I met Ahmed Sesay last year at Cafe De La Rose. We didn’t really meet per se but we both went there everyday for lunch separately until one day we were actually introduced. After the introduction we would exchange hellos and goodbyes whenever we happened to be lunching at the same time.
When I stopped going to Cafe I would bump into Ahmed at Chez Nous in the evenings. He seemed to me more quiet and sensible than the regular Wise Guys. One day I met him sitting at the Bar and i sat next to him while i waited for my spring rolls and sweet and sour soup. Like most conversations during that period we talked about politics. He was an APC supporter and from the way he responded to my skepticism I could tell that he wasn’t just a supporter rather…he was deep in it. I told him that while I was certain that the Sierra Leonean people needed a change, I wasn’t sure the APC was going to take us where we needed to go. Eventually realizing that I wasn’t going to change my position he said that the party is looking forward to changing minds and showing us that they meant well. I ate my food and we changed the topic.
While we were still at the bar 3 buffoon looking ohlangba’s showed up to speak to Ahmed about something that had happened but between their temne and krio I could barely understand what was being said. All I remember is that they were bragging about having taught someone a lesson. Ahmed’s phone which rang non stop kept on ringing. Finally he answered a call…he left me at the bar off to a “strategizing meeting” with Cheri Coco, a lawyer who then was running for MP (he won). As the weeks rolled by Ahmed and I exchanged more hellos whenever we came across each other and I must confess I respected him. He always looked very well put together with his crisp button downs and slacks.
When the APC finally did win the election Ahmed was in the very very inner circles of those very first weeks. He was part of the presidential contingent at the airport on inauguration day that welcomed and ushered presidents into the country. And during that period a wise civil servant referring to Ahmed called him “one of the King makers” in the party. His opinions highly regarded by the power that be. When the president announced his cabinet, Ahmed’s half brother other times referred to as his cousin Kemoh Sesay was appointed as the Minister of Transport & Aviation. Soon after his nomination like several other ministers like him Kemoh was frequently out of the country “trying to bring investors in the country”. Once he went to North Africa and there were speculations in the paper that he had built a brand new house only several months into his appointment as minister. I remember Ahmed mentioning that they were sued the journalist who wrote the article. Kemoh hadn’t built a new house but I presume finishing it was much faster than it otherwise would have been if he hadn’t been minister.
One day in December a friend and I happened to be lunching at Café De La Rose after some weeks of absence. Fortunately Ahmed was there as well and we sat together. It was his birthday he said and we were happy to celebrate with him over lunch. He told us he was soon to head back to the UK to see his family. During the conversation however I had mentioned that my digital camera had broken, the random chit chat of how I need to get out of sierra leone to buy certain things. I didn’t see Ahmed again until after the holiday season. When I did see him, he had a gift for me…a digital camera. A small gesture that went a long way with me because it had all been done so casually. I thought….hmmm…how thoughtful of him, this Ahmed he’s nice oh…
As we became better friends and actually made plans to have lunch on a regular basis, I asked Ahmed what kind of business he was in. One time he said that he was in real estate in the UK, buying and selling property ( a line that I’ve heard several times from many guys in town from the UK) however, that he had formed a company with some investors and they were going to get into mining. He said he was in town doing the surveys and research etc…until they got their license etc. It all made a lot of sense to me then and I did not question his legitimacy.
I saw Ahmed many many times after and when I thought of my close friends in Sierra Leone he was certainly included. He was a confidant, someone I spoke to often, usually over food. We even talked about going on diets together etc. I was invited to his house for dinner with another friend and I was there again another time witnessing the construction of a second property in the compound. Ahmed said he had to expand because his business partners and his family could not share the same house. As you may know, the Sesay’s are a big family.
In April, I invite Ahmed to my grandmother’s 70th birthday celebration. He came and we sat about keeping company for a while until he left and as usual questions are asked and it happens that Ahmed and I are related by marriage.
