By Tejan Mansaray – The national state funeral arrangements underway by government in partnership with the Kabbah family and the SLPP, to honour former President Alhaji Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, is a deserving accolade that will take the strict observation of presidential and state protocols.
State funerals the world over are held only by sovereign states, and as the former President and Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, belongs to the state and it is therefore the sacred responsibility of President Koroma to lead the whole process.
So whether former President Kabbah be given a state funeral and be buried at parliament or not shouldn’t be a bone of contention for anyone. State funeral arrangements for the former leader are ongoing and his remains will be fully honoured.
Let’s bury the dead first and then all other things will come later. This rejoinder to Bockarie Sam’s piece, ‘What is wrong with President Koroma?’ is meant to highlight certain key issues that are directly related to state matters, particularly funeral arrangements and the burial of President Tejan Kabbah. It is also intended to answer the rhetorical question (even though it doesn’t need an answer) posed by Bockarie Sam, that nothing is wrong with President Koroma. He is doing exactly what is expected of him as a sitting Head of State.
President Koroma on Monday 17th March opened and signed the book of condolences at State House for the death of the former President which was replicated in all Sierra Leone diplomatic missions abroad, with flags flying at half mast, coupled with a special mourning period of seven days.
As the saying goes “never speak evil about the dead”. But if we imagine some of the horrific situations we went through right from the elections that brought former President Kabbah to power in 1996, and dethroned by AFRC junta in 1997, we can conclude that indeed, President Kabbah fought hard to restore the government in 1998. This was a terrible period in the country’s political history, which made him a changed man on return from exile.
As we prepare to bury the dead, let’s forget everything he did and not overshadow the funeral ceremony with political considerations or discussions.
President Koroma’s leadership in the preparations for the funeral ceremony of former President Kabbah makes him a totally different leader and statesman. Whereas late President Momoh’s funeral arrangements were handled by the APC alone, Tejan Kabbah’s will be handled by the state, and this singular action has differentiated the sitting President completely from his predecessor.
There is no gainsaying that President Kabbah brought peace to Sierra Leone following a decade of internecine war. But at what cost? Of course, any war time leader pursues peace as the first option. And indeed, Pa Kabbah did just that. 34 military officers dead and more, including civilians incarcerated as collaborators until January 6th 1999. Had it not being for J-Six, people like IB Kargbo, William Smith, Victor Foh, including the late President Momoh would have been killed contrary to the African Charter on Peoples and Human rights.
If the former President didn’t find it fit to grant diplomatic passport to the Minority Leader, it is a good thing that the sitting President has granted diplomatic passport to the Minority Leader in Parliament.
Being a great unifier of Sierra Leoneans, President Koroma has brought the people of together more than ever before through his government’s developmental gestures taken to every door step in the country, regardless, of region, tribe and political connections. This is because he strongly believes in the spirit of nationalism and unity.
On women and youth empowerment drives, President Koroma has come this far with grate commitments backed by actions by opening space for women’s participation in governance and has kicked started youth empowerment projects being implemented nationwide by the Ministry of Youth, National Youth Commission in collaboration with local youth serving agencies who are at the moment salvaging the sad plight of young people. And for women’s empowerment and this whole idea of gender being championed by President Koroma has also gained momentum through consistent executive efforts as he has placed women in key administrative positions of trust. This clearly shows that President Koroma has taken Sierra Leonean women to a higher level, following in the footsteps of his predecessor.
Women today, at the levels of Chief Justice, directors, State Chief of Protocol, Barefoot Solar Engineers, Director Generals, Managing Directors, Ambassadors, deputy High Commissioners, Commissioner-General among other top positions, speak volumes of his commitment towards pushing gender and women’s empowerment issues to the fore front.
Like I said earlier, no one should speak evil of the dead, yet we should not decry efforts made by government and the presidency in honour of the late president’s funeral preparations. Much as this is a national issue that involves the state, let us put party politics and our individual indifferences aside by accepting and appreciating efforts by government, so that we can all bury our late president and discuss all other party related matters later or any other time we deem necessary.