Friday, March 28, 2014

000015 - Ahmad Kabbah, President of Sierra Leone

Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (February 16, 1932 – March 13, 2014) was the third President of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 1997 and again from 1998 to 2007. An economist and attorney by professions, Kabbah spent many years working for the United Nations Development Programme.  He retired from the United Nations and returned to Sierra Leone in 1992.
In early 1996, Kabbah was elected leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the party's presidential candidate in the 1996 presidential election. He was elected President of Sierra Leone in the 1996 presidential election with 59% of the vote defeating his closest rival John Karefa-Smart of the United National People's Party (UNPP) who had 40% in the runoff vote and conceded defeat. International observers declared the election free and fair. In his inauguration speech in Freetown, Kabbah promised to end the civil war, which he indeed achieved later in his presidency.

An ethnic Mandingo, Kabbah was Sierra Leone's first Muslim head of state.  Kabbah was born in Pendembu, Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone, though he was largely raised in the capital Freetown. 

Most of Kabbah's time in office was influenced by the civil war with the Revolutionary United Front, led by Foday Sankoh, which involved him being temporarily ousted by the military Armed Forces Revolutionary Council from May 1997 to March 1998. He was soon returned to power after a military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by Nigeria. Another phase of the civil war led to United Nations and British involvement in the country in 2000.

As President, Kabbah opened direct negotiations with the RUF rebels in order to end the civil war. He signed several peace accords with the rebel leader Foday Sankoh, including the 1999 Lome Peace Accord, in which the rebels, for the first time, agreed to a temporary cease fire with the Sierra Leone government. When the cease fire agreement with the rebels virtually collapsed, Kabbah campaigned for international assistance from the British, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to help defeat the rebels and restored peace and order in Sierra Leone.
Kabbah declared the civil war officially over in early 2002. Tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans across the country took to the streets to celebrate the end of the war. Kabbah went on to easily win his final five year term in office in the presidential election later that year with 70.1% of the vote, defeating his main opponent Ernest Bai Koroma of the main opposition All People's Congress (APC). International observers declared the election free and fair.
Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was born on February 16, 1932 in the rural town of Pendembu, Kailahun District in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone to devout Muslim parents. Kabbah's father was an ethnic Mandingo and a deeply religious Muslim of Guinean descent and a native of Kambia District in the north of Sierra Leone. His mother was also a Muslim and a member of the Mende ethnic group from the Coomber family, a Chieftaincy ruling house based in the small rural town of Mobai, Kailahun District. Kabbah's first name Ahmad means "highly praised" or "one who constantly thanks God" in the Arabic language. Kabba himself was a devout Muslim and a member of the Mandingo ethnic group. Kabbah was a fluent speaker of his native Mandingo language and was also a fluent speaker of the local Susu language. Though born in the Kailahun District, Kabbah was largely raised in the capital Freetown.
Though a devout Muslim, Kabbah received his secondary education at the St. Edward's secondary school in Freetown, the oldest Catholic secondary school in Sierra Leone. Kabbah married a Catholic, the late Patricia Kabbah, (born Patricia Tucker), who was an ethnic Sherbro from Bonthe District in Southern Sierra Leone. Together the couple had five children. Kabbah received his higher education at the Cardiff College of Technology and Commerce, and University College Aberystwyth, Wales, in the United Kingdom, with a Bachelor's degree in Economics in 1959. He later studied law, and in 1969 he became a practicing Barrister-at-Law, member of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, London.

Kabbah spent nearly his entire career in the public sector. He served in the Western Area and in all the Provinces of Sierra Leone. He was a District Commissioner in Bombali and Kambia (Northern Province), in Kono (Eastern Province) and in Moyamba and Bo (Southern Province). He later became Permanent Secretary in various Ministries, including Trade and Industry, Social Welfare, and Education.

