Late last March approximately sixty plus of the seventy plus PCVs currently in-country in Sierra Leone were sent home from Freetown by the Peace Corps Office of the Inspector General for smoking marijuana in-country.
Much of the information I have received is from two Sierra Leone RPCVs currently back in-country visiting their host county.
A group of approximately 15 PCVs were partying on Bureh Beach outside of Freetown and were smoking pot, at least according to a woman working for the U.S. Embassy. She reported the PCVs to Peace Corps Washington and they sent an agent out from the Peace Corps Inspector General Office to investigate.
According to the RPCV, who served in the early days in Sierra Leone and were in Freetown, this IG agent, demanded that all the PCVs, approximately 74, come to Freetown by the next day. Of course, given their remote locations and limited transportation, most PCVs couldn’t reach Freetown in one or two days.The IG agent, never having been a PCV, or lived in Africa, didn’t understand this.
Once they arrived in Freetown, an RPCV friend told me, “This IG agent threatened and intimidated all of them. The PCVs were given two choices – either leave the country in 7 days or face prosecution back in the States. One Volunteer asked if he could have a lawyer present and was told he couldn’t. The IG agent posted photos of all the PCVs in-country and integrated the Volunteers, demanding that they tell him the names of any Volunteers in the country who did smoked marijuana.”
As another Sierra Leone RPCV told me by email, “John, what happened in Sierra Leone really sucks. I think the IG person should be reprimanded or sacked for the way he handled this situation. His behavior was reminiscent of Gestapo or KGB techniques. Sarge must be spinning in his grave.”
I am also told—by Sierra Leone PCVs– that Country Director Penny Alexander, while not an RPCV, was nevertheless supportive of the PCVs being interrogated by the IG official. She was, however, unable to control his behavior and stop his method of integration. A real Nazi type, I guess.
The current number of PCVs in Sierra Leone now is approximately 15.The next group of Trainees arrive this coming June.
Times are changing. When I was a PCV in Ethiopia we had a good Volunteer sent home because he was a homosexual and that turned up on his FBI check. (All Volunteers were investigated by the FBI, back in the day.)
Just a few years ago, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler Radelet (Western Samoa 1981-83) sent a warm welcoming letter to all the new gay PCVs who were joining the Peace Corps as couples and going off to serve overseas. Today we have eleven states where marijuana is legal. But not yet at the federal government level.
Here’s another IG story, unrelated to Sierra Leone, or the current Inspector General, Kathy Buller. Back when I was the Manager of the New York Peace Corps Recruitment Office, another woman Inspector General was pursuing her own staff, taking them up to the top storage room of the Peace Corps Building in Washington and “having her way” with them.
I am not sure how many agents were involved, but one mild mannered bureaucrat resisted her charms and protested her sexual advances and filed a law suit against the woman. She was found guilty, the employee got a huge chunk of money, and retired from the government, moving his wife and himself out of D.C. and to the Wild West, getting away from the women of Washington.
I was also told later by “people in the know” that the Inspector General had a ‘drinking problem” that resulted in such behavior of a federal official. Didn’t Nixon also have a drinking problem? And, I guess, the IG agent who went to Freetown to interrogate the PCVs just has a personality problem.
Welcome to the Peace Corps.