The Sierra Leone Web



The Tejan Kabbah Government wishes to comment, where necessary, on aspects of the AFRC Junta's Position Paper presented to the four Ecowas Foreign Ministers in Abidjan on the 17th July, 1997.

The first three pages of that Paper contain mere polemics, generalisations and platitudes which do not deserve much comment.

The following statements are made on those pages or can be inferred from them, namely,

  1. That the people of Sierra Leone have over the years been subjected to a gruesome and immense sufferings and that the coup of the 25ths May, 1997 brought with it the long awaited salvation and liberation for the people of that country.
  2. That the coup of 25th May, 1997 was not actuated by lust for power nor motivated by malice or by a desire to bring untold suffering on the people of Sierra Leone.
  3. That the coup of the 25h May, 1997 removed that country "from the brink of a calamity that is too horrendous even to contemplate".
  4. That the architects of the coup were members of the Sierra Leone Military Forces and the rebel RUF (now daubed "the People's Army'), who "a combination of experience, talent and patriotism".

As for the validity or effect of the above four statements, the following comments are worth making:

There has been no event in the recent history of Sierra Leone which has been as unwelcome to the population of that country as the coup of the 25th May 1997. Sierra Leoneans demonstrated their total rejection by their outright condemnation of it, Every civil organisation condemned it in express terms and demanded the immediate restoration of the democratically elected Government of Alhaji Tejan Kabbah. To reinforce their abhorrence and rejection of the coup the entire civil population embarked on civil disobedience and refused to go to work, Public and private employees have been involved in the civil disobedience, and the position remains the same in spite of threats of dismissal and other ruses employed by the junta. The totality of Sierra Leoneans have not regarded the coup as "the salvation" or "'liberation" the junta refers to in its Position Paper. But rather, they regard the coup of the 25th May, 1997 as a negation of their dearly bought rights to be their own political masters and to determine the right to elect the leaders of their choice. They see no justification for wanting to disturb their nascent democracy and for ousting their democratically elected Government which they strove hard in the face of great odds to have in peace.

Again, the people of Sierra Leone have been treated by this junta to an unprecedented level of mayhem, killings, looting, destruction of both private and public property, and rape, harassment and torture of individual citizens. They have never felt so unsafe in their lives. This accounts for the massive exodus of Sierra Leoneans of all works of life who are daily fleeing to neighbouring countries as refugees. The number includes ordinary people young and old, and every class of professionals including doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists etc. Such people do not regard the coup of the 25th May 1997 as the "salvation" or "liberation" which the junta holds out in its Position Paper to the four ECOWAS Foreign Ministers.

The coup of the 25th May, 1997 could only have been actuated by greed and lust for power. Malice and the desire by the coup makers to cause untold suffering on the people of Sierra Leone were its driving force. What probable reason have they up to date given for wanting to oust the constitutionally elected government, by members of the junta, other than to put themselves in its place. What better ideas have they so far proffered for governing Sierra Leone except to destroy the existing social infrastructure, and economy? What have they so far offered the people of Sierra Leone other than looting, plundering of their property, especially money, cars and electronic and electrical goods? The Junta's main focus is on the diamonds areas where they are busy seizing diamonds from diamond miners and extorting heavy sums from them. What further evidence does one require to show that the AFRC junta's motivation for staging the coup was greed, sheer lust for power and malice? Some of the key players in this junta are hardened and convicted robbers and murderers who were released by the initial coup plotters and armed for the purpose of increasing their number. These convicts have been most effective in terrorising the population.

Before the coup of the 25th May, 1997 Sierra Leoneans were just rediscovering their lost identity as a people. They were learning to embrace the idea of reconciliation and self-reliance. They had again regained their lost freedoms and through the various democratic institutions established within the first year of the Kabbah Government, they were once more enjoying their constitutional rights and freedoms. One therefore wonders what is meant in the Position Paper by saying that the coup of the 25th May, 1997 removed the country "from the brink of calamity the is too horrendous even to contemplate". Can there be any calamity in Sierra Leone comparable to the events of the 25th May and of the two months after that date?