Kabbah was an international civil servant for almost two decades. After serving as deputy Chief of the West Africa Division of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York, he was reassigned in 1973 to head the Programme's operation in the Kingdom of Lesotho, as Resident Representative. He also headed UNDP operations in Tanzania and Uganda, and just before Zimbabwe's independence, he was temporarily assigned to that country to help lay the groundwork for cooperation with the United Nations system.

After a successful tour of duty in Eastern and Southern Africa, Kabbah returned to New York to head UNDP's Eastern and Southern Africa Division. Among other things, he was directly responsible for coordinating United Nations system assistance to liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), such as the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, and the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) of Namibia.
Before his retirement in 1992, Kabbah held a number of senior administrative positions at UNDP Headquarters in New York, including those of Deputy Director and Director of Personnel, and Director, Division of Administration and Management.

After the military coup in 1992, Kabbah was asked to chair the National Advisory Council, one of the mechanisms set up by the military to alleviate the restoration of constitutional rule, including the drafting of a new constitution for Sierra Leone. He reputedly intended his return to Sierra Leone to be a retirement, but was encouraged by those around him and the political situation that arose to become more actively involved in the politics of Sierra Leone.

Kabbah was seen as a compromise candidate when he was put forward by the Mende-dominated Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) as their presidential hopeful in the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the first multi-party elections in twenty-three years. The SLPP won the legislative vote overwhelmingly in the South and Eastern Province of the country, they split the vote with the UNPP in the Western Area and they lost in the Northern Province. On March 29, 1996, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was sworn in as President of Sierra Leone. Guided by his philosophy of "political inclusion" he appointed the most broad-based government in the nation's history, drawing from all political parties represented in Parliament, and ‘technocrats’ in civil society. One minority party did not accept his offer of a cabinet post.

 The President's first major objective was to end the rebel war which, in four years had already claimed hundreds of innocent lives, driven thousands of others into refugee status, and ruined the nation's economy. In November 1996, in Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire, Kabbah signed a peace agreement with the rebel leader, former Corporal Foday Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
The rebels reneged on the Agreement, resumed hostilities, and later perpetrated on the people of Sierra Leone what has been described as one of the most brutal internal conflicts in the world.
In 1996, a coup attempt involving Johnny Paul Koroma and other junior officers of the Sierra Leone Army was unsuccessful, but served as notice that Kabbah's control over military and government officials in Freetown was weakening.
In May 1997, a military coup forced Kabbah into exile in neighboring Guinea. The coup was led by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council,  and Koroma was freed and installed as the head of state. In his Guinea exile, Kabbah began to marshal international support. Just nine months after the coup, Kabbah's government was revived as the military-rebel junta was removed by troops of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under the command of the Nigerian led ECOMOG (ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group) and loyal civil and military defense forces, notably the Kamajos led by Samuel Hinga Norman. 

Once again, in pursuit of peace, President Kabbah signed the Lome Peace Accord with the RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh on July 7, 1999. Notwithstanding repeated violations by the RUF, the document, known as the Lomé Peace Agreement, remained the cornerstone of sustainable peace, security, justice and national reconciliation in Sierra Leone. On January 18, 2002, at a ceremony marking the conclusion of the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), he declared that the rebel war was over.

