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Sierra Leone Celebrates 49 Years of Independence

27 APRIL 1961 – 27 APRIL 2010

Congratulations to the people of Sierra Leone on your 49th Independence Anniversary

Happy Birthday to You Mama Salone and God Bless as Always!!

Wishing you a much brighter future

The Sierra Leone Telegraph

Sierra Leone is 49 Years Old Today: A trip down Memory Lane with the help of BBC News

Sierra Leone has become the latest West African state to win independence, after more than 150 years of British colonial rule.

The new nation was born at the stroke of midnight, when its green, white and blue flag was unfurled. A huge crowd, gathered at Brookfields Playground in Freetown to watch the historic moment, broke into tumultuous cheering.

Independence Day formally began as the Duke of Kent handed over royal instruments recognising Sierra Leone as an independent nation.

Sir Maurice Dorman, Governor since 1956, was then sworn in as Governor-General by Chief Justice Beoku Betts.

Messages of welcome to the new government, led by Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai, came from the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and from the Queen.

Her Majesty is due to visit Sierra Leone during her tour of West Africa later in the year.

State of Emergency
Independence festivities have been taking place all week, mainly centred on the harbour area of Freetown. Three days of public holiday have been declared, and the city is in party mood, with streets decorated with bunting and the new national colours everywhere.

But the build-up has been overshadowed by the state of emergency, declared ten days ago following a campaign of sabotage by the opposition All People's Congress Party (APC).

The party has been urging that independence should be postponed until free elections have been held.
The leader of the APC, Siaka Stevens, was arrested just over a week ago, along with his right-hand man, Wallace Johnston, and 16 other party members. They had been planning a general strike to coincide with the independence celebrations, and it was feared riots would break out if the strike went ahead.

The government in Freetown is insisting that elections will be held next year, as agreed under the terms of independence. Ministers say the arrests were made to protect those visiting the country for the ceremonies, and, they say, there is every intention to release those detained as soon as the ceremonies are over.

1787 – 2010: How Did We Get Here?
1787 - British abolitionists and philanthropists establish a settlement in Freetown for repatriated and rescued slaves.

1808 - Freetown settlement becomes crown colony.

1896 - Britain sets up a protectorate over the Freetown hinterland.

1954 - Sir Milton Margai, leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party, appointed chief minister.

1961 - Sierra Leone becomes independent.

1967 - Military coup deposes Premier Siaka Stevens' government.

1968 - Siaka Stevens returns to power at the head of a civilian government following another military coup.

1971 - Sierra Leone declared a republic, Stevens becomes executive president.

1978 - New constitution proclaims Sierra Leone a one-party state with the All People's Congress as the sole legal party.

1985 - Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh becomes president following Stevens’ retirement.

1987 - Momoh declares state of economic emergency.

War and coups
1991 - Start of civil war. Former army corporal Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) begin campaign against President Momoh, capturing towns on border with Liberia.
New constitution providing for a multiparty system adopted.

1992 - President Joseph Momoh ousted in military coup led by Captain Valentine Strasser, apparently frustrated by failure to deal with rebels. Under international pressure, Strasser announces plans for the first multi-party elections since 1967.

1996 - Strasser ousted in military coup led by his defence minister, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah elected president in February, signs peace accord with Sankoh's rebels in November.

1997 - Peace deal unravels. President Kabbah deposed by army in May. Major Johnny Paul Koroma, in prison awaiting the outcome of a treason trial, leads the military junta - the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Koroma suspends the constitution, bans demonstrations and abolishes political parties.
Kabbah flees to Guinea to mobilise international support. The Commonwealth suspends Sierra Leone. The UN Security Council imposes sanctions against Sierra Leone, barring the supply of arms and petroleum products. A British company, Sandline, nonetheless supplies "logistical support", including rifles, to Kabbah allies.

1998 February - Nigerian-led West African intervention force Ecomog storms Freetown and drives rebels out. Kabbah makes a triumphant return to Freetown amid scenes of public rejoicing.

1999 January - Rebels backing Revolutionary United Front leader Foday Sankoh seize parts of Freetown from Ecomog. After weeks of bitter fighting they are driven out, leaving behind 5,000 dead and a devastated city.

A ceasefire is greeted with cautious optimism in Freetown amid hopes that eight years of civil war may soon be over. Six weeks of talks in the Togolese capital, Lome, result in a peace agreement, under which the rebels receive posts in government and assurances they will not be prosecuted for war crimes.

UN troops arrive to police the peace agreement - but one rebel leader, Sam Bokari, says they are not welcome. Meanwhile, Ecomog troops are attacked outside Freetown. UN forces come under attack in the east of the country, but far worse is in store when first 50, then several hundred UN troops are abducted.

2000 - Rebels close in on Freetown; 800 British paratroopers sent to Freetown to evacuate British citizens and to help secure the airport for UN peacekeepers; rebel leader Foday Sankoh captured.
Eleven British soldiers taken hostage by a renegade militia group called the West Side Boys. British forces mount operation to rescue remaining UK hostages.

2001 - Government postpones presidential and parliamentary elections - set for February and March - because of continuing insecurity. UN troops for the first time begin to deploy peacefully in rebel-held territory. Disarmament of rebels begins, and British-trained Sierra Leone army starts deploying in rebel-held areas.

2002 - War declared over. UN mission says disarmament of 45,000 fighters is complete. Government, UN agree to set up war crimes court. Kabbah wins a