Perhaps, the worst indictment against Sierra Leone army is the admission by the junta in its Paper Position that they shared a common experience, talent and patriotism with the RUF. Here the junta was in fact admitting what was obvious to the population long before the election of the Kabbah Government to office. From the appalling; performance of the military in the rebel war the population had always believed that the military forces instead of fighting the rebels and protecting the citizenry, were acting hand in glove with the rebels against the people of Sierra Leone. What the military forces did covertly before 25th May, 1997, on that date and since that date, they had done overtly, namely, waging war together with the rebels against the defenseless people of Sierra Leone. Instances of joint action by the Military Forces and the rebels in this regard abound. A few recent ones given here may suffice. Recent massacres of civilians in Allen Town at the outskirts of Freetown, and of about 100 civilians in Moyamba are but examples worth mentioning.


Under this rubric, it is only necessary to allude to some salient matters in so far as those relate to the present situation in Sierra Leone.

The coup of 25th May, 1997 which has given rise to this crisis has its motivation in the greed lust for power of the coup plotters (as already explained) and the unwillingness of their cohorts to accept defeat at public elections. Such cohorts spend all their time finding ways to revenge against. Two persons, Dr. John Karefa-Smart and Dr. Abass Bundu, who are alluded to in the Position Paper as "men of distinction and high repute in civil society who are ever conscious of their role and responsibility to the nation" fully meet the description of such cohorts. Both men have never accepted defeat gracefully. For them the victor deserves to be punished. Both men contested against President Tejan Kabbah for the presidency in 1996, Both men lost to President Tejan Kabbah. Abass Bundu failed to secure more than 2% of the total votes cast and his Party did not qualify for even one seat in Parliament. Both have since nursed a common desire to punish the elected President, Mr. Tejan Kabbah, for his victory and popular support, and they found willing allies in the type of army with which Sierra Leone is today cursed. No doubt, their fervent opposition to any move aimed at the restoration of the democratically elected President. They maintain this position irrespective of the wishes of the people of, and the consequences on, that nation. Both have despicable records and reputations.

Perhaps a brief record of Dr. Karefa-Smart's penchant for vindictiveness can be usefully given here. In 1964 Dr. Karefa-Smart hoped to succeed Sir Milton Margai as Prime Minister on the death of the latter. On this occasion, the SLPP in its wisdom and within its constitutional rights voted for Sir Albert Margai in preference to Karefa Smart refused to accept this democratic decision. He resigned from his party and started courting a relationship with the Opposition Party of Siaka Stevens, the All Peoples Congress (APC) as from that day. At the same time, he wrote to all the Paramount Chiefs of the Northern Province informing them of his new political relationship and urging them to transfer their allegiance to the Opposition Party. Karefa-Smart claims to have affinity with the Northern Province, of Sierra Leone. He did not relent in his efforts to revenge against Albert Margai until the latter fell from office in 1967.

When Siaka Stevens eventually became Prime Minister, Karefa-Smart hoped to be appointed to the vacant post of Governor-General as his reward for his support for Siaka Stevens. When his effort in this regard failed, he engineered a coup against Siaka Stevens in 1970. He escaped from custody to the United States where he remained until Siaka Stevens left office in 1985. His fellow coup plotters were tried and convicted. Some were executed. Others including Cpl. Foday Sankoh received terms of imprisonment. His present affiliation the coup of 25th May 1997 is therefore nothing strange to his nature or the people of Sierra Leone.

There is in existence a record of Dr. Karefa-Smart's conviction perjury by the High Court of Sierra Leone.

Karefa-Smart is the leader of the second largest party in Parliament the UNPP. However, Dr. Karefa-Smart was from the onset of the First Sessions of Parliament unable to manage his own party or stamp his authority on Parliament.

