13 March 2014

Sierra Leone's Former President Kabbah Dies

Photo: Musue N. Haddad
President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, in blue, and Alpha Konare, president of Mali,during the reinstatement of Kabbah in 1998.

Sierra Leone's former president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, has passed away at the age of 82. His political leadership was credited with restoring peace to the war-torn country.

Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who led Sierra Leone held two five-year terms between 1996 and 2007 passed away on Thursday at his home in Freetown, according to his family.

"Former President Kabbah died at his home around 15:50 local time (1550 UTC) and the body has been transferred to the... funeral home in Freetown," according to the former chairman of Kabbah's Sierra Leone People's Party, John Benjamin.

The cause of his death was not immediately clear, although he had suffered high blood pressure and had been ill for some time, according to local media reported.

Friends and family had made several recent visits to his bedside.

Government-in-exile

Kabbah was elected to his first term in 1996. Less than a year later, a military coup by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - which had launched a war against the government in 1991 - forced him to flee to Guinea.

There, he established a government-in-exile.

The political leader was able to return to Sierra Leone in 1998. By 2002, he had helped restore peace with the aid of United Nations peacekeepers, ending bloodshed that had claimed the lives of at least 50,000 people over the period of a decade.

The 11-year war drew international condemnation over the use of child soldiers and the role of so-called "blood diamonds" in helping fund the violence.

Kabbah was re-elected to a second term in 2002 and stepped down in 2007.

Colorful career

Although born in 1932 to a Muslim family, Kabbah received a Christian education. He studied human sciences in Britain, worked in Sierre Leone's civil service - until deprived or his job and property - before studying to become a jurist in Britain.

In 1970, he joined the United Nations Development Programme and for the next 22 years worked in the United States, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

- AP, AFP

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