The case of the revered Sierra Leonean academic, Professor Ibrahim Abdullah continues to attract serious international concerns. The latest have come from an international conference of African academics that recently met in Lilongwe, Malawi under the auspices of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) to discuss the state of intellectual freedom in Africa over the last twenty-five years.
CODESRIA said it learnt with shock and sadness the developments surrounding “the termination of the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah” in a letter addressed to President Ernest Bai Koroma.
“Participants at this conference, academics from univer
sities and other institutions of higher learning f
rom across Africa, came to the conclusion after a careful review of the circumstances surrounding the termination of Professor Abdullah’s appointment that his academic freedom has been violated,” they said in the letter to President Koroma.
The group requested President Koroma, who equally serves as the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, to intervene and address the violation of Professor Abdullah’s employment rights.
“Professor Abdullah has suffered this fate because of his critical stance regarding falling academic standards in this once proud institution,” they said.
There has been continuous international and national outrage since news of Professor Abdullah’s unfair treatment by university authorities emerged several months ago. Professor Abdullah was the only tenured professor with a PhD in History in the Department of History and African Studies at Fourah Bay College. He is considered one of Africa’s leading contemporary historians whose seminal scholarly work offered tremendous insight into working class and youth development in West Africa. Over the last couple of years, he had openly spoken against declining teaching and learning standards in the University of Sierra Leone to the displeasure of certain officials in the University administration. International and national protests followed efforts by university authorities to revoke his tenured appointment. Repeated calls on President Koroma and educational authorities in Sierra Leone to respect employment rights have fallen on deaf ears.
In April, some 40 former students of the Department of History and African Studies at Fourah Bay College, who were taught by Professor Ibrahim Abdullah, wrote to Acting Vice Chancellor, Ekundayo Thompson, urging a speedy closure to the long drawn saga involving the eminent academic and the college administration. Thompson is believed to be the main character behind Professor Abdullah’s unfair treatment.
“We hereby write to register our utter dismay and outright disappointment at the unfair treatment of Prof. Abdullah by the administration. As his former students, we would like to inform you that Prof. Abdullah is considered by those of us he taught as the tutor who created an ever-lasting impression on our young minds; someone we still look up to today. He is the most respected academic in the History and African Studies Department of Fourah Bay College,” they stated in a letter of protest sent to Thompson in early April.
A similar petition was sent earlier this year by a group of respected academics to the Chancellor of the University, President Ernest Bai Koroma, urging him to intervene in the matter, which many now believe does not serve the interest of academic excellence in the country. CODESRIA, the latest to add its voice on the matter, stated that Professor Abdullah’s case constitutes a violation of fundamental provisions of the Constitution of Sierra Leone and other provisions of international law that the country is obligated to, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
“We believe that Professor Ibrahim Abdullah, a distinguished scholar of high international repute, raised questions of academic standards because of his deep commitment to his university and country,” they said.