Sierra Leone denies film's corruption claims

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The Independent Online

The Sierra Leone government held crisis meetings last week after undercover film-makers claimed to have exposed a chain of corruption and deceit linked to illegal logging which is destroying the west African country's environment.

The documentary, produced by Emmy award-winning Sierra Leonean film-maker Sorious Samura, is said to include footage of Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana offering to help an illegal timber company by suggesting he would not reintroduce the export ban on hardwood, which has been temporarily lifted.

The Sierra Leone war, which ended in 2002, was one of the most brutal conflicts of recent times in Africa. Rebels operating for former Liberian President Charles Taylor and financed by the extraction of so-called "blood diamonds" terrorised the population. Countless people were killed and thousands were maimed by fighters and child soldiers who cut off limbs with machetes.

Over the weekend the government in Freetown reacted to the documentary, which was first reported on Al Jazeera. "We are taking it very, very seriously," said Sheka Tarawalie, deputy minister of Information and Communication. "We are looking at this clip and we are doing some verification ... There is no sacred cow in this government," he said, echoing a favourite line of President Ernest Bai Koroma in his campaign against official corruption.

Mr Sam-Sumana's press officer Andrew Collier denied any wrongdoing by the Vice-President. "The man is above that ... He's not going to resign."