Although elected as president, he faced the task of fighting a brutal enemy. His most crucial military support was however from outside. Nigeria was the foremost participant as they crucially intervened under the leadership of the late General Sani Abacha, who was then the military head of his country. On February 1998, he sent his troops to push out the infamous military junta and rebel alliance of Johnny Paul Koroma and Sam Bockarie, known as Maskita. The rebels, however, continued their attempt to dethrone Kabbah's government, despite signing numerous peace accords with President Kabbah. In May 2000, Foday Saybanah Sankoh, who was then part of Kabbah's cabinet, kidnapped several UN troops, and then ordered his rebels to march to Freetown. Trouble was looming as the capital was once more threatened with another January 6, 1999 scenario. But with the timely intervention of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 800 British troops were sent to Freetown to halt the impending rebel march to the city. President Kabbah was very grateful to the British Prime Minister, calling his intervention "timely" and one that "Sierra Leonean people will never forget".
As president, Kabbah opened direct negotiations with the RUF rebels in order to end the civil war. He signed several peace accords with the rebel leader Foday Sankoh, including the 1999 Lome Peace Accord, in which the rebels, for the first time agreed to a temporary cease fire with the Sierra Leone government. When the cease fire agreement with the rebels virtually collapsed, Kabbah campaigned for international assistant from the British, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to help defeat the rebels and restored peace and order in Sierra Leone.
In October 1999, the United Nations agreed to send peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. The first of the 6,000-member force began arriving in December, and the United Nations Security Council voted in February 2000 to increase the force to 11,000, and later to 13,000. The UN peacekeeping forces were made up mainly of soldiers from the British special forces, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The African Union special forces sent to Sierra Leone to assist the government in fighting the rebels were made up mainly of soldiers from Nigeria, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Zambia and The Gambia. The international forces, led by the British troops, launched many successful military operations in repelling the RUF rebels and retook many of the areas of the country that were under the rebel control. The rebel lines of communication were severely destroyed and many senior rebel leaders were captured or fled the country, including the RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who was captured.
The fragile rebels finally agreed to be dissarmed.  In return the Sierra Leone government, lead by Kabbah, offered the rebels amnesty, career opportunities and mental institutions. The child rebels were reinstated in public schools, also offered mental institutions and reunited with family members. In 2001, United Nation forces moved in rebel-held areas and began to dissarm the rebels.
The civil war was officially declared over in early 2002 by Kabbah. Tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans across the country took to the streets celebrating the end of the war. Kabbah went on to easily win his final five year term in office in the presidential election later that year with 70.1% of the vote, defeating his main opponent Ernest Bai Koroma of the main opposition All People's Congress (APC). International observers declared the election free and fair.

As the first leader after the civil war, Kabbah's main task was to disarm the different parties involved in the war and to build unity of the country.  Time magazine called Kabbah a "diamond in the rough" for his success as the first civilian elected ruler of Sierra Leone in 34 years and his role in the end of what became a decade long conflict from 1992 until 2000.  Although he himself was not considered corrupt, Kabbah was accused of an inability to deal with corrupt officials in his government many of whom were said to be profiting from the diamond trade. Kabbah struggled with this problem and invited the British to help set up an anti-corruption commission. 

Kabbah left office in September 2007 at the end of his second 5-year term. Constitutionally, he was not eligible to seek re-election. His Vice-President, Solomon Berewa, ran as the SLPP candidate to succeed Kabbah but was defeated by the opposition candidate Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC.
Kabbah was the head of the Commonwealth's observer mission for the December 2007 Kenyan election, as well as the head of the African Union's observer mission for the March 2008 Zimbabwean election.

Kabbah died at his residential home in Juba Hill, a middle class neighborhood in the west end of Freetown at the age of 82 on March 13, 2014, after a short illness.  Following the announcement of Kabbah's death, Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma declared a week of national mourning; and he ordered the country's flags to be flown at half mast throughout Sierra Leone.
A state funeral was held for Kabbah. Kabbah's funeral service was attended by several former Heads of State, international delegations, former and current government officials, regardless of their political paties, and members of the civil services. 
On March 21, 2014, Kabbah's casket was carried by soldiers of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces into the Sierra Leone House of Parliament were members of parliament paid their last respects to the former Head of State. On March 23, 2014 Kabbah's casket was brought to the National Stadium, as thousands of Sierra Leoneans lined the streets of Freetown to say goodbye to their former leader. Kabbah's body was then carried by soldiers to the Mandingo Central Mosque in Freetown where an Islamic prayer service was held before he was finally laid to rest at the Kissi Road Cemetery, next to his mother Hajah Adama Kabbah's grave. 