He now stands suspended from his membership of Parliament for contempt of Parliament for a year and fourteen out of the seventeen members of Parliament of him party have sought to expel him from the party he leads and he himself is striving up to now unsuccessfully to expel them from the party. As is to be expected in the circumstances, Dr. Karefa-Smart and members of his party in Parliament and without are presently embroiled in a variety of law suits in the High and Supreme Courts. Dr. Karefa-Smart has also sued the Speaker of Parliament.

Can Dr. Karefa-Smart be expected to lead Sierra Leone as President which has always been the main objective of his political ambition and presumably the reason for his recent machinations and maneuverings with the AFRC when he cannot even mange his own party?

The President has been called upon by the fourteen members of Parliament of Dr. Karefa-Smart's party and subsequently by Dr. Karefa-Smart himself on two occasions to mediate between them and their leader and on the third occasion Dr. Karefa-Smart called on the President to assist him to stay his suspension from Parliament. The President offered what advice he could in the interest of democracy but President Kabbah refused to comply with Dr. Karefa-Smart' s specific request to instruct SLPP members in Parliament to vote with him against the fourteen members of his own the UNPP to halt his suspension from Parliament.

Reference should now be made to Abass Bundu.

a. Abass Bundu's criminal propensities could not be tolerated by even late President Siaka Stevens. There is in existence a record of his extorting money from a prominent Freetown businessman, Eric James, the Managing Director of James International for the purpose of awarding that company a contract to transport sugar from Magbass to Freetown. This was when he was Minister of Agriculture. After the award of the contract to James International by Abass Bundu, and the receipt by him of the bribe, he used the amount to buy vehicles and then awarded himself a contract for the transportation of the same sugar on the same route. The consequences of this devious act was in fact to deprive Mr. James the benefits of his contract. Mr. James was naturally aggrieved by that conduct. He complained directly to the late President Siaka Stevens himself. Dr. Stevens considered the conduct grave enough to warrant his personal intervention. He ordered former President J S Momoh, then the Head of the Army, to investigate the matter. The investigation confirmed Eric James' report and this led to the sacking of Abass Bundu from that Ministry.

b. Abass Bundu again, as Minister of Agriculture, is reputed to have sold a whole ship of fertilizers which were destined for Sierra Leone and for the people of Sierra Leone, and converted the proceeds to his own use and benefit.


Abass Bundu sold Sierra Leone passports and Sierra Leone citizenship to Hong Kong citizens for the sum of $15,000 a piece while he was Foreign Minister and pocketed the proceeds.

He was arrested and charged for criminal offences arising from such fraudulent behaviour. He pleaded to be allowed to pay back to the Government, the total sum involved that is, US $206,000, half of which he paid personally, with an undertaking to pay the remaining balance within three months. He immediately thereafter absconded from Sierra Leone in order to avoid the payment of the said balance and has ever remained a fugitive offender. As already mentioned, Abass Bundu has the tendency of distorting even historical facts whenever it appears to suit his evil designs. For instance, his latest pet topic is the pedigree of President Tejan Kabbah. He has been clamouring around Freetown that President Kabbah is not even a Sierra Leonean and for this additional reason, his Government should not be restored to power. It is worth making a few comments on Abass Bundu's pedigree and juxtaposing that with the pedigree of President Kabbah. These are matters which persons with illustrious family background would not, out of modesty, wish to talk about. Persons with dubious and ignominious pedigree such as Abass Bundu, as would be seen soon, are those who out of envy and malice are prone to the attempt to decry other's pedigree.

Abass Bundu is the son of Momodu Sesay, a man without a background of which Abass Bundu would be proud. The poor man became a court messenger. So in fact Abass Bundu should have been called Abass Sesay, the son of a court messenger. But this was below Abass' dignity and as the Roman's would say, "infra dignitatem." Momodu Sesay, the court messenger, Abass's father was not from a renowned family, so he could not associate himself with such a man. All his life, Abass has tried to conceal his true pedigree.

