By Jariatu Bangura
President Ernest Bai Koroma, last Friday declared at the official laying out ceremony of late President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah at Parliament that his immediate predecessor’s ‘patriot stubbornness is a virtue of emulation’ as it ensures that peace was restored in a country which prides itself of peace, freedom and democracy.
President Koroma said the actions of the former president were in line with the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans who were determined to terminate military rule, negotiate an end to an insidious rebel war, characterised by extra-judicial killings and human rights violations, as he (Kabbah) sustained an alliance of persons from all political parties who stood up for the core values of peace, democracy, freedom and liberty.
President Koroma noted that that was why the late former head of state, despite disapprovals from some powerful persons from within and outside government, signed the Lome Peace Agreement in 1999, and resistance from some quarters, chose against standing in the way of the people for a democratic change of government in 2007. He said to be great does not mean that one has to be perfect in all situations, rather to have the ability to stand tall in critical moments, and that the late former president did stand tall in many critical moments, especially at the time the country needed a return to democracy, aspired to peace and healing and desired a democratic change.
He maintained that for over a decade the former president was a dignified symbol of a partnership for democracy and peace, a partnership forged by the actions of women who matched for democracy in 1995 and 1996, one inspired by citizens who lost their limbs whilst voting in 1996, and built by the sacrifices of loyal Sierra Leonean soldiers, police, Civil Defence Forces, Nigerian troops, Guinean soldiers and foreign armies, which was sustained by students who matched against military rule, by political activities who formed the All Political Parties Association to strengthen the opposition to war and military dictatorship.
“Today I mourn the death of a great giant of the partnership for democracy and peace of our country, today I call upon all to dedicate our remembrance of this great Sierra Leonean to sustaining this partnership, I entreat you all, from all political parties, to the SLPP, the APC, everybody from the region and religion, every civil society organisation, every profession and every organization, to mourn the late man with the commitment to building upon his wonderful actions…,” president urged.
The late former president was given a state funeral after he died on 13 March, aged 82. He was laid in state at Parliament last Friday, before his corpse was taken to the Madingo mosque for the Friday prayers. His casket was displayed at the Miattia Conference Centre on Saturday and at the National Stadium on Sunday, before he was interred at the Kissy Road cemetery.