From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Afsatu Kabba
Haja Afsatu Kabba: A Sierra Leone Muslim Woman of Excellence!
By Friends of Haja Afsatu Kabba
Apr 12, 2010, 19:12

Haja Afsatu Olayinka Ebishola Kabba:

A Muslim Woman of Excellence!

Haja Afsatu O. E. Kabba

Haja Afsatu Olayinka Ebishola Kabba is a 57 years old successful mother, grandmother and wife as well as a highly successful Sierra Leonean politician with the knack to effectively engage with even Kings whilst still maintaining her ability to relate to her common grassroots supporters. Story of Haja Afsatu Olayinka Kabba is fascinating and it has only just begun in Sierra Leone.

On assuming office, His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma proclaimed that the provision of electricity countrywide is his government’s cardinal priority and then he made a declaration that he would restore reliable electricity supply to the capital city within 100 days! The Head of State’s declaration was greeted with mixed feelings and great expectations. However, no one believed his 100-days proclamation would work after the nation learnt that the person charged with the responsibility of carrying out this very important state function will not be a man but a woman in the person of Honourable Haja Afsatu O. E. Kabba who President Koroma appointed to be the very first woman ever to hold the Cabinet Portfolio of Minister of Energy & Power of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Prior to her appointment as Energy Minister, she was appointed as Vice-Chair of the country’s novel Presidential Transitional Team with the Honourable Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana as Chair. It was a public sign of the confidence bestowed on her by President Koroma. This move was deliberate by the President and was seen as a means of pacifying the impatience in the female gender ranks of the ruling APC party. It had been widely expected that Haja Afsatu Kabba would have been appointed as the 2007 Elections Running-mate to APC Leader Ernest Koroma before Hon. Sam-Sumana was chosen; much to the dismay of a huge swathe of the APC Women all over the country. The appointment of Haja Afsatu Kabba as Vice-Chair of the President’s Transitional Team was thus a pacifying move.

Haja Afsatu Kabba’s loyalty is unimaginable. In a political world that is mostly devoid of integrity, her loyalty to political allies knows little boundaries. As a member of the now-defunct PDP-Sorbeh party led by the late Thaimu Bangura, Haja Afsatu Kabba loyally stood by Thaimu Bangura until the day he passed away. Upon his death, Haja Afsatu Kabba was a backbone to the family of the late PDP Party Leader. Today, her deep sense of loyalty to the APC Party Leader, President Ernest Bai Koroma is of legendary proportions and has oft times created unwarranted speculations for the poor woman. Since she quit the PDP and supported the APC, she has stood unwavering in unalloyed support for the APC Leader. At a time in 2002 when other female politicians were exhorting Sierra Leoneans not to vote for President Ernest Bai Koroma, it was Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba who was the very visible female politician countering these antagonists of the current President! When the President, as Opposition Leader, became embroiled in various criminal lawsuits brought against him from within his party during which his leadership of the party was seriously challenged and stripped off him, the female politician who loyally stood by the President and greatly influenced the brokering of peace between the current President and his detractors was Haja Afsatu Kabba.

It was this sense of loyalty that must have spurred the President to catapult Haja Afsatu Kabba immediately he was elected as President even before he announced his Cabinet. She proceeded to comport herself and carry out her duties as Vice-Chair of the Presidential Transitional Team (which preceded the formation of the Cabinet) with dignity and aplomb. However, given the rather ambitious pronouncement of President Koroma that he would restore continuous and reliable electricity supply to Freetown within the first 100 days in office, many had been disbelieving of such a pronouncement especially with a woman, (however capable she was) placed at the helm.

To the surprise of numerous people who initially had their doubts about the ability of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Energy and Power minister to deliver, the success stories in the provision of electricity in the city as well as in other parts of the country soon became one of the Koroma government’s successes. The name behind this commendable venture which transformed a very ambitious political proclamation into reality is the Hon. Haja Hafsatu Olayinka Ebishola Kabba, a woman of substance.

