Please share this widely with friends and colleagues who also knew Almami or who would share his ideals. For those who did not have the opportunity to know him well, please see a bio below for a glimpse into his life.
Almami Ibrahim Cyllah was born in Makeni, Sierra Leone on May 31, 1951 to parents, Mr. Sallu Cyllah and Haja Isata Nabie. As the only child born to Isata, Almami was a “gift from God” from the beginning of his life, and his kindness, generosity and love touched many lives.
As a child, Almami attended St. Francis Secondary School and Bo School in Sierra Leone. He travelled to the USA to attend Catholic University in Washington, DC, and worked multiple jobs to pay for his education and provide for his young family. After graduation in 1980, he joined Amnesty International, where he served for more than a decade as a human rights defender, advocate and head of the Africa program. Many years spent speaking truth to power solidified within Almami the sense of justice, honesty and integrity, that all who knew him recognized in his convictions. His colleagues from Amnesty remember his mentorship and inspiration that he cultivated especially among the younger staff to prepare them for the time, energy and commitment required to protect human rights.
In 1994, Almami was called back to Sierra Leone to serve as commissioner in the Interim National Electoral Commission, when the country was still at war. Preparing for the first elections in 30 years, stakes were high and deadly threats were made frequently, but this did not deter Almami’s commitment to his country. Even after being targeted and seriously injured in an attempt on his life, Almami continued to play a leading role in organizing Bintumani I and II, which decided the electoral future of Sierra Leone. Turning down the offer to join the administration that followed the elections, he returned instead to his work at Amnesty and his dedication to strengthening democracy.
In 2000, Almami began work with the NDI overseeing programs in Haiti and later was part of NDI-Carter Center electoral observation missions across Africa. Meanwhile, Almami joined the IFES as Country Director, first in Haiti, then Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, where he directly supported efforts for free and fair elections. Almami became Africa Regional Director for IFES in 2008 and although he was based in Washington, DC, he travelled frequently to Africa to provide support to colleagues across the continent. Many who worked with Almami through these years remember his leadership, his sense of team (which to many felt like family) and his commitment to democracy in Africa.
After his retirement in 2014, Almami began the exciting chapter of following one of his lifelong goals—to establish a political party and use his decades of experience in human rights and democracy to bring a new leadership perspective to his beloved Sierra Leone. Earlier this year, the National Progressive Democrats party was officially registered by the Sierra Leone Political Parties Registration Commission, an institution that Almami had been instrumental in establishing to bring greater transparency, honesty and accountability to the electoral process in Sierra Leone. Sadly, we lost Almami before he could fully participate as a future candidate for leadership in Sierra Leone.
Almami leaves behind his family—his children and his grandchildren whom he cherished—and his friends who number across countries, continents and cultures. His is a legacy that we hope will live on within all of us.
- Albert Trithart
- Manar Hassan
- N Ha
- Steven Canham
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