Kabbah was powerful but appeared to care little about money and the trappings of power. Stories of his spartan lifestyle and thrift are legion amongst his associates.
It is said that leaders must be brave because they use their creativity and imagination to envision a future that doesn’t yet exist. They may face backlash or ridicule from their peers or a public that can’t see the possibilities that they are visualizing. Leaders must be willing to hold their ground while putting themselves on the line.
Kabbah was a leader in this mold. His greatest legacy is universally considered to be the peace dividend after the ten-year brutal civil war. Most of Kabbah’s time in office was influenced by the civil war. There were a lot of setbacks with both the pursuit of the war and the numerous peace initiatives. Whilst a sizeable proportion of his advisers and the populace clamored for a decisive military solution to oust the RUF which had caused untold mayhem to the populace, Kabbah doggedly and stubbornly pursued the peace to the extent of what many thought initially was capitulation.
Giving Sankoh the de facto status of a Vice President was not considered magnanimity but abject stupidity by many. Many were incensed with the various peace accords and with amnesty provisions. Through it all however, Kabbah had one dogged determination-to bring this country together at the hour when this country needed this virtue most in a leader. There has not been any leader who has so engendered national unity as Tejan Kabbah. His cabinet and other appointments cut through all tribes and regions.
And so, with this in mind, we all gathered at Bintumani conference centre last Sunday for the launch of the Ahmad Tejan Kabbah Foundation for Peace and Democracy by President Bio. The occasion was well chaired by the Chief Minister with several dignitaries in attendance. The former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf graced the occasion and former Nigerian President Obasanjo in a video presentation on President Kabbah’s legacy referred to him as someone who was both “human and humane” with a penchant for accepting things anyone else would have found difficult to accept in the interest of national peace. The presentation by Dr. Emmanuel Gaima and Professor J.A.D Allie referred to President Kabbah as the Peacemaker/builder, the great unifier, a great respecter of the national constitution and strong institutional builder, a democrat and a statesman.
Kabbah’s attributes are best illustrated by some of the comments made by members of the organization.