Notwithstanding the numerous negative attempts by some ill motivated individuals who see nothing good in any step taken for the betterment of the country, Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba succeeded where others, including prominent personalities like Emmanuel Grant had abysmally failed to deliver.

The name of Haja Afsatu Kabba is not strange in the political reality of modern Sierra Leone. She had already made a name for herself long before the present government came to power. Quite apart from being one of the present leading female politicians in the new political dispensation of  a new Africa today, Haja Afsatu Kabba has made a name for herself not only as a Member of the Chartered Insurers in Sierra Leone but also in the Sub Region. Her charisma and approach ensured her choice by her peers as chairman of the West African Power Pool of Energy Ministers, and her good name is clearly striding ahead in leaps and bounds. Prior to her appointment as a Cabinet Minister, Haja Afsatu Kabba had been an Honourable Member of Parliament between 2002 and 2007, where she has been recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the country’s charismatic women of substance.

Hon. Afsatu Kabba is a women leader, advocate and activist and her socio political track record, particularly among the women folk and the grassroots youths and community members has earned her a commendable status among Sierra Leoneans. She has a distinguished reputation characterized by virtue and that is why she was repeatedly appointed by President Ernest Bai Koroma to head such important components of the government of Sierra Leone.

Earlier, Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba had been Deputy Minister of Works, Energy and Power in 1996, and by virtue of her excellence in the execution of her official charge, she was subsequently appointed Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning in 1998.

A famous veteran insurer, Hon. Afsatu Kabba was educated in the commercial and insurance field and obtained the relevant qualifications in Business Studies nationally and internationally. In her capacity as a Chartered Insurer and an Associate of Chartered Insurance Institute ACII, London in the United Kingdom, this noble woman executed major roles in the Insurance Industry for over sixteen years.

“Her various successful ventures in life underscored with tough challenges unquestionably depicts her as a woman of stature and sterling human qualities, and which inevitably characterize her as a role model that deserves attention, encouragement and emulation,” an international media report states.

Haja Afsatu Kabba has served as one of the most hard working female ministers in Africa and Sierra Leone today.

In the midst of all her domestic duties as a wife and mother, she found time to excel in her work and to engage in humanitarian and development activities for the improvement of the society in which she lives. Hon. Afsatu Kabba has won numerous accolades and sported various hats.

Amongst numerous achievements, we will list just a few of her selfless service:

* President of Zonta International Club, Freetown,

* President of Sierra Leone Islamic Forum

* Founder member of the 50/50 Group.

* Founder member of Federation of Muslim Women’s Association in Sierra Leone (FOMWASAL)

Haja Afsatu Kabba has also served as treasurer of the Sierra Leone Insurance Association (SLIA) and the West Africa Insurance Companies Association (WAICA). The Hon. Haja Afsatu Olayinka Kabba is also a Member of Council of The Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET) and Chairman for Student Welfare Committee, Board  Member of Lady Patricia Kabbah Memorial Secondary School.

All these membership and other accolades she won by pure merit and active participation. She is a founder and active member of the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians (NEWMAP) and the first Secretary General for the Women’s Movement for Peace which networks with other women Parliamentarian around the regions particularly the Mano River Union  (MRU)  (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea ) and she contributed greatly in 1994 to  the Peace Process in Sierra Leone and  Liberia.

In 1995 and again in 1996 during Bintumani I and Bintumani II National Consultative Conferences, Haja Afsatu Kabba played no mean role in mobilising support from grassroot women to push forward the democracy agenda for Sierra Leone. She has never used her tireless efforts to promote herself but has stood in the background working all these years with grassroots women to earn the tremendous respect she currently wields amongst them. This support for her from the grassroots has endured to this day.

Haja Afsatu Kabba has constantly over the years contributed to various programmes on, “Women United for Peace,” in 2000, “Women Rights and International Peace” in 2001, “Women and Peace”, “Women Managing Conflict”, “Women and Habitat”.

