The transition to the world hereafter of the First President of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, presents a wonderful opportunity for our nation to do some serious analysis of the president who governed our nation during its Darkest Hour. Engineer Andrew Keili writes in his column, PONDER MY THOUGHTS, a Christian-moving eulogy on the late president fondly called ‘Pa Kabba’; and stated that “this is not the time” for criticism of the late President – implying: it is the time for traditional soaring and tear-inducing sentiments. Hmmmm!! The local print media has this week been inundated with ‘Tributes’ to Pa Kabbah. A lot of the praise showered on the late president are true – indisputable. Pa Kabba did great things in institution building, and as Kalilu Totangi wrote, his ‘inclusive cabinet’ – embracing people from all nearly the tribes equitably – has been unparalleled in our history.
Kandeh Yumkella’s Outlandish Hyperbole
Some of the ‘Tributes’ could leave a critical reader bemused or, indignant, however. Kandeh Yumkella, who hails from the Northern Province district of Kambia, which was also Pa Kabba’s home district, raised doubt as to his grasp of World History in his use of outlandish hyperbole in his Tribute; excerpt here: “Through his leadership as President of the Republic, and supported by the clergy….civil society and the international community, his government asked us to forgive each other and even allowed the RUF to form a party, similar to Mandela forgiving the Afrikaners…. He would be remembered as our own Abraham Lincoln….” If we are not too much traditionalists in Sierra Leone, African Patriots would voice their reprehension at Yumkella drawing a parallel between Pa Kabbah and Nelson Mandela – the same way the US Special Envoy to Africa, Rev. Jesse Jackson, had likened Foday Sankoh to Nelson Mandela after the carnage of Foday Sankoh in January 6, 1999, as reported in Pa Kabbah’s autobiography. Tejan Kabbah was never even close to Nelson Mandela in ideological stamina and moral stature!!
Mandela was the soul and symbol of a four hundred year struggle against informal and institutionalized racism by whites against blacks in South Africa; even while jailed for 27 years, Mandela resisted the pressure of the greatest powers in the world at that time – Great Britain, United States, etc. – for ‘Constructive Engagement’ with successive racist Afrikaner governments. Tejan Kabbah, even as a free man, a sitting president, caved in too easily to pressure from the international community, and, was so easily outwitted by the almost illiterate Foday Sankoh again and again; and, the Lome Peace Agreement that Kabbah signed with Sankoh in 1999 was more a ‘Capitulation Treaty’ than a ‘peace agreement’ – capitulation to one of the worst forms of evil ever perpetuated by a warring group in human history.
RUF Evil: Hands are cut, ears and noses amputated….
Read Pa Kabbah’s own support of my above position in his autobiography, ‘Coming Back from the Brink in Sierra Leone’, on Page 106: “Following his visit to Sierra Leone in June 1998, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello who was the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the situation to some extent reminded him of the mayhem committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He added: ‘I have close to 29 years’ experience in these conflicts. I have not seen something like this before. There is a pattern of cruelty against civilians without discrimination, including children. The pattern is one of amputations, of lacerations, of maiming of civilians – men, women of any age, including children…Hands are cut, ears and noses amputated….’.” (More analysis on the Lome Peace Treaty later on).
Kandeh Yumkella: Playing Politics with his ‘Kabbah-Tribute’
Of course, Kandeh Yumkella apparently has an underlying purpose in this sentence in his Tribute: “Some vilified him, and claimed that he was ineffective and had destroyed their party (forgetting that the only time the party showed a national character with a landslide victory was in 2002, mainly because of Pa Kabba’s Northern roots and national appeal…)”. Let me ‘translate’ that line for you, readers: Kandeh Yumkella is saying there: ‘SLPP, elect me, a Northerner from Kambia as your presidential candidate in 2018, and, like Pa Kabbah, I would win the elections for you’. Ha…ha…!! Clever…clever!!!
Momodu Koroma’s Spurious Security Boast!!
Alhaji Momodu Koroma, foreign minister in Pa Kabbah’s government, and running mate to Solomon Berewa in the 2007 elections, a former university professor, has a Tribute with professorial style extolling Pa Kabbah’s “SECURITY ENVIRONMENT”, which I excerpt as follows: “He (Tejan Kabbah) managed to assemble a disintegrated, ill-equipped, demoralized military outfit into a National Army capable of defending the national sovereignty ….For the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, he crafted a National Defence Strategy, he established a National Security Council….that produced the National Security Office (ONS) and the Central Intelligence and Security Unit (CISU) overarching security and intelligence gathering architecture that blanket the whole nation….”. What could have been deliberate obfuscation by Momodu Koroma was the absence of DATES in the ‘security and INTELLIGENCE feat’ of Pa Kabbah’s government. I assume he ‘forgot’ to read Pa Kabbah’s autobiography. I now humbly quote relevant pages for him.
If “Security” was ‘Pa Kabbah’s No 3 Priority in March 1998, what would have happened on ‘J-6’?
