By Sulay B. Conteh
All over the world, Kabbah has been described as a war-time president. Indeed, Kabbah took power during the peak of a brutal civil/rebel war in Sierra Leone. In fact, Kabbah’s own very presidency was violently interrupted for a period of nearly one year by a brutally bloody coup led by AFRC. Nevertheless, Kabbah relentlessly worked for peace and indeed eventually forged relative peace in Sierra Leone before the end of his presidency in 2007. Kabbah is also widely credited for systematically laying the foundations of constitutional democracy, social justice/security and economic prosperity during his eleven years of presidency. These are among the most notable good side of Kabbah as the president of Sierra Leone.
Although Kabbah initially galvanized Sierra Leone at the start of his presidency in 1996, he unfortunately left the country in a relative discord at the end of his rule in 2007. Whether because of the war he inherited or merely out of the drunkenness of power, it is simply true that Kabbah oversaw the demise and death of so many in Sierra Leone during his eleven period of presidency. In addition to the so many who were directly destroyed by the war, Kabbah signed the death and imprisonment of scores of AFRC junta members. Kabbah even crafty masterminded the capture and eventual destruction of RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, after it became evident that Sankoh was about to boycott peace deal.
Notably and perhaps most devastating was Kabbah’s orchestrated heartless prosecution, imprisonment and eventual destruction of his then Defense Minister, Hinga Norman. Norman was as much a veteran politician as he was a career soldier. It was Norman who sacrificed everything he could in order to restore Kabbah to power after he was violently overthrown by the brutal AFRC junta. It was this same Norman who, under the tribal-politics-driven influence of the north, that Kabbah heartlessly destroyed. Eventually, Kabbah became so tribally driven that he nearly single-handedly turned over the SLPP Party (a predominantly southeast-based party) to his northern clique. In his eleven years of rule, Kabbah systematically reduced SLPP (the party that brought him to power and stardom) to nothing less than a mountain of debt. Kabbah craftily sowed the seeds of non-compromising discord among SLPP Party elders and diehards and reduced them to dejectable irrelevance in the party in particular and in Sierra Leone in general.
But Kabbah indeed lived the rest of his life to pay the prize for his heartless actions towards the people and party who gave him life, power and stardom. Kabbah latter woefully failed to maneuver to have his then Foreign Minister, Momodu Koroma (another fellow from this northern caucuses), as the Flag-bearer of the SLPP Party in the 2007 elections to succeed him. Momodu Koroma was Kabbah’s closest confidant and he trusted him to hide his wrong deeds in SLPP and protect him from prosecution ceding power. Because Kabbah never hard his will completed in SLPP, he instead turned to Earnest Koroma (another brother from the northern caucuses) of the then opposition APC Party to succeed him. This was why Kabbah nullified an unprecedented number of SLPP votes in favor of the APC Party, and indeed it was how the APC Earnest Koroma took the mantle of power in 2007. In Sierra Leone we say “wata wei na for you, yi nor go run pass you”.
But the ever proven adage that “whatever goes around always comes around” can just not be unproven. After his manipulation in favor of APC Koroma, Kabbah’s first public shunning by the party he so assiduously worked to bring to power was during the coronation inauguration of Koroma. Kabbah had prepared countless pages of policy achievements of his government; including the unfinished projects with secured funds worth billions of dollars and his government’s strong successes in taking Sierra Leone from a country with immense debt to a country with billions of dollars in foreign reserve. Allowing Kabbah could have been extremely damaging to the Koroma APC as we now know that the APC agenda for change was to deplete the nation’s reserve and put Sierra Leone back into a massive debt. Needless to say that Sierra Leone is now crumbling in a spectacular way under the agenda for prosperity.
After he was so publicly shunned, Kabbah immediately came to the realization that he had done an undone blunder of an epic magnitude. Worst still was the fact that Kabbah had absolutely no chance to undo the effects of his nasty blunders. It is imaginable that Kabbah left the APC coronation alone and lonely and so was the rest of his life in next six years that followed. In the process of coming to terms with his heartless deeds, Kabbah lost his wife and children. This added salt to injury as Kabbah had to further endure the long six years in extreme agony, solitary and loneliness. This could have been what doomed Kabbah so soon. At the age of just 82 and barely six years after ceding power, Kabbah ambivalently left us.
Irrespective of what he did to the SLPP Party and the southeasterners in particular and the people of Sierra Leone in general, Kabbah has now departed us for his final place of rest. In this end-of-life situation, we can only say out our condolences and pray that Allah grants Kabbah eternity. In that respect, we sign the book of condolence in respect of Kabbah’s life and all he survived by as follows:
Sierra Leone Has Lost Yet Another Great Son. President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah Will Most Be Remembered For Taking Sierra Leone From War To Peace And For Laying The Building Blocks Of Constitutional Democracy And Economic Prosperity. Yet As Human As Kabbah Was, He Had His Own Downs; And Perhaps The Most Notable Being The Way He Treated The Party That Brought Him To Power And Stardom. Whatever Our Misgivings, Kabbah Has Now Departed Us In The Peace He Forged In Sierra Leone. On This Note, We Stand United In Praying That The Almighty Allah Grants Kabbah The Best Of Eternity. May His Soul Rest In Peace!