In 2003, as Sierra Leone prepared for transitional justice through the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Haja Afsatu Kabba was the Honourable Parliamentarian chosen to attend a conference of Parliamentarians for Global Action in New York and Washington on the International Criminal Court and the Rule of Law.

On peace-building initiatives, Haja Afsatu Kabba has also participated in Peer to Peer Dialogue among African and United States Legislators – the role of Parliamentarians on peace making and peace building: cases of Cote D’Ivoire , Liberia and Zimbabwe in the House of Representatives Washington DC chaired  by Senator Donald Payne (US Congress).

Haja Afsatu Kabba has also participated in various sessions on Disarmament, Population, AIDs and Environment, Peace Making and Nation Building; with a special emphasis on sessions that promote the role of Parliamentary Peace making in Africa.

As a prominent member of the Women’s Forum in Sierra Leone and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls, her interest is not only in Vocational Education, but also in the empowerment of young people and the emancipation of the disadvantaged. During the Junta period when she and a host of others fled to Guinea, together with the Late First Lady Patricia Kabbah, she actively organized young people for training in various vocational skills and was an active participant, alongside the current National Electoral Commissioner Dr. Christiana Thorpe, in the activities of Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) that catered for the education of women and the girl child.

Haja Afsatu Kabba lost her mother when she was at the tender age of 2 years during the birth of her younger brother. Today, the fight against the alarming rate of Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone is always at the fore of her attention hence it is not surprising that she is the only Sierra Leonean Woman to have been appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sierra Leone which is leading the way in the fight against Maternal Mortality.

Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba is a remarkable Sierra Leonean Muslim Woman with a number of firsts to her credit. She has been appointed as:

Ø Deputy Minister of Works, Energy and Power in 1996 when she became the first woman to be appointed in Sierra Leone to such a highly technical ministry that had hitherto been the domain of male ministers. As a result of her excellent performances she was further appointed as:

Ø Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning in 1998 when she became the first woman to hold such a position in Sierra Leone and during her term as Minister she made the following remarkable achievements:

She ensured that Government made provision for regular allocation of funds for Town Planning in its Annual Budget, for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone.

She secured Government approval for the first National Housing Policy and Declaration for physical planning and development control for the whole of Sierra Leone as well as Demarcation of a Green Belt Area in the Western Area to control infrastructure development on the Hillside.

She initiated and commissioned a technical committee comprising of experts in Insurance, International Finance, Housing & Urban Planning to conduct a feasibility study for accessing funding from social security schemes to establish a housing provident fund and home ownership scheme for Sierra Leone. She solicited support from the Executive Director of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Mr Amoake to conduct the study of the Gambia and Ghana experience. The outcome of the study contributed to the establishment of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust Scheme (NASSIT) with a proposal for government to put in place a home ownership scheme and housing provident fund.

Ø The first Muslim Woman to hold Cabinet position in Sierra Leone and the first Fourahbarian woman to hold Cabinet and Parliamentary positions.

Ø The first Female Sierra Leonean politician to be invited to the International Leaders Forum and Democratic Convention in Boston, USA.

Ø The first and so far the only Sierra Leonean woman appointed Good Will Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Ø The first woman appointed National Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation/International Inter-religious Federation for World Peace (UPR/IIFWP) - Sierra Leone Chapter.

Ø The first Sierra Leonean Woman appointed to GlobalPOWER 2007, Center for Women Policy Studies, Washington , DC , USA .   

Ø The first Sierra Leonean Woman appointed Vice Chair to a Presidential Transition Team  - following the September 2007 Elections.

Ø The first Sierra Leonean Woman appointed full Cabinet Minister of Energy and Power following the September 2007 Elections.

Haja Afsatu Kabba has prepared several articles and books for publication. Her most recent book published was on “Introduction to Insurance”. She has also organised various educational conferences on themes like:

* Corporate Insurance Buying

* Insurance / Loss Prevention Interface

* Risk and Religion – Featuring Prophet Mohamed (SAW) & Esther  Modicaih

* Risk awareness raising for Government employees and the need to insure government properties.

