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Sierra Leone News: Happy Birthday Pa Kabbah

Pa KabbahPa Kabbah turned 82 past Sunday.
We in Awoko would like to wish him a belated happy birthday, good health and peace as he looks forward to the day he will return to his maker.
We cannot wish him many more years, because that would be making a joke of the old man as he ages gracefully.
Over the past few days however reports have been rife in the press about the health of the former president. Some rumoured he had died, others in the typical traditional style have said “he is gravelly ill.”
We recall how the media trouped to the hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa and camped out there for days whenever there was word that Nelson Mandela had fallen ill.
We also recall that each time word of President Mandela’s health surfaced in the press, it was the Presidency in South Africa that had to step in and make a public statement about the health of the great man.
This is by no means to equate President Kabbah to the global icon that Mandela was, but to simply call into question the way we treat our leaders.
The point here is that since Pa Kabbah has been falling ill of late, going in and out of hospital, here in Sierra Leone and in the UK, we have not heard a single word from the government of the day about his condition.
This is not to say that the government has been lacking in its commitment to the former president, (indeed we hope his medical bills have been paid for by the government) or to even suggest that they are treating the issue of the old man in a partisan political way.
Our concern is how long can we allow the past to hold us hostage?
We ask this question because judging by our history, Sir Albert Margai was denied a befitting funeral as a former Head of Government, and late President Momoh also had his share of mishaps. Momoh’s benefits sparked heated debates as well as Strasser and we are yet to hear of Bio. Though Momoh was given full military and state honours the practice of burying the Head of State at Parliament was abandoned and he was laid to rest at Kissy road cemetery. Why? Politics?
So the question which begs to be answered is who is the custodian of the state policy on how former leaders are treated in life and in death? Or is there any such policy?
Agreed that the constitution provides guidelines in terms of financial emoluments, but where is the policy which deals with the protocol to be observed in dealing with former leaders when alive and in death?
Valentine Strasser’s conduct at the funeral of Tom Nyuma, the way he held the microphone and even the way he dressed etc. etc leaves much to be desired. He was our Head of State recognized by all world leaders and international organisations. Does the State really care about it’s own? Can we ever truly rebrand without caring for our own?
At State functions do our former leaders, past Vice Presidents get regularly invited? Does anybody think of inviting Strasser to State openings of parliament or Independence banquets? And would they feel okay with themselves by the way he dresses in the midst of such pomp and pageantry? Would they be proud to point him out as their former Head of State to visiting dignitaries?
It is now the worst kept secret in town about Pa Kabbah’s health status. At 82 we know the end is near.
We urge that State authorities now begin to think of the end and start planning. The South Africans did not wait for Mandela to breathe his last before deciding where he will be laid.
As we plan our future economic development it will also do us good as a nation if we begin to thrash out a policy on how we treat our leaders in life and in death. If the practice is to bury them at Parliament then all of them must be buried there, regardless of whether they were coup makers or not members of the party in power then. In Ghana today the long list of military coupists are all equally recognized with their busts in strategic places all over the capital. We must take a leaf from them.
Let us put all political partisanship aside as we plan for President Kabbah, he is a muslim and there will not be much time for proper planning.
Let us put aside all prejudice for former coupists and do something sober for Strasser. The people of this country will NOT vote out any government just because they built a small respectable house and staff it for our former head of state.
Let us learn to respect those before us then we ourselves will end up being respected. May God help Sierra Leone.
Wednesday February 19, 2014

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