Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sierra Leone president to fight graft

President Ernest Bai Koroma used to be an insurance broker Sierra Leone's newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma has said he will work vigorously to tackle corruption. Mr Koroma told the BBC he would not spare even members of his own family should they be caught in corrupt acts. The businessman won a closely fought election last month which was seen as a great test of the country's democracy. It was the first election since the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers after the decade-long civil war. While answering listeners questions on Africa Have Your Say - the president's first interview with the BBC - President Koroma said: "If assets of public officials are declared and at the end of their term of service there is a substantial increase, you should give an account of how you are able to increase your assets. "I'm not saying that nobody should increase their assets but when it goes beyond magical proportions then an explanation should be given." Mistakes The BBC's West African correspondent Will Ross says it shows that President Koroma believes that his own political survival depends more than anything else on his ability to fight corruption. The slow pace of development since the end of the war five years ago and the high level of corruption were two factors that helped Mr Koroma defeat the governing party's candidate in last month's elections. Sierra Leone has a history of poor governance which has, in the past, fuelled conflict. Mr Koroma's own party, All People's Congress (APC) performed miserably for more than 20 years in office, leading up to the civil war. He now says this government will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Sierra Leoneans are watching closely and hoping all the promises are kept, our correspondent says.