Sierra Leone suspends minister for suspected graft

Sierra Leone's labour minister and three other government officials have been suspended in an alleged corruption case involving a rice donation from China, the presidency said on Friday.

President Julius Maada Bio's office said in a terse statement that Labour Minister Alpha Timbo was suspected of "improper activities" relating to "a huge quantity of rice" donated by Beijing.

Timbo, who was formerly education minister, was suspended with three officials from the education ministry.

Yusuf Sandi, a spokesman for President Bio, told AFP that the anti-corruption authority was investigating.

"We have to ensure that we once again restore probity in governance in Sierra Leone," he said.

Timbo was not immediately available for comment.

Sierra Leone is one of the world's poorest countries and is still recovering nearly two decades after the end of a civil war which claimed some 120,000 lives.

The diamond-rich former British colony is ranked 129 out of 180 in Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index.