I was told that my great grandmother married Ahmed’s father so that she could make the pilgrimage to Mecca. She had already passed childbearing age at the time of their marriage but she and Ahmed’s father who my granny described as a dark skinned Imam spent several years together before Ahmed’s dad passes. He was killed by an infection from his pet cat who scratched him one day when he accidentally laid on it. Anyway, I told Ahmed the story and we had a running joke that he was my grandfather
Early in the year FIFA banned the national stadium and I had mentioned that in a previous post. By then Ahmed had been appointed as the manager of the national football team; Leone Stars. When GoSL decided to renovate the stadium, it was Ahmed who got the contract. It seemed like a conflict of interest to me but then that is how political lobbying works, the party in power has to be loyal. Same in the US with campaign financing & contributions same in Salone with party supporters and GoSL contracts.
Ahmed was incredibly stressed during the period of the stadium’s renovation. He confessed that he was afraid they might not meet the deadline for FIFA re-inspection. So I saw less and less of him as he worked hard to implement on time. But by the time FIFA did come to town, the stadium was deemed up to par and opened for international matches.
When I asked Ahmed about being Leone Stars team manager he said that he had promised His Excellency my favorite president Earnest Bai that he would make sure that the team qualified for the World Cup & 2010 Nations Cup in Angola. We talked about the teams limitations with funds. To raise money for the team, Ahmed had a fund raiser at State House with major corporate bodies invited to pledge support for the team. I heard that total pledged was about $200,000 (le 600,000,000). I am not sure if they were able to get all the money but that is what was pledged.
The last time I saw Ahmed before he was arrested and implicated in the Cocaine saga was the finals for the EURO 2008 at Chez Nous. When the game was over a couple of us including Ahmed sat at a table and talked a bit. Ahmed said he was going to London to see his family the next day.
Two weeks later, I’m at the shop and someone tells me that my friend, confidant, lunch buddy, Leone Star team manager, Kemoh Sesay’s brother and among other things personal assistant to Vice President Sam Sumana was being held in relation to the Cocaine bust at Lungi. When I heard I sat down. I was in shock that Ahmed, this dapper extra clean fresh to death friend of mine was actually at Pa Demba Road. But never once did I think “bo na lie bo Ahmed no go mix pan dat” I was not surprised that he was implicated because this is Sierra Leone and wealth is unaccounted for. You declare what u want if u bother to pay income tax. All I knew for sure about Ahmed was the he was a close friend and I respected him. I didn’t know what he did for a living or how he managed to have several very beautiful cars.
I will not get into the details of the cocaine story or what happened or how it happened because there are enough speculations in the local and international press to that effect.
Last week Kemoh Sesay was asked to resign and Ahmed is being held in Murraytown. If you pass by you will see the remaining of the Sesay brothers outside of the prison.
Also implicated in the Cocaine saga was a fellow named GKI who’s building a massive rubbish of a structure that’s supposed to be a hotel across from Bunker at the beach. He had a couple of very expensive cars as well and he’s left the country.
If the government wants to find possible drug traffickers and money launderers in the future two indicators would be OWNERSHIP OF A FLEET BRAND NEW CARS & CONSTRUCTION/PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT.
And the government especially my president should be very careful with these young men who tend to have all the answers and an unlimited amount of financial resources to contribute to campaign efforts or connections with potential investors. Because one could easily speculate that if Ahmed Sesay is found guilty, then the President’s campaign to which Ahmed contributed money was partially funded by his drug money. Also if Ahmed is found guilty, that may mean that the potential “investors” that Ahmed introduced to the president and the vice president could also be involved in the same drug trafficking business and they have been given full and complete access to the highest powers in the land. If Ahmed is found guilty then we might also be able to speculate that Drug Lords do not leave 600kgs of cocaine to land in the “poorest” country in the world if they do not feel that they have assurance in very high places. This then might implicate Ahmed’s brother Kemoh the minister of transport and aviation who has since been asked to resign and was taken in for questioning. If Ahmed is found guilt speculations could get worse and implicate those in positions higher than the minister.
Like most things that happen in Sierra Leone, the Cocaine saga has turned into a big joke but we’ve moved on. After all the Global is killin us with high prices and slow cash flow
I wonder if I will be taken in for questioning after this 🙂