H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma,
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone
July 19, 2016
Dear Mr. President,
We, the undersigned Sierra Leonean academics, wish to register our strongest possible protest against the treatment of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah by the administration of the University of Sierra Leone.
We call on you to use your authority as Chancellor of the University to intervene and resolve this issue before further damage is done to the reputation of the University. We had, as part of a group of international scholars, written to you on this matter and had hoped your intervention would have resolved it. So you could imagine our shock and disbelief when we heard that the University of Sierra Leone Court has escalated this needless drama by terminating the employment of Professor Abdullah. We are further appalled that contrary to the Universities Act of 2005, the court did not provide the opportunity for Professor Abdullah to defend himself against the various allegations levied against him.
Professor Abdullah is an internationally renowned and widely respected academic around the world. He is coveted by some of the more reputable universities in the West and could be hired any day should he decide to return to Europe or North America, or even South Africa where he has worked.
Nonetheless, he has made the difficult and patriotic decision to return to his native Sierra Leone to help with a university besieged by crumbling infrastructure, declining academic standards and degrading social environment. For nearly two decades now, Professor Abdullah has carried out his responsibilities with dedication and commitment in such a difficult environment, and at great personal costs, both financially and professionally. For such a person to be treated with such scant regard is both unconscionable and indicates that the university is unappreciative of the sacrifices he has made for that very institution over the years. What is more baffling about this case is the fact that a university that is chronically understaffed and struggling with a paucity of qualified academics of Professor Abdullah’s standing could decide to hastily terminate his services. At a time when the University should be doing everything to encourage Sierra Leonean academics to return home, we fear that this turn of events, apart from its apparent unfairness to Professor Abdullah, sends a very bad message to those of us who may be thinking of returning home that the same fate as Professor Abdullah’s awaits us if we return.
The dispute between Professor Abdullah and the University of Sierra Leone is not uncommon, and centres on three major issues, among others: academic freedom, security of tenure, and professionalism. These are universally recognised as the tenets that are crucial to the effective functioning of university institutions. What is uncommon, however is the unorthodox way the case has been handled by the University of Sierra Leone’s administration, and how the administration has violated the rights of Professor Abdullah without regard for these universally recognized and protected tenets that govern universities all over the world. This handling of Professor Abdullah’s case is causing serious embarrassment for the University of Sierra Leone and affecting its already diminished reputation around the world.
We therefore ask that you intervene and resolve this issue in the interest of fairness, and stop the hemorrhaging of the reputation of the university, which is slowly becoming a laughing stock in international academic circles.
Thank you very much for your kind attention and anticipated intervention in this matter.
Zubairu Wai, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
Lakehead University, Canada
Sheikh Umarr Kamarah, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Languages and Literature
Virginia State University, USA
Ismail Rashid, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of History
Vassar College, USA
Yusuf Bangura, Ph.D.
Former Research Coordinator
UN Research Institute for Social Development
Sylvia Macauley, PhD
California State University-Northridge, USA
I. Olanrewaju Rashid, PhD
Post Doctoral Fellow
Department of Geog.; Env. Sciences
Trent University, Canada