Kabbah is weak and vulnerable leader, say secret British documents

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The Independent Online

Senior British officials regard President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone as a weak leader and believe his government may be vulnerable, according to restricted briefing papers for ministers obtained by The Independent.

Senior British officials regard President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone as a weak leader and believe his government may be vulnerable, according to restricted briefing papers for ministers obtained by The Independent.

The Government robustly defends military involvement in the West African state and repeats firm support for President Kabbah, but Foreign Office documents say: "In cabinet, he can be domineering and stubborn, but he is not a strong leader and he tends to react to whoever he last spoke to... He is easily flattered."

The profile of the President, a former senior United Nations official, says: "He remains a basically decent and sincere person who has a clear idea on how he wants his country to go." The President is also "pro-British and looks back fondly on his days as a district officer". The government analysts say "working for the UN for 21 years did not prepare [Mr Kabbah] to be a strong African leader to deal with the continuing insecurity of the country. He is a technocrat, not a politician".

The Government is engaged in a bitter war of words with the Opposition over Sierra Leone. The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, accused the Tories of risking British lives after the party's defence spokesman, Iain Duncan Smith, repeated his call for UK troops to quit the war-torn country.

The Conservatives said the killing of Bombardier Brad Tinnion of the Royal Artillery in the raid on Sunday on the West Side Boys demonstrated the dangers of getting involved in Sierra Leone's civil wars.

But Mr Cook said Britain would stand by its pledge to the the country's government and claimed Mr Duncan Smith's comments would encourage the West Side Boys "to doubt our resolve".

The Foreign Office minister, Peter Hain, insisted British involvement had led to a valuable improvement in the situation there. "To have Britain slink away from Sierra Leone with our tail between our legs - as the Tories want - would drag Britain's good name through the mud, especially in Africa, which has felt isolated and neglected."

The Foreign Office assessment, part of a study of the main players in the West African state, also says that Johnny Paul Koroma, a former Sierra Leone Army major who briefly seized power in 1997 and is seen to have controlled the West Side Boys "has emerged from imprisonment a changed man ... he has shown remorse for his past actions ... and now appears much more statesmanlike." It continues: "He reads his Bible regularly and is privately studying theology."

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