* Public lecture on “Fire and the Economy”

* HIV/AIDS/STIs Risk Behavioral Identification  Survey among Youth Seafarers and Migrant Women fish Marketers in a Riverine District in Sierra Leone

* Risk and Society  Awareness Raising (Launched by former Minister of Finance Dr. James Jonah)

* Anti Human Trafficking Awareness campaign

Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba has participated in the MRU Peace forum for Women parliamentarians held in Guinea and also actively involved in intra-party mediation, singularly as well as in various fora of United Nation Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

Haja Afsatu Kabba is currently UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, UPR/IIFWP Ambassador and Chairman SL Chapter, a part-time lecturer in Insurance and Risk Management at Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET) and until her ministerial appointment was the Chief Executive of AFCON Risk Management Consultants, Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS).

Haja Afsatu Kabba was elected Deputy Organizing Secretary for African Regional Faith based Network organized by UNFPA.

The outstanding lifestyle of Haja Afsatu Kabba should serve as a role model for women who are under the mistaken belief that marriage and the rearing of children is a barrier to educational, political and other advancements. This is because all her achievements have been attained in her thirty three (33) years of marriage, rearing children, managing the home, effectively delivering her national responsibilities and fully engaged with national issues with the willingness to serve at short notice.

Haja Afsatu Kabba is full of energy, highly motivated and a strong advocate for the rights of women, gender equity and development. At age 57 years, she is not only stunningly beautiful with a commanding presence and a distinguished height but she is an inspirational and motivational speaker! It is no wonder that she is always being called upon to serve as Keynote Guest Speaker and/or Chairman on various occasions.

Hon Afsatu Kabba is indeed a woman of substance, a citizen of great stature, a positive Role Model in a society sorely lacking of Role Models. Until her indictment by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) for what her lawyers describe as “frivolous charges”, she remained one of the great ministers in the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Haja Afsatu Kabba’s infectious popularity was put to the test first on February 16th 2010 when she was subjected to a cunning and sustained negative media propaganda associated with her invitation to the ACC and again on March 15th 2010 with her indictment for allegedly creating jobs for ruling party officials without following proper recruitment procedures. Contrary to the desires of her detractors who wanted her politically dead, like President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, indications from all over the country is that her indictment, widely perceived as a witch-hunt by citizens, has caused her popularity to soar astronomically. It also did not help the cause of her detractors that the main witness listed by the Anti Corruption Commission holds little or no credibility in issues surrounding the country’s fishing sector.

Currently, Haja Afsatu Kabba enjoys the fame of being the only Sierra Leonean citizen to have been indicted for alleged corruption only to walk the streets of Freetown to loud cheers of support from citizens who openly stop her to state that they appreciate her and love her. This is understandable when placed in the context of Haja Afsatu Kabba’s unprecedented generation of eleven billion leones revenue from Fisheries & Marine Resources where hitherto, less than three billion leones would be generated annually. Her hard work and dedication is deeply appreciated by Sierra Leoneans as was her herculean task to restore and sustain electricity to the capital city within 100 days thus stalling the attempts to ridicule and mock her Leader’s pronouncement.

Like President Jacob Zuma of South Africa once suffered, today in Sierra Leone, Haja Afsatu Kabba finds herself battling charges of corruption for which she vehemently protests her innocence and in which she continues to enjoy the supreme confidence of the citizens who elected into office the ruling APC Government and also enjoys the sympathies of the more pragmatic members of the Opposition parties who clearly detest the manner in which she and her family members were treated in a clear show of selective justice and witch-hunting.

As we said in the beginning, Haja Afsatu Kabba is a 57 years old successful mother, grandmother and wife as well as a highly successful politician. Indeed, the story of Haja Afsatu Olayinka Ebishola Kabba is fascinating and it has only just begun in Sierra Leone.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.