allow him to travel to Banjul for medical treatment. His health had seriously deteriorated at the time.
President Sir Dauda Jawara wrote a letter to President Joseph Saidu Momoh, asking him to graciously allow his predecessor Siaka Stevens to travel to Banjul for medical treatment.
President Momoh agreed to the request on condition that, any expenses (medical or accommodation) incurred by Siaka Stevens in The Gambia would not be the responsibility of the Sierra Leonean government. Stevens’ planned trip to The Gambia was aborted at the eleventh hour by President Jawara.
Siaka Stevens died an emotionally broken man. Before his death, he had fallen out with his hand-picked successor, Joseph Saidu Momoh.
In August 2010, the APC (then in power) made a lot of song and dance about their decision to approve the trip of the former Vice President, Solomon Berewa to India for medical treatment. It was alleged that, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma personally paid all of Solomon Berewa’s medical expenses in India out of his personal funds.
As a former Vice President for five years, Solomon Berewa was entitled to an overseas medical treatment at the expense of the state.
When Ahmad Tejan Kabbah ended his second and final term as President of Sierra Leone in 2007, he retired peacefully at his private residence at Juba in the Western Urban.
As a former President, Tejan Kabbah was entitled to ‘a suitable office accommodation’ paid for by the state. He was also entitled to four vehicles to be provided by the state.
President Kabbah once wrote to the Secretary to the President (Dr Sanpha Koroma), asking for the state not to bother with providing an office accommodation for him as he was using his private residence at Juba for that purpose. He later argued that, the state was struggling to meet some pressing needs and was therefore not interested in putting more pressure on the meager resources of the state.
He however asked for the four vehicles to be given to him as his entitlement. Only two brand new Toyota Prado jeeps were provided for him by the state out of the four vehicles he was entitled to. I drove with him in one of the vehicles to Bo and back around 2012.
That ECOWAS Letter
A letter dated 2nd January, 2024 addressed to His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio by the President of the ECOWAS Commission Dr. Omar Alieu Touray continues to provoke controversy in the country. Some people still doubt the authenticity of the letter. It has however been confirmed by the ECOWAS Commission that, the letter did come from their President. As I see it, the letter is uncontroversial. Let’s take a look at some of the contents of the letter:
“I am pleased to inform Your Excellency that as part of the agreement reached during the mission, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has offered to host His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, Former President of Sierra Leone, in Abuja on a temporary basis. The former President has accepted the offer to be hosted in Nigeria”.
“Subject to your approval, arrangements will be made to fly Former President Koroma out of Freetown on Thursday 4th January, 2024. He will be accompanied by his office manager and personal assistant”
“In addition to seeking Your Excellency’s approval for the departure from Sierra Leone of the Former President on or around the date indicated above, I would like to seek your confirmation that once President Koroma leaves Sierra Leone, the following arrangements (as agreed during the mission) will be put in place:
Government of Sierra Leone will discontinue all legal and administrative procedures against him;
The Government of Sierra Leone will also continue to disburse to him his benefits as Former President;
The Government of Sierra Leone will secure his residences in the various locations in Sierra Leone;
The Government of Sierra Leone will consider refunding medical and travel expenses he has incurred”.
A Government of Sierra Leone spokesman said that they as a government did not countenance the contents of the letter. He was simply saying that, they did not agree or did not approve the ECOWAS requests. Period!
Now that former President Ernest Bai Koroma has been charged to court for treason and other related offences, would he be allowed to travel out of the country on medical grounds?
If he wants to travel out of the country, his lawyers have to apply to the court to grant such permission before he leaves the country.
Since he has been indicted by the state, no one expects President Julius Maada Bio to interfere with an on-going legal matter before the court.
Lawyers for the former President have consistently argued that, their client is prepared to clear his good name.
Let us now allow the legal process to continue without any interference. Former President Koroma is presumed innocent until the court decides otherwise.
If the former President is allowed to travel to Nigeria, would he return to face the music in Sierra Leone at the end of his trip?
The Government of Sierra Leone believes that, former President Koroma is responsible for several disturbances that have taken place in some parts of the country including the November 26 failed coup. In other words, he is an obstacle to permanent peace in Sierra Leone.
The ECOWAS decision to relocate former President Koroma to Nigeria temporarily was to give peace a chance in Sierra Leone. ECOWAS is taking such a decision as a customary precision.
I believe that the ECOWAS letter is like William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”