By Mohamed Massaquoi
Erstwhile presidential candidate for the opposition Serra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) is expected to arrive in Freetown tonight from the United Kingdom to attend the state burial ceremony of former President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
The late Dr. Kabbah died one week ago after a protracted illness, aged 82. He took the oath of office as president in 1996 after he was elected in the first democratic elections in the country for almost three decades with Bio as head of state of the de facto military regime.
Bio confirmed in an exclusive interview with this medium from his temporary base in the UK that he would attend the funeral of the late former president, whom he said “provided leadership that is worth emulating”, adding that: “I am coming to give my last respect to our father and the former leader of our great party, the SLPP”.
Mr. Bio had earlier written a tribute to the former president which was published in the local media, in which he eulogised the legacy of the man he handed power to back in 1996. “I can still remember that Historic Day, March 29th 1996 in the Chamber of the House of Parliament as I handed over the Presidential Staff of Office to the newly elected President, the late Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He was filled with enthusiasm and optimism for our country and I could sense his determination and vigour to make his own contribution to national development, especially the supreme task of bringing to a final end a war that had caused so much pain and suffering to so many innocent citizens of our country,” Bio recalled.
He said the late former president was “indeed…a great man”, and added: “I want to join fellow Sierra Leoneans, at home and abroad, to express our condolence to Mrs. Isata J. Kabbah, the children and the entire Kabbah Family on the passing away of the former President, Dr. Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.”
Bio called on his supporters, family and friends to come out in their numbers to honour the great legacy of the late President Kabbah, because: “The legacy of the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is not limited to just bringing the war to a close or to preaching reconciliation between perpetrators and victims; he presided over a country in which democracy had disintegrated and was now yearning for revival.”
Meanwhile, politicians, diplomats, friends and well-wishers from all across the world have commended late President Kabbah for his patriotism and great sense of duty to the people of Sierra Leone, as well as his relentless efforts and commitments in attaining and maintaining peace and enhancing the democratic process of the country.
He will be buried on Sunday, 23 March at the Kissy Road ceremony.