Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (February 16, 1932 – March 13, 2014) was the third President of Sierra Leone, serving from 1996 to 1997 and again from 1998 to 2007. An economist and attorney by profession, 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 was the party's presidential candidate in the 1996 presidential election. He was elected President of Sierra Leone in the 1996 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.
A devout Muslim, Kabbah was born in Pendembu, Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone, though he was raised in the capital Freetown. Kabbah was an ethnic Mandingo. Kabbah was Sierra Leone's first and currently the only Muslim head of state of the country.
Most of Kabbah's time in office was influenced by the civil war with the Revolutionary United Front, led by Foday Sankoh, which led to him being temporarily ousted by the military Armed Forces Revolutionary Council from May 1997 to March 1998. He was soon returned to power after 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 Lomé 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 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 restore 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.