Sierra Leoneans pay their final respects to former President Kabba

The Sierra Leone Telegraph:  24 March 2014

Tejan kabba state funeral -1Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown came to a standstill yesterday evening, as the nation laid former president Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabba to rest.

He passed away two weeks ago, aged 82.

Thousands lined up the streets of the capital to watch the funeral cortege led by security forces – upon whose shoulders the responsibility of guaranteeing the country’s peace and stability now rests.

Tejan Kabba was buried at the Kissy Road Cemetery in the east of the capital, in a vault adjacent to that occupying the remains of his mother.

The government of Sierra Leone had declared a week of national mourning, with flags flying at half mast. And last Friday, the body of the former president was taken to the Houses of Parliament where parliamentarians and dignitaries paid their last respects.

On Saturday, 22nd March, the body of Kaaba was taken to his SLPP party headquarters, where supporters and party executives paid their last respects. Party grandee – Dr. Sama Banya seized the opportunity at the ceremony to call upon members of the party to unite.

“The only befitting tribute, we can pay to our great former leader and President – Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is to unite and to unite behind Maada Bio,” Dr. Banya told the party.

Although the government has been accused of playing politics over the funeral of the former president by refusing to bury his remains in the grounds of parliament, it is understood that it was the wish of the former president Kabba that he should be buried next to his departed mother at the Kissy Road Cemetery.

Tejan kabba state funeral -3Before departing for his final resting place on Sunday, the casket was taken to the Brookfields national stadium, where thousands of people of all political persuasions had gathered to say goodbye to their former president.

And as speaker after speaker spoke of the legacy of the former president, it was the role that he played in bringing peace to Sierra Leone, which echoed loudest across the stadium.

President Koroma told mourners at the stadium: “We are honouring a man who truly deserved honour… He was a great Sierra Leonean, a man who stood tall at critical moments of our country’s history.”

kabba4Yusuf Keketoma Sandy captures and echoes the legacy of a remarkable leader, who did so much for his people, in a poem. This is what he says:

 “A Nation mourns the death of a Statesman,

In tears the people weep the loss of a great man.

Born in 1932, to a Mende mother from Kailahun and a Madingo father from Kambia,

His Presidency is a testament that tribes and regions form no barrier.

As a devout Muslim he serves Allah with devotion,

Yet he leads a country where Christians practice their faith without persecution.

A diplomat, an economist and a lawyer,

These professions shape him to become the President we all admire.

He takes over the mantle of leadership in a nation ravaged by war,

With many people blighted by atrocities so hard to endure.

kabba5Children, women and the defenceless people become victims of the violence,

But in his search for peace he shows great forbearance.

He establishes the TRC to preach reconciliation and unity,

Then he agrees with the United Nations to set up the Special Court to address impunity.

He created laudable institutions to entrench good governance and economic developments,

Tejan kabbah2So from ACC, NRA, NASSIT, NaCSA, IMC, PPRC, NCD to HRCSL, these institutions will form his embodiments.

Rtd. Brig Julius Maada Bio refers to him as an emblem of peace and icon of democracy,

And President Ernest Bai Koroma refers to him as a great giant of Peace and Democracy.

In our thoughts we will forever remember that Peace and Democracy are his true legacy,

Whilst in our prayers, we will always ask God to grant him infinite mercy.”  

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