Daniel J. Lavalie has been the caretaker of Kabassa Lodge, a 25 acre property developed by President Siaka Stevens at Juba Hill for over 3 decades. It was built as a resident for President Stevens by the International construction company (I.C.C) the owned by the late Jamil Sahid Mohamed Khalil who was a close friend of Siaka Stevens by then.
Mr. Lavalie recalls that just the road leading up to Kabassa Lodge took six months to complete back in June 1978 when work began on the property.
He said the foundation for the building was started in January 1979 and they worked day and night to be able to meet with the timeline that was set by President Stevens in line with his plans to host the Organisation of African Unity now African Union in 1980.
“We worked right round the clock to be able to meet the expectation of the President”, said Mr. Lavalie.
“It was hard work and it was a rapid work indeed and by early December 1979 we were able to finish the building and hand it over to the President who was very happy.”
Looking back its opening, Lavalie recalls that sDelegates for the 1980 OAU meeting who visited the Lodge for lunch were amazed by the massive construction, with some referring to it as the star of Sierra Leone much to the satisfaction of President Stevens.
It wasn’t until 1986 a year after he stepped down from the presidency that Lavalie recalls that President Stevens left his house at King Harman Road where he had lived with his family to move up to Kabassa Lodge.
“He moved alone and was living with workers and cleaners like us here, he was very kind and enjoyed this place.”
When Pa Sheki died in 1988 he apparently willed the Lodge built on state funds to his son Dr. Jengo P. Stevens who currently serves as an adviser to newly appointed Vice president Victor Foh.
After Dr. Stevens took possession of the Lodge he leased it to the N.R. SCIPA Group, a diamond trading company that would later loan funds to President Momoh until they fell out and locked shop.
The lodge was occupied by the NPRC government when they took over power on the 29 April 1992 and former Head of State Captain Strasser confiscated the property and said it was built by the money of the people. Kabassa Lodge remained a government asset until it was returned to the Stevens family in 2012 under the current APC Government.
Today the interior of Kabassa has reportedly been partitioned and rented out to various private individuals
Picture & Words by Augustine Kargbo