Voice of America (Washington, DC)

14 March 2014

Sierra Leone Mourns Former President Tejan Kabbah's Death

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 President Ernest Bai Koroma has announced a week-long mourning period in honor of former president Ahmeh Tejan Kabbah who died Thursday at his home in the capital Freetown. He was 82 years old.

The government has also ordered all flags to be flown at half-mast as the country prepares for a state funeral.

Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, special advisor to President Koroma says most Sierra Leoneans still remember that it was under President Tejan-Kabbah's leadership that peace finally came to their country after a deadly 11-year civil war in which about 120 thousand people were killed and hundreds of thousands more maimed.

"Well of course, we must concede to the fact that during this period peace returned to Sierra Leone, and he (Tejan-Kabbah) played a very major role in that regard. And most Sierra Leoneans still remember that the war was declared as over. So, we see him as a man who brought peace in this country, and our president, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is also appreciative of the fact that President Tejan-Kabbah played a very major role in the governance of Sierra Leone," he said.

Ben Kargbo also notes that it was during the late president's administration that U.N. peacekeepers and a military intervention from Sierra Leone's former colonial power Britain took place.

"It was during his tenure that UNAMSIL (UN peacekeeping troops) came to Sierra Leone. It was also during his tenure that the British sent troops to Freetown to help create peace in this country," Kargbo said.

He said President Bai Koroma, who is currently visiting Congo-Brazzaville will return to Sierra Leone Friday.

"The government reacted almost immediately. They (the Tejan-Kabbah family) received a phone call from our president (Ernest Bai Koroma) who is at the moment in the Congo declaring a 7-day mourning period and the national should be flown at half-mast, and to declare that the former president should be given a state funeral, recognizing the role he played as head of state and as a very patriotic citizen of this country," Kargbo said.

Kargbo said Sierra Leone took good care of former president Tejan-Kabbah unlike some African countries where former presidents have had a difficult time after leaving office.

"When he retired, automatically he qualified for a pension equals to his last salary when he was president. He also qualified to have a government official working for him as a secretary working for him. He also qualified to have access to housing. So we do not treat our past presidents shabbily," he said.

Kargbo says President Bai Koroma showed high respect for Tejan-Kabbah by the frequent visits he paid even before the former president became sick.

He said another legacy of the late Sierra Leone leader is when he gracefully stepped down after serving two terms.

"The constitution of Sierra Leone makes it very clear that the tenure for a president cannot exceed more two terms. And his second term he stepped down gracefully and in the process his party lost the election. But even at that he provided leadership during the transition period handing power to Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma," Kargbo said.

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