August 4, 2012 (TSR) – The Sierra Leone Minister of Defense was beaten up on Thursday by about 200 ex-soldiers who were protesting for their benefits at his office at Tower Hill.
According to eyewitnesses who described the scene as a show of lawlessness by the disgruntled ex-soldiers, several punches landed on Palo Conteh and his cloth torn leaving him in his underwear.
Narrating the minister’s ordeal, eyewitnesses say Mr. Conteh came out of a meeting in the Office of the Vice President to address the disgruntled ex-soldiers who immediately mobbed him as they set eyes on him.
“Some of the ex-soldiers were harmed with knives to stab Mr. Conteh but he managed to escape. They even threatened to cut his head when next they see him and also pelted stones on the building,” a witness said.
It could be recalled that last year the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone HRC-SL held a public hearing as a result of complaints received from Blamo Jessy-Jackson and 234 other ex-soldiers in which they made several allegations including non-payment of benefits against the Ministry of Defence.
At the end of the hearing, the HRC-SL recommended that the government, through the Ministry of Defence, pay the ex-soldiers their benefits without delay. Since then, nothing has been done despite several protests on the street of Freetown by the ex-soldiers.
Just last week, President Ernest Koroma assured the ex-soldiers that their benefits would be paid this week.
THE DEFENSE MINISTER WHO MISUSED PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS MONEY FOR PERSONAL USES
According to Wikileaks document, tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been pocketed by Sierra Leone defense minister “Palo Conteh” and officials, of which most of the USA and UK taxpayers’ monies had been spent and wasted foolishly to buy personal luxury goods.
Millions of dollars of aid have bypassed the UN and ended up in the pockets of corrupt Government officials.
In one of the worst cases, is the £1.2million given to Sierra Leone Government by the Department for International Development (DfID) to “support peacekeeping” in the country, which was stolen by the country’s “top brass” and spent stupidly on little things such as plasma television sets, hunting rifles and other consumer items. What a shame! While the ordinary men and women and children in Sierra Leone are going home hungry every day and night.
DfID is said to be fully aware of the thefts, but regards the losses as being “within reason”. Details of the embezzlement will reopen the debate over the Government’s decision to increase DfID’s £7.3billion budget at a time of cuts.
In August, 2009, a secret cable from the US Embassy in Freetown reported “deep corruption” within Sierra Leone’s defence ministry, “primarily through pocketing of enlisted members’ salaries”.
June Carter Perry, the US former Ambassador, wrote: “The British envoy revealed that the GoSL (Government of Sierra Leone) demanded a $4 million [£2.46million] contribution from the UK for the Ministry of Defense to support peacekeeping.
“Upon examination, the British discovered that half of the funds were for the personal use of the minister [Palo Conteh] and top brass. Items such as 36 plasma TVs and hunting rifles for the minister’s own use were included.”
Minister Palo Conteh has been known for allegedly throwing parties with bunches of nude girls at his residence in Freetown, spending Government money like a wild fire.