Abass could not have anyone to care for him. It was a kind school teacher at Kychom, Mr. Kamara, who took him under him under his wings, sent him to school and took him to Bo when Mr. Kamara was transferred there. At this stage, in search of a respectable pedigree, Abass Bundu fell back on his mother's maiden name, Bundu, a titled and more respectable name than Abass Sesay. What then should he be called? Abass Bundu or Abass Sesay? He has no pedigree.

In contrast to Abass Bundu or Sesay, President Tejan Kabbah hails from a very distinguished and illustrious family. Historians tell us that some 400 years ago or so, there were no identifiable inhabitants in what is today Sierra Leone. The present population of that consists of immigrants from territories near and beyond, immigrants who settled in this country for diverse reasons over the centuries. For instance, the ancestors of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah like those of every present Sierra Leonean belong to this category. His great, great, great grandfather, Mohamed Kabba-Ba was a renowned and learned muslim scholar who hailed from a chiefly family in Kankan. Some 200 years or so ago, he was traveling on horseback accompanied by twenty of his students from KanKan to Freetown as he knew that there were European merchants visiting Freetown who were selling merchandise including paper. The old Pa Mohamed Kabba-Ba wished to purchase the paper, take it back to Kankan in order to translate the Holy Quoran into the Mandingo language. On his way to Freetown he arrived at a town, Layah on the Kolenten border with Guinea. The inhabitants of this town begged him to stay there to introduce Islam in that area. He fell ill and died in this town. Two of his sons, Harafan and Maju crossed the river Kolenten into a town Gbolon in Bramaia Chiefdom, Kambia District. These two men remained in this chiefdom to continue their father's sacred mission there. They built the first mosque ever in that chiefdom and indeed in Sierra Leone. The original mosque is still standing in this town.

President Kabbah's grandfather, who had three sons, Abu Bakarr S. Kabbah, the President's father, Ibrahim Kabbah, and Foday Madi Kabbah were all born in that town, Gbolon. President Kabbah's father, Abu Bakarr S Kabbah, subsequently moved to the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone where he was the assistant to Sir Banja Tejan-Sie's father, as Imam of Pendembu. Ibrahim Kabbah settled in Daru where he too was the Chief Imam until his death. Foday Mahdi Kabbah settled in Kenema and became the Chief Iman in that township until his death. Both were buried in their respective central mosques. President Kabbah's father, Abu Bakarr S. Kabbah moved to Freetown where he lived until his death.

From the foregoing, it is obvious

  1. that President Kabbah hails from a distinguished scholarly and God fearing family of which he or any other member of that family can be justly proud.
  2. President Kabbah by the existing citizenship law of Sierra Leone and by whatever degree of paternity, is a citizen of Sierra Leone through and through, contrary to the effusions of Abass Bundu, President Kabbah's mother too, hails from a ruling house in Mandu Chiefdom, Kailahun District.

It is worth mentioning here that Sierra Leoneans should learn to take the cue from countries whose development has been largely, if not wholly, facilitated by immigrants. The United States of America, the world's wealthiest and most powerful state owes its present status to the contribution of immigrants in that country. This fact was highlighted by the late President John F Kennedy in his book "A Nation of Immigrants". We should applaud our immigrants and foreigners who make genuine contribution to the development of our country.

The most dangerous ploy both Abass Bundu and Karefa-Smart use in exhibiting their vindictiveness is to wake up tribal sentiments against the victor. They have tried to do this in vain against President Tejan Kabbah on this occasion. The efforts President Kabbah has made within a year to create a united nation of Sierra Leoneans instead of a nation divided on tribal lines seem to have yielded good dividends as the whole notion is united in his support and for his restoration as the democratically elected President.



