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Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Czar, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. to Counsel Africa’s Anti-Corruption Drive

By: Mohamed Sylvanus Blake

His Journey to the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption

When in June 2018 the youthful and unpretentious Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., was appointed by His Excellency President Brig. (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Madda Bio to lead Sierra Leone’s war against corruption, astounding waves were sent across the media landscape.

Many who had crossed his path during his days at Fourah Bay College, stint at the Renaissance Movement and private practice, stated with alacrity and dexterity that despite his age, he was fit for purpose; pointing to his obdurate commitment to integrity, transparency and accountability.

A few others-just a minute number- did not sound optimistic- matching his size and age with the monstrous, endemic and ominous public enemy number one (Corruption).  They wrongly thought the enemy was a far stronger and insurmountable giant than the relatively little known young man.

That was why many well-meaning Sierra Leoneans prayed for him to succeed against this scourge, which has brought untold sufferings on the people of this country. In one of his early engagements with stakeholders in Kenema in July 2018, a pastor from the Inter-Religious Council, while attempting to bolster the courage of the then newly appointed ACC Commissioner, encouraged him to beat the odds and procrastinations, like the “little known young David (in the Holy Bible) who confronted the uncircumcised Philistine-Goliath that was wrecking untold suffering, calumny, trepidation and torture on his people (Isreal/Judah). As the story was told, David went against all the odds and brought home the head of Goliah because God was with him and he was on the right course…1st Samuel 17 Vs 32-50”.

Francis Ben Kaifala Esq, at the helm of affairs at ACC did hit the ground running. Barely few months into office, the gains were resounding and manifesting. He quickly pioneered the reengineering and recalibration of the fight against corruption. His initial strategic actions saw the ACC waging a fierce but firm and fair war on all forms of corruption, that helped in the recovery of stolen wealth and assets, establishment of a special division of the High Court for only corruption cases, investigation and successful prosecution of several corruption allegations, amendment to the 2008 Anti- Corruption Act in 2019, deployment of the Scorpion Squad with lethal effects, several strategic partnership agreements, to name but a few.

These and many others resulted in the record breaking and trail blazing recovery of over 26.8 billion Leones, stolen vehicles, abandoned duplex in Koidu-Kono, huge conviction rate of over 90 percent, consistent and persistent progress by Sierra Leone at credible international ratings, reflective of the nation’s efforts in the fight against corruption, viz; the Millennium Challenge Corruption (MCC) Scorecard, Afro-Barometer, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index etc.

In less than three years, for example, Sierra Leone was able to make a remarkable progress in the MCC from a failed score of 49 percent in 2017 to an unprecedented country score of 81 percent, and a 12-place upward movement in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2020. The Afro Barometer 2020 Report, on the other hand, states that corruption prevalence has massively reduced from 70 percent in 2015 to a new low of 40 percent in 2020.

With these gains, there is a renewed belief that indeed we have in this young man, the God-sent David to deliver this nation from the claws of the unrepentantly corrupt. This, therefore, has not gone unnoticed. This is evident in the both local and international accolades he has bagged for his stout and uncompromising anti-corruption campaign. Francis Ben Kaifala is recipient of highly rated meritorious awards in Sierra Leone, Africa and the world including being awarded by the Sierra Leone Achievers Award as the ‘Commissioner of the Decade’. The Pan African Youth Leadership Foundation has also recognized him among the '100-Most Influential Young Leaders in Africa', while Focus Africa Awards 2020 awarded him in ‘Recognition of his Immense Contribution and Services to his Community, Country and Africa at large’. The Global Initiative for Good Leadership also chose him among the '50 Influential Young Global Leaders'.

On 5th February 2021, the ACC, via a press release informed the public that its Czar was historically elected on the 4th February 2021, to be a member of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption; something which further showcased the confidence the African continent reposed in him to extend his exceptional leadership beyond the borders of Sierra Leone, after he was nominated by President Bio.

What is the AU Advisory Board on Corruption?

Informed by the adoption of Member States of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the Maputo Declaration on the 11th July 2011, which came into force on the 5th August 2006, the AU Board is the emanation of the Convention and was created on the 26th May 2009 under Article 22(1) of the Convention. It is the unique continental organisation mandated by the AU to deal with corruption and related themes in Africa.

The Board’s mandate is to promote and encourage the adoption of measures and actions by State Parties to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in Africa as well as follow-up on the application of those measures and submit a report to the Executive Council on a regular basis on the progress made by each State Party in complying with the provisions of the Convention. The Board is composed of 11 members, each proposed by States Parties.

Board members are people of high integrity, impartiality and with recognized competence in matters related to combating and preventing corruption.

The Board has a two-year tenure, which is renewable once. The Board from among itself appoints a Bureau comprising a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and a Rapporteur for a period of one year.

As he surgeons on this new platform to continue flying the flag of his native land higher, Commissioner Kaifala without doubt has taken this nation’s war against corruption to the summit of global admiration. Supported by a team of spirited and never tiring management and staff at the ACC, what was then a mere wish is all but a glaring reality now, that indeed we (Sierra Leone) can be considered seriously as one of the states displaying commitment to fighting corruption.  You deserve my SALUTE, Hon. Kaifala.