Independence Day Of The Republic Of Sierra Leone
Independence Day Of The Republic Of
History of Sierra Leone
WAELE AFRICA Foundation Wishes to congratulate the government and people of Sierra Leone on the occasion of her 61st independence. We wish your country and all its people happiness, continued success and prosperity.
Happy Independence Day!
History of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone was a sovereign state with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state between independence on 27 April 1961 and becoming the Republic of Sierra Leone on 19 April 1971.
When British rule ended in April 1961, the British Crown Colony of Sierra Leone was given independence under the Sierra Leone Independence Act 1961. The British monarch, Elizabeth II, remained the head of state of Sierra Leone and was represented in Sierra Leone by a Governor-General. Sierra Leone shared the Sovereign with the other Commonwealth realms, including the United Kingdom.
In April 1961, Sierra Leone became politically independent of Great Britain. It retained a parliamentary system of government and was a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), led by Sir Milton Margai were victorious in the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton’s death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister. Sir Albert attempted to establish a one-party state had the ready cooperation of the opposition All People’ Congress but met fierce resistance from some cadre within his party Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and ultimately abandoned the idea.
In closely contested elections in March 1967, the APC won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) Henry Josiah Lightfoot Boston declared Siaka Stevens – APC leader and Mayor of Freetown – as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Lightfoot-Boston were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Sierra Leone Military Forces (SLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. A group of senior military officers overrode this action by seizing control of the government on 23 March, arresting Brigadier Lansana, and suspending the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) with Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman. The NRC in turn was overthrown in April 1968 by a “sergeants’ revolt,” the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement. NRC members were imprisoned, army and police officers were deposed, the democratic constitution was restored, and power was handed back to Stevens, who at last assumed the office of Prime Minister.
After the return to civilian rule by-elections were held beginning in the fall of 1968 and an all-APC cabinet was appointed. Tranquility was not completely restored: in November 1968 a state of emergency was declared after provincial disturbances, and in March 1971 the government survived an unsuccessful military coup. In April 1971 a republican constitution was adopted under which Stevens became President. In 1972 by-elections the opposition SLPP complained of intimidation and procedural obstruction by the APC and militia. These problems became so severe that it boycotted the 1973 general election; as a result the APC won 84 of the 85 elected seats. In July 1974, the government uncovered an alleged military coup plot. As in 1971, the leaders were tried and executed. In 1977, student demonstrations against the government disrupted Sierra Leone politics. A general election was called later that year in which corruption was again endemic; the APC won 74 seats and the SLPP 15.
On 27 April 1961, Milton Margai led Sierra Leone to independence from the United Kingdom. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans across the nation took to the streets to celebrate their independence. The nation held its first general elections on 27 May 1962, and Margai was elected Sierra Leone’s first prime minister by a landslide. Milton Margai’s political party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), won by large margins in the nation’s first general election under universal adult suffrage in May 1962.
An important aspect of Margai’s character was his self-effacement. He was neither corrupt nor did he make a lavish display of his power or status. Sir Milton’s government was based on the rule of law and the notion of separation of powers, with multiparty political institutions and fairly viable representative structures. Margai used his conservative deology to lead Sierra Leone without much strife. He appointed government officials with a clear eye to satisfy various ethnic groups. Margai successfully built coalitions from in the 1950s to attain independence without bloodshed. With his genteel nature, Margai employed a brokerage style of politics by sharing political power between political groups and the paramamount chiefs in the provinces.
Upon Margai’s death on 28 April 1964, an internal crisis within members of the Sierra Leone People’s party erupted as to who would succeed Margai as Prime Minister. The parliament of Sierra Leone held an emergency session to elect a new prime minister; the person must be a member of the ruling SLPP party. One of the two leading candidates to succeed Margai as prime minister was Sir Albert Margai, Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister and also the younger brother of Sir Milton Margai. The other was Dr. John Karefa-Smart, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister and a close ally of Sir Milton. Sir Albert Margai was elected by a majority vote in Parliament to be the new leader of the SLPP and the next prime minister of Sierra Leone. Sir Albert Margai’s leadership was briefly challenged by Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister John Karefa-Smart, an ethnic Sherbro, who questioned Sir Albert’s succession to the SLPP leadership position. Kareefa-Smart received little support in Parliament in his attempt to have Margai stripped of the SLPP leadership.