September 22 – Just days after announcing she will stand for re-election, Sierra Leone’s embattled FA president Isha Johansen has been charged with abuse of office and misuse of public funds by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Johansen, the only female FA president in Africa, has been indicted on six counts, as has her secretary general Chris Kamara.
Last year, Johansen spent a night in custody when detained by the ACC which said it was investigating the use of “donor funds” from FIFA received by the SLFA. She was later released without charge.
Johansen says that despite the new charges, she will not give up her quest to seek another four-year term.
“This announcement by the ACC was inevitable and predictable – I am deeply saddened,” Johansen, who is currently in Ghana at a Confederation of African Football (CAF) meeting, told BBC Sport.
“It’s another sad day for justice, integrity and patriotism in Sierra Leone, another sad day for any woman who dares to pioneer change. I don’t know how my story will end, but nowhere will it be written that Isha Johansen ever gave up.”
Ever since taking charge of her federation promising to stamp out match-fixing and corruption, Johansen has been embroiled in political in-fighting yet decided to go for a second term despite constant “intimation and harassment.” She and Kamara are expected to appear in court on October 30.
“I can confirm that the SLFA President and Kamara have been indicted on six counts relating to abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds,” ACC chairman Ade Macauley said at a news conference on Thursday.
The fresh charges come just before a FIFA delegation is due in the capital Freetown next week to carry out integrity checks that will pave the way for elections and address a long-running match-fixing inquiry. Since 2014, eleven officials and four players have been suspended by the SLFA pending investigation. They have all denied wrongdoing.
Johansen’s critics point out that her mandate to govern expired on August 3 after which the SLFA was supposed to hold elections. But these were delayed by FIFA until the integrity checks on current and potential SLFA executive members are carried out.
Johansen told CNN that her constant battles had “taken a toll” on her health but had nevertheless “made me stronger”
Sierra Leone’s authorities, she added to the Boss newspaper, were “trying everything possible” to avoid FIFA conducting the eligibility tests which, she claims, could rule out those vying to replace her as SLFA president.
The counter argument is that FIFA have delayed elections to improve the chances of Johansen, a vocal supporter of new CAF president Ahmad Ahmad and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, retaining the role. With former governance committee chairman Miguel Maduro having thrown doubt over the integrity of FIFA’s processes and shown how far FIFA goes to manipulate them, what assurances are that the ethics process will not be used to remove Johansen’s rivals.
And if Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commission has evidence against Johansen of corruption, what guarantee is there that it will be taken into account at FIFA? Will she pass the governance test herself?
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