Pa Kabbah was returned to power from exile in Guinea in March of 1998 after the people had resisted the AFRC/RUF junta and Nigeria-led ECOMOG troops had routed them from power. On Page 93 of Tejan Kabbah’s autobiography he wrote: “I was terribly upset when I later visited parts of the city and saw first-hand, the damage that the AFRC/RUF junta had caused the past ten months. It appeared as if I was attending a wedding and a funeral concurrently”. Back in power in March, 1998, Pa Kabba wrote in his autobiography that “National Security” would be his “Number 1 priority”.
Tejan Kabbah was silent in his biography about what exactly he did to give vim to his security PRIORITY, apart from acknowledging on Page 98 that…” The security situation was still fluid. The pro-junta forces had been defeated, but, not eliminated. They continued to pose a major threat to the security and stability of the nation….”.
On Page 107 of his autobiography, Pa Kabbah appeared like a so-called surgeon specialist who would not save the patient, but, would act like a pathologist, doing post mortem on a dead patient; he writes: “ Apparently, they had also used weapons they had hidden in several parts of the city during their joint AFRC/RUF illegal regime. As the coup leaders had done in 1997, the rebels opened Pademba Road Prisons and freed hardcore criminals to bolster their ranks…..I was again devastated. The first thought that went through my mind was ‘Oh no, not again. I felt worse than on 25 May, 1997….”. Where was the ‘security and intelligence apparatus’ which Momodu Koroma so glibly wrote about in his tribute?
Foday Sankoh and Tejan Kabbah: who was cleverer?
Between Tejan Kabbah and Foday Sankoh who could be described as cleverer in this ‘self-prosecution’ of Pa Kabbah on Page 108/109 of his autobiography when he met Sankoh, a PRISONER, on an ECOMOG warship on January 6, 1999: “His (Foday Sankoh) initial behavior on seeing me was rather theatrical. As soon as our eyes met his… he began to ‘apologize’, shedding crocodile tears. ‘Oh my brother’, Foday Sankoh said, ‘I am sorry; I have let you down, please forgive me’. Then in the next breath, he whispered to me: ‘Are my boys in town?’. A few weeks earlier Sankoh and I had spoken and he had assured me of his fullest cooperation….”. (Just like Pa Kabbah’s military senior brass had assured him on May 23, 1997, that ‘everything was alright’. No coup!! And the May 25, 1997 took place – with the support of Kabbah’s military chiefs who had given assurances.).
Kandeh Yumkella brought in ‘fresh evidence’ to indict Pa Kabbah thus: “My trip to Sierra Leone on January 4, 1999, with Special Envoy, Ambassador Okelo to warn Pa Kabba about the impending advance of five rebel squads on Freetown…”. So, like with the May 25, 1997 coup, Pa Kabbah knew, was warned, about RUF/AFRC advance to invade the crammed city of Freetown!!!
Posthumous ‘Criminal Negligence War Crimes Trial’ for Kabbah
In 1998, I used to report, and do columns for, Pios Foray’s THE DEMOCRAT newspaper. I did several front-page stories as was told to me by a white-haired RUF defector – of the RUF burying alive 7 teenage males and 7 teenage females in Kailahun, etc. I did a front-page story when the RUF attacked Kabala in the North, in which I also interviewed my paternal cousin, Melvin Caulker, then, District Officer of Koinadugu, who had been captured when the RUF took over Kabala town; with the banner headline, ‘FREETOWN NEXT’. By late November, as Secretary General of the All Political Parties Youth Association (APPYA) then, I had gotten the approval of the Nigerian-born Chief of Defence Staff, General Maxwell Khobe, to have Freetown youth given military training to defend Freetown. That led me to Alithur Freeman, and Arthur Harvey, as Coordinator and Chairman of the Civil Defence Unit (CDU) – from there, the drivers’ union, petty traders’ organization, National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS)… formed the budding CIVIL SECURITY MOVEMENT (CSM). On January 5, 1999, at about 6p.m., at the Atlantic Hall of the National Stadium, forms were distributed to leaders of the diverse organizations to give to their membership willing to do MILITARY TRAINING with the army. January 6,, 1999…the AFRC/RUF struck! I lived a stone’s throw from State House. I could have been dismembered. I escaped – by God’s grace. Thousands were NOT so lucky – murdered; mutilated; raped; abducted. Invaluable over-a-hundred-year-old-‘Krio Houses’ – some 4,000 estimated historic houses – were burnt down by the rebels. After ‘peace met Tejan Kabbah, Tejan Kabbah sacrificed his most senior war commander, his deputy defence minister, HINGA Norman, to an international criminal court. Pa Kabbah is going to face a posthumous ‘People’s Trial’ for ‘Criminal Negligence’ during our war years. The ‘case’ against him I envisage would be easy – since Pa Kabbah has provided a plethora of indicting words in his own autobiography. Stay tuned.
(The article above was published in several newspapers in Sierra Leone a week or so after the death of former President Tejan Kabbah. The ‘whiff’ in the political air in the country makes this piece highly relevant today. It appears as if the ‘Book Mentality’ governing elite of Sierra Leone are at it again. “Those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana).