TRIBUTE TO A HERO OF PEACE

ALHAJI DR. AHMED TEJAN KABBA A LIFE WELL LIVED

Zacharia Dinkeh:

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Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was born 16 February. 1932 in Pendembu, Kailahun District, Eastern province, Sierra Leone, though was largely raised in the capital; Freetown.. He was the third President of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 1997 and again from 1998 to 2007. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah received his higher education at the Cardiff College of Technology and Commerce and University College Aberystwyth, Wales, in the United Kingdom, with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1959. He later studied law, and in 1969 he became a practicing Barrister-at-Law, member of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, London.

Kabbah started his working career in his early years working as district commander for Moyamba, Kono, Bombali and Kambia Districts in Sierra Leone; Ministry of Social Welfare, Freetown, Sierra Leone, deputy secretary; Ministry of Education, Freetown, permanent secretary; Ministry of Trade and Industry, Freetown, permanent secretary; joined staff of United Nations; served as UNDP representative in Lesotho, 1973, Tanzania and Uganda, 1976, and Zimbabwe, 1980; appointed head of Eastern and Southern Africa Division in the United Nations, 1979; served as deputy personnel director and director of the Division of Administration and Management, 1981.

After a career at the United Nations, President Kabbah returned home (Sierra Leone) to retire, but was drafted by the NPRC as an adviser and later into the country’s process toward a multiparty democracy around the mid-1990s. In early 1996, Kabbah was elected leader of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) and the party’s presidential candidate in the 1996 presidential election. He was elected President of Sierra Leone in the 1996 presidential election with 59% of the vote defeating his closest rival Dr. John Kerefa-Smart of the United National People’s Party (UNPP) who had 40% in the runoff vote and conceded defeat. International observers declared the election free and fair. In his inauguration speech in Freetown, President Kabbah promised to end the civil war, which he indeed achieved later in his presidency.

Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was Sierra Leone’s first Madingo and Muslim head of state. Most of Kabbah’s time in office was influenced by the civil war with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by Copral Foday Sankoh, which involved him being temporarily ousted by the military Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) from May 1997 to March 1998. He was soon returned to power after a military intervention led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), lead by Nigeria. Another phase of the civil war led to United Nations and British involvement in the country in 2000.

President, Kabbah opened direct negotiations with the RUF rebels in order to end the civil war. He signed several Peace Accords’ with the rebel leader Foday Sankoh, including the 1999 Lome Peace Accord, in which the rebels, for the first time, agreed to a temporary cease fire with the Sierra Leone government. The cease fire agreement with the rebels eventually collapsed, the rebel resumed hostilities, and later perpetrated on the people of Sierra Leone what has been described as one of the most brutal internal conflicts in the world. In 1996, a coup attempt involving Jonny Paul Koroma and other junior officers of the Sierra Leone Army was unsuccessful, but served as notice that Kabbah’s control over military and government officials in Freetown was weakening.

In May 1997, a military coup ousted and forced Kabbah into exile in neighbouring Guinea and President Kabbah then campaigned for international assistant from the British, the USA, the United Nations Security Council, the Africa Union, and the Economic Community of West African States to help defeat the rebels and restored peace and order in Sierra Leone. In March 1998, Kabbah’s government was revived as the military-rebel junta was removed by troops of the (ECOWAS) under the command of the Nigerian led ECOMOG (ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group) and loyal civil and military defence forces, notably the Kamajors’ led by Samual Hinga-Norman.

Kabbah declared the civil war officially over in early 2002. Tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans across the country took to the streets in celebrating the end of the war. Kabbah went on to easily win his final five year term in office in the presidential election later that year with 70.1% of the vote, defeating his main opponent current President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of the then main opposition All People’s Congress (APC). International observers declared the election free and fair. President Kabbah, as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone in Freetown holds an honorary doctor of laws degree of the University.

In September 200 Southern Connecticut State University in the United States awarded him with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, in recognition of his effort to bring peace to his country. In July 2006, he received another honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, for his contribution to restoring peace in his country after a decade of civil war, and for working towards political and economic reconstruction following the end of the war. At 4:00PM this Afternoon, Thursday, 13 March 2014 he peacefully passed away. Thank you for the Peace and your brave and gallant services to the world and Sierra Leone in particular. May Allah grant you mercy, the highest of the heavens and may your soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!

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