Only a passing comment need be made here:

  1. President Tejan Kabbah, like other candidates for the elections, had no control over the electoral process. The PR system was regarded by all concerned as the more appropriate at the time.
  2. The Position Paper of the junta that a level playing field was not provided for all the candidates and the political parties at those elections.
  3. Unlike the AFRC Junta, the NPRC was acclaimed and welcomed by the population at least for the first year or so of its existence. But by 1994 upwards, it had forfeited its popularity and the people demanded their legitimate right to have a democratically elected Government. The only way this was feasible given he state of insecurity in the country caused by the rebel war and the open opposition and hostility to the elections by the RUF was through the PR system
  4. It will not be useful here to advance academic arguments for the PR system as against the one-member constituency system, a futile attempt which the Position Paper seeks to make. Suffice it to say that because of the List System in the PR System, the appointment of Members of Parliament by President Tejan Kabbah, including the appointment of members from the other parties in order to form his broad-based Government of national unity, did not in any way affect the representations of the parties in Parliament. The person next in line occupied the vacancy thereby created.

It is worth mentioning there that the PR System as used in the 1996 elections in Sierra Leone is a recognised system of elections practised by countries particularly in Western Europe, and the democratic credentials of such countries are beyond reproach. It is regarded as fairer and countries practising that system have never been regarded as producing a one-party state. But for the PR System employed in the recent elections in Liberia, perhaps only one party would have been represented in that country's legislature. In addition the 1996 elections in Sierra Leone were declared as free and fair by international observers comprising the UN, USA, EU, OAU and Commonwealth observers.


Comments under this rubric are confined to a few statements only.

  1. The way in which Parliament and the Executive operated was clear evidence that each of these two organs of Government was quite conscious of its role and responsibility and was prepared to protect and guard them jealously. Instances abound when measures proposed by the President were turned down by Parliament and even Government Bills were drastically watered down. The President welcomed this as a healthy democratic relationship and encouraged each organ to perform its constitutional role.
  2. There was no Government contract awarded since the commencement of President Kabbah's Government which did not go through public tender. In fact there were already in place proposals to improve the efficiency of the tender system,
  3. In response to IMF conditionalities, the retrenchment of public employees had been effected before the NPRC left office.
  4. Common knowledge that the Tejan Kabbah Government was finalising the salary scales of all public employees including the military and that, but for the coup, the increased salaries would have been paid long before now.
  5. The first time the Sierra Leone worker was entitled to a minimum wage which he could claim as of right For from his employer. This was made possible by the Minimum Wages Act 1997.
  6. The material for the Press Bills referred to in the Position Paper of the junta originated from members of the Press who were fully consulted before the Bills were drafted. Even after the passage of the Bills in Parliament the President withheld the giving of his Assent to it until the members of the Press were heard further on the matter. The bills had not yet been signed by the President into Law, uptil the date of the coup of 25th May, 1997. Indeed, instead of muzzling the Press the Tejan Kabbah Government created an atmosphere which enabled the number of independent newspapers to increase from 15 to 52 within a year. The fate of newspapers and the number which have been forced to go out of circulation within two months of existence of the junta bear testimony to the freedom the Press enjoyed under the Kabbah Government. The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has proclaimed the violations of press freedom and severe physical attacks by members of the AFRC Peoples Army on Journalists as the worst in Sierra Leone's history.


It is alleged in the Position Paper of the junta that the Tejan Kabbah Government was insensitive to the plight of the masses, and that politicians paraded in affluence. Nothing can be further from the truth end the authors of the Position Paper know it. The President insisted that his Ministers' lifestyle and public image should always meet the public's expectations. Even the members of Parliament could not obtain Government loans to purchase private vehicles. They had to arrange privately to obtain loans from commercial banks for this purpose. Overseas travels for Ministers and other Government functionaries were allowed only when it was absolutely necessary, and even in such cases per diem allowances payable were slashed. The President resided in his private house which he built from his gratuity and pension after 22 years service with the UN. He did not demand or receive rent from Government for this and he refused to take any salary. In spite of President Kabbah's gesture, the AFRC junta has shamefully broken into his house, his private residence, where he has resided since he became President and looted his property in the same indiscriminate manner as they had done with the houses and properties of thousands of other Sierra Leoneans.

