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Cablegate: President Kabbah Welcomes Libya's Qadhafi to Sierra Leone

VZCZCXRO9631
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0404 1801356
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291356Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1178
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000404

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR SL
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT KABBAH WELCOMES LIBYA'S QADHAFI TO SIERRA LEONE

1. SUMMARY: Libyan leader Qadhafi visited Sierra Leone June 25-27.
On his first visit to Sierra Leone, Qadhafi was warmly welcomed by
President Kabbah and other top level GoSL officials. Qadhafi
addressed a large gathering at the National Stadium where he
formally donated 19 passenger buses to the Government. Qadhafi and
concluded a joint business agreement with the GoSL before departing.
His visit generated controversy as most Sierra Leoneans feel
Qadhafi, through his support for RUF leader Foday Sankoh, was partly
responsible for the ten year civil war that ended in 2002. END
SUMMARY.

2. Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi visited Sierra Leone June 25-27.
On his first visit to Sierra Leone, Qadhafi arrived by road from
Guinea en route to the African Union (AU) Summit in Accra, Ghana. He
was met near the Guinea-Sierra Leone border by President Kabbah,
Paramount Chiefs and other top government officials. He and his
entourage arrived into Freetown late on the evening of June 25. His
motorcade, numbering over 50 vehicles, disrupted traffic in Freetown
during much of his visit.

3. On June 26, the GoSL held a welcome ceremony at the National
Stadium. Qadhafi, dressed in an Elvis-style white jumpsuit, was
greeted with a standing ovation and cultural performance by nearly
2,000 people as he entered the stadium flanked by President Kabbah.
In attendance were Minister of Foreign Affairs Momodu Koroma, Deputy
Minister of Defense Joe Blell, Minister of Sports and Youth Dr.
Denis Bright, Minister of Social Welfare Shirley Gbujama and other
top government officials. Other attendees included civil society and
Muslim organizations.

4. In his welcome address, FM Momodu Koroma said the GoSL had
invited Qadhafi to express their gratitude for his leadership in
Africa, his friendship with Sierra Leone and his contributions to
the socio-economic development of the country, and for his love and
help towards the suffering people of Africa.

5. In his speech, President Kabbah showered Qadhafi with praise and
called him a true friend of Sierra Leone for his numerous
contributions, including a million dollar check which President
Kabbah received when he took office. Qadhafi also sent two shiploads
of rice, which President Kabbah ordered to be sold under market
value. Kabbah said the money from the rice sales went towards
financing the creation of the National Security and Insurance Scheme
(NASSIT).

6. President Kabbah also thanked Qadhafi for donating 40 tractors,
13 garbage trucks, 9 dump trucks, three water tankers, and 18
passenger buses. He also thanked Qadhafi for his generosity for
chartering flights on several occasions for Muslims to perform Hajj.
Kabbah also credited Qadhafi for his intervention when the late
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel leader Foday Sankoh attempted
to renege on agreements reached with the GoSL during the Peace
Accord negations.

7. Qadhafi thanked the people of Sierra Leone for the rousing
welcome accorded him and pledged continued assistance for the
country's post war recovery process. He also formally donated 19
more Mercedes Benz passenger buses to the GoSL bringing to 39 the
number of buses he had donated to Sierra Leone in less than one
year, in addition to other types of vehicles.

8. On June 26, President Kabbah hosted a state dinner to honor
Qadhafi at the President's Lodge. Top level ministers, government
officials, and heads of diplomatic missions, including the
Ambassador, attended the dinner, where President Kabbah presented
Qadhafi with the highest honor in Sierra Leone, the Grand Commander
of the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Qadhafi also concluded
a joint business agreement with President Kabbah before he departed
June 27 for Cote d'Ivoire. As his entourage was departing Freetown,
Qadhafi's staff reportedly threw food and clothing items to
onlookers as the motorcade left Freetown.

9. COMMENT: Reactions to Qadhafi's visit were mainly negative.
Local newspapers and political opposition party leaders were quick
to criticize the GoSL for its lavish and favorable treatment of
Qadhafi. Most Sierra Leoneans hold Qadhafi responsible for fueling
the ten-year civil war through his support for Foday Sankoh and the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF). During a radio interview with the
BBC, People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) presidential
candidate and party leader Charles Margai criticized the ruling SLPP
saying that if he was president he would never welcome Qadhafi in
Sierra Leone, and he would demand an apology and reparations for the
destabilizing role Qadhafi played during the 10 year civil war. END
COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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