President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has described the late President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as a great giant for the partnership for peace and democracy in Sierra Leone.
He made this statement on the occasion of the laying-out ceremony for the former President at the State Hall of Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown.
"We are gathered here today to pay our respects to a great Sierra Leonean," President Koroma opened his tribute, and noted that honouring President Tejan Kabbah, "we are also honoring all those Sierra Leoneans and international partners whose sacrifices made his presidency possible; Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone whose support gave him strength to push through the peace process; Sierra Leoneans whose willingness to forgive ensured the success of his efforts to heal the nation."
According to President Koroma, "Pa Kabbah’s actions as President" were aligned with the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans who said enough is enough to the atrocious military rule. "Enough is enough to an evil rebel war; enough is enough to extra-judicial killings, enough is enough to human rights violations," he said.
The President paid glowing tribute to his predecessor for his unique political tolerance in forging an alliance of political parties who stood up for peace, for democracy, and for ensuring that the most valued aspirations of our people are achieved.
"That was why, despite resistance from some powerful persons from within and outside government he signed the Lome Peace Agreement; that was why, despite resistance from some quarters, he chose not to stand in the way of the aspirations of our people for a democratic change of government in 2007. His patriotic stubbornness is a virtue worthy of emulation, for it is a virtue that ensured the great feats that reclaimed Sierra Leone for peace, freedom and democracy," he asserted.
President Koroma pointed out that although no human being is perfect, to be great does not mean that one must be perfect in all situations. "Rather," he said, "to be great is to have the ability to stand tall in critical moments. Pa Kabbah did stand tall in many critical moments, especially so at the time when this country needed to return to democracy; when this country aspired to peace and healing, and when this country desired democratic change."
"For over a decade, Pa Kabba was a dignified symbol of a partnership for democracy and peace: a partnership forged by the actions of the women who marched for democracy in 1995 and 96; a partnership inspired by citizens who lost their limbs whilst voting in 1996; a partnership built by the sacrifices of loyal Sierra Leonean soldiers, police and CDF members, Nigerian, Guinean, ECOMOG and other foreign soldiers; a partnership sustained by students who marched against military rule; by political party activists who formed the All Political Parties Association to strengthen opposition to war and military dictatorship."
President Koroma recalled that as opposition leader he worked with Pa Kabbah on some of his enduring legacies, including the establishment of NASSIT and ensuring a smooth transition from one democratically elected President to another in 2007. "We sustained a partnership based on mutual respect; a patriotic partnership for moving this country forward; a great partnership for overcoming great odds thrown at us, sometimes from members of our individual political parties. But the partnership for pushing this country forward prevailed."
"Today I mourn the death of a great giant of the partnership for democracy and peace in our country. Today I call upon all of us to dedicate our remembrance of this great Sierra Leonean to sustaining this partnership; I entreat all of us, from all political parties, from the party he led, the SLPP, to the party I now lead, the APC, everybody from every region and religion, every civil society group, every profession and every organization to mourn the late man with a commitment to building upon his wonderful actions for this land that he so dearly love," President Koroma implored.
"He was a true Sierra Leonean, a storehouse, not only of many of the values that Sierra Leoneans hold dear; but also of positive thoughts that must be entrenched amongst all who want to be part of a Sierra Leone that is modern, a Sierra Leone that is a beacon of transformation and progressive achievements. His achievements have truly made him a historical figure, a person we will remember as transcending his political party and his region to assert what progressive Sierra Leoneans of every region, every religion and every political party would want for this country."
"Rest in Peace, our dear President Kabbah, may Allah’s infinite mercies abide with you. Condolences unto you, dear relatives of our departed President, the nation mourns with you; we will no more behold the dignified demeanor of your husband, your father, brother, uncle, in-law and grandfather, but the great example of his love for, and dedication to, this nation shall abide with the citizens of this country for ever, the President prayed.