Sierra Leone leader against corruption

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma rejects claims he is soft on corruption ahead of elections.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma. Picture: AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

FREETOWN - Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma denied on Monday accusations he is soft on corruption in a last-minute defence before 17 November elections in which he is seeking a second term.

Koroma will face top opposition rival and former junta leader Julius Maada Bio in polls widely seen as a test of the resource-rich West African state's recovery a decade after a civil war.

Koroma, a former insurance broker in power since 2007, is favoured to win but has drawn fire from rivals claiming he has done little to root out graft. An Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has failed to send a single person to jail under his rule.

"You are trying to give the impression that I, as president, should be doing the work of the judiciary and that is where you go wrong," Koroma told reporters in the capital Freetown.

"You don't expect me to interpret the law, you don't expect me to sit in the courts and pass judgments."

He said the ACC, formed by the government in 2000, was no longer a "toothless bulldog" after his administration revised laws to give it power to prosecute, and not just investigate.

Koroma's rivals, including Bio, have also attacked him for nominating his vice president Samuel Sam Sumana as his running mate despite an Al Jazeera documentary alleging Sam Sumana's office took bribes for timber deals.

Sam Sumana has denied wrongdoing, and an ACC investigation reported that it found no evidence he was aware of any payment of bribes to people claiming to represent him.