Kabbah's wife Patricia, an ethnic Sherbro, died in 1998.  They had five children: Mariama, Abu, Michael, Isata and Tejan Jr., and three grandchildren: Simone, Isata, and Aidan.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

000014 - Maryam Durani, Afghan Human Rights Activist

Maryam Durani: (Arabic: مَریَم دورانی), is an Afghan activist. Daughter of Haji Mohammad Eisa Durani, Maryam Durani was born in 1987. Hailing from the Muhammadzai tribe, Maryam is a graduate of the business department of American University of Afghanistan and currently she is a third class student of Law and Political Science at Noor University. Maryam Durani was also Kandahar people’s representative in the provincial council. She has served in different positions such as director of Khadijatul Kubra women's association for culture, owner of Merman Radio (special women radio) and as founder of the Kandahar woman advocacy network. She received the World Ten Brave Women’s award on March 8, 2012 as well as a World 100 Influential Figure’s award on April 20, 2012.  She has also received the Brave Woman award from the State of Pennsylvania, the Women Rights Protector’s award from Washington and an Iraq and Afghanistan Female Peace Activist’s appreciation letter from Turkey. She is a broadcaster and the manager of the Merman Radio of Kandahar. On April 6, 2013, she founded the Women's Network (Advocacy) in Kandahar. Maryam also established the Malalai Maiwandi Internet cafe a free women's internet cafe to connect more women to the world in a safe and comfortable space. she opened Malali Maiwandi internet cafe on September 25, 2013 which is the first of its kind in the Afghanistan.  There Afghan women could use the cafe for getting information about current affairs and obtain educational material, which is the main reason why she established the women's cafe. In 2012, she was chosen by Time Magazine as "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".  According to Time, "As the owner and operator of a radio station (Merman Radio) that focuses on women's issues and as a member of the Kandahar provincial council, Durani stands up for the region's women with remarkable bravery." On March 8, 2012, she became a recipient of the prestigious United States Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

000013 - Samira Ibrahim, Egyptian Activist

Samira Ibrahim (Arabic: سميرة إبراهيم‎) (born c. 1987) is an Egyptian activist who came to prominence during the Egyptian revolution .

On March 9, 2011, she participated in a sit-in at Tahrir Square in Cairo. The military violently dispersed protest participants, and Samira and other women were beaten, given electric shocks, strip searched, and videotaped by the soldiers. They were also subjected to virginity tests. The tests were allegedly carried out to protect the soldiers from claims of rape.

After succeeding in placing the case in front of a civilian court, a court order was issued in December 2011 to stop the practice of “virginity tests”. However in March 2012, a military court exonerated Dr. Adel El Mogy from charges laid in connection with the virginity testing of Ibrahim.

Ibrahim vowed to take her case to the international courts.

In early March 2013, Ibrahim came under criticism after Samuel Tadros, writing in The Weekly Standard, accused her of posting anti-Semitic and anti-American statements on her Twitter account. These statements included quoting Adolf Hitler, writing: "I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.” In reaction to a suicide bombing of a bus of Israelis in Bulgaria, she wrote "Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.” In 2012, on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, she tweeted "Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning".

The United States State Department subsequently announced that it would not be giving the International Women of Courage Award to Samira Ibrahim in light of these comments.

Initially, Ibrahim claimed that her Twitter account had been "previously stolen" and that "any tweet on racism and hatred is not me”. However, she later stated "I refuse to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America regarding my previous anti-Zionist statements under pressure from American government therefore they withdrew the award." The United States State Department later stated that Ibrahim had since left the United States to return to Egypt.

On March 8, 2013, a spokeswoman for the United States State Department stated that "Upon further review, the department has decided not to present her with the award" as American officials "didn't consider some of the public statements that she had made appropriate. They didn't comport with our values" while adding that "There were obviously some problems in our review process, and we're going to do some forensics on how that happened."