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Sierra Leone’s International Statesman, Tejan Kabbah Travels Again
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Feb 7, 2008, 19:04
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Sierra Leone’s foremost International Elder Statesman, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former President has informed this medium that he will tonight Thursday February 7th 2008, leave Freetown on a whirlwind international trip that is scheduled to take him to a few places around the globe in the month of February.

Kabbah shown signing an International Convention at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2005

Alhaji Kabbah, an international civil servant who became twice elected as President of Sierra Leone is currently enjoying his earned retirement rest but ever so often, as is the case with international statesmen, he will be called upon to visit with international dignitaries or to participate in international activities.

It is in this light that Dr. Tejan Kabbah will leave Freetown tonight for Lungi and later, at 3am in the early morning hours of Friday will board a flight that will take him directly to Casablanca, Morocco where he is going to be a special invited guest of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

Morocco played a very important role in consolidating the peace process in Sierra Leone and in our post-war efforts, Morocco’s role in our still-ongoing search for sustainable electricity cannot be understated. In 2002, it was through the intervention of King Mohammed VI that President Lansana Conteh of Guinea, Charles Taylor of Liberia and Ahmad Kabbah of Sierra Leone made one of their pivotal agreements in Rabat, Morocco to enhance border security, repatriate refugees, aid displaced persons and reactivate the Mano River Union (MRU) for economic development.

The SLPP’s 2007 Elections Manifesto reflected its gratitude to the Moroccans in the section on how it intended to tackle the perennial electricity problem. It went: "A team from Morocco is presently refurbishing the machines at Kingtom Power Station to improve capacity."

Earlier, in a 2007 published interview with Concord Times Newspaper, the then Foreign Minister Momodu Koroma stated, "President Kabbah earlier had a meeting with the King of Morocco in Saudi Arabia in which they discussed bilateral cooperation in various fields; one of which was electricity. Subsequently I visited Morocco as a Special Envoy of President Kabbah to the King of Morocco. It was in that meeting that the King approved that the Morocco Electricity Cooperation should come and assist Sierra Leone with electricity. This was followed by a 26 man-team of Moroccan experts who are now doing repairs on the existing machinery as well as the distribution system and the streets lights at no cost to the Sierra Leone government."

Sierra Leoneans will no doubt recall that the relationship built between Kabbah and the Moroccan King has ever since been one of mutual respect and it is this relationship that the current Government is also building upon especially as the Moroccans are still helping with electrification support.

Following the overnight hosting of Kabbah by the Moroccan King in Morocco, the next day, President Kabbah will head to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in transit to Seoul, South Korea where he is a Special Invited Guest at the World Peace Summit 2008 hosted by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) from 9th to 13th February 2008. The UPF’s Interreligious & International Federation for World Peace, is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council. The theme of the Summit is "Toward a New Paradigm of Leadership and Good Governance for Peace in the 21st Century" and the former President is expected to deliver a paper to the Summit.

Pa Kabbah informs that his message at Seoul will be themed around "Peace, Leadership and Peace Governance in the 21st Century".

At the end of the Peace Summit, Dr. Kabbah will leave Seoul to head back to Dubai where he had wanted to take a vacation in that famous city but Pa Kabbah was forced to cut short his preferred vacation in Dubai to only two days as he was requested by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to visit Nigeria & participate in APRM’s Country Review Mission.

According to documents seen, the APR Secretariat states, "the presence of President Kabbah will be particularly important" and goes further to say it will, "appreciate his participation for any duration of time he is available in the period between 6th February to 29th February 2008".

Speaking to Awareness Times, the former President assured that having been one of the Heads of States who endorsed APRM, he considers it an obligation to support any APRM review and thus he would cut short his holiday in Dubai to fly to Nigeria to participate in the Review Process.

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union (AU) as a self-monitoring mechanism. The mandate of the APRM is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among African countries and the objectives in socio-economic development within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

The APRM process is based on a "self-assessment" questionnaire developed by the APR Secretariat. It is divided into four sections: democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance, and socio-economic development. Its questions are designed to assess states’ compliance with a wide range of African and international human rights treaties and standards. It has not been without controversy. Before the questionnaire was adopted, reports stated that pressure from countries like Nigeria and Libya saw Thabo Mbeki of South Africa attempt to remove political governance from being reviewed. According to reports, Mbeki believed review of political governance was something for the African Union(AU). The powerful G8 body presided by Jean Chretien, demanded clarification after expressing concern that AU organs are ‘politicized’ and will therefore not produce credible reviews. In a public letter Mbeki denied the charges and stated countries would voluntarily subject themselves to review of all aspects of good governance, including political, under the APRM, but that other AU institutions might be more appropriate to deal with some issues. Eventually, political governance was retained as an area for review.

It was in this light that Awareness Times questioned the former President, Dr. Kabbah whether his closeness with former President Obasanjo might not cloud his objective review of any political action taken by the former Nigerian leader’s erstwhile Government.

President Kabbah responded that his close friendship with President Obasanjo will not affect his objectivity as far as the Nigeria Review was concerned. Kabbah highlighted the fact that importance of the APRM succeeding could not be understated.

"It is a legacy that us former Heads of States have left for future generations of African Leaders; it has to not only work but should be seen as working," Sierra Leone’s respected international Statesman insisted.

Pa Kabbah is expected back in Sierra Leone by the month’s end which implies he would be spending his birthday (February 16th) out of Sierra Leone this year on international engagements.

Interestingly, the President spent both last Christmas and 2008 New Year’s Day out of Sierra Leone; again on an international engagement in Kenya.

Whilst he had stated he wanted to simply enjoy his retirement, it is clear the former President’s stature in the international arena will not let him readily dissolve his presence into retirement. Tejan Kabbah is very much a well respected, international statesman and Sierra Leoneans would do well to seek to benefit from his wealth of experience and skills both nationally and internationally.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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