The economy was improving at a remarkable rate. A negative growth rate of 10% was in a year converted to a positive growth rate of 5%. The rate of inflation was reduced from 65% to 6% and this reduced the price of foodstuffs and other essential commodities and the local currency, the leone appreciated in value against the dollar. All this was within the first year of the Tejan Kabbah administration. The records in support of these figures are available at the World Bank and IMF. Because of the great strides made these two bodies were supportive of the programmes of the Government.


Quoted below are the sections of the Constitution in the manners indicated:

Section 56(i): There shall be, in addition to the Office of Vice President, such other offices of Ministers and Deputy Ministers as may be established by the President:

Provided that no Member of Parliament shall be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister.

It is alleged in the Position Paper that this subsection was violated by the appointment of Ministers and Deputy Ministers among sitting members. The fact of the matter is that no Minister or Deputy Minister was appointed from among sitting members of Parliament. As required by section 56(2) of the Constitution the nomination by the President and Parliamentary approval of the person nominated preceded the appointment of a person as Minister or Deputy Minister. If the nominee was an MP he resigned his seat after his nomination and before nomination was considered by Parliament. At the time he was appointed Minister or Deputy Minister after the Parliamentary approval he was no longer a sitting member of Parliament.

The prohibition in section 52(i) is not against the nomination but the appointment of an MP as Minister or Deputy Minister.

Section 56(3): A Minister or a Deputy Minister shall not, while he continues in office, hold any other office of profit or emolument whether by way of allowances or otherwise, whether private or public, either directly or indirectly:

Provided that the Vice President, the Ministers and Deputy Ministers shall be entitled to such remuneration allowances, gratuities, pensions. and other incidents of office as may be prescribed by Parliament.

Section 48(l): The President shall receive such salary and allowances as may be prescribed by Parliament and such salary and allowances payable to the President are hereby charged on the Consolidated Fund.

Section 74(4): Members of Parliament Shall be entitled to such salaries, allowances, gratuities, pensions and such other benefits as may be prescribed by Parliament.

The salaries of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament were charged on the Consolidated Fund and that was approved by Parliament in the Annual Appropriation Bill. As already stated the President has still not taken any salary for his office.

Section 56(2): A person shall not be appointed a Minister or a Deputy Minister unless -

  1. He is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament; and Section 56(3) - already quoted above Section 76(l): No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament
  2. A member of any Commission established under this if he is Constitution, or a Member of the Armed Forces of the Republic, or a public officer, or an employee of a Public Corporation established by an Act of Parliament, or has been such a member, officer or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to, Parliament.

To regard the appointment of Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative; to the United Nations, Dr James Jonah, as contravention of the above provisions merely because he is said to have a Cabinet rank is to misread the Constitution and to misconstrue the purport and effect of the expression "with Cabinet rank." Dr Jonah is not a Cabinet Minister. To say he "ranks" as a Cabinet Minister is merely to confer on him the same order of precedence which Cabinet Ministers have because of his special stature. His is a diplomatic appointment duly made under section 153 of the Constitution and by section 77(l)(n) he is not a member of Parliament nor can he be one.

It will be recalled that the Labour Government of the 1970s appointed Lord Caradon as the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations and conferred on him the rank of Cabinet Minister. Lord Caradon did not thereby become a member of the British Cabinet. But he was entitled to the same precedence as any Cabinet Minister. The same applies to our own Dr Jonah.

Section 40(4)(d)(i) and (ii): There are no subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of section 40(4)(d) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

Section 73(3): Parliament may make laws for the peace, security, order and good government of Sierra Leone.

Section 105: Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall be the supreme legislative authority for Sierra Leone.

The relevance of these two provisions to the Abidjan Peace Accord cannot be seen. By definition, the Peace Accord could not be made by Parliament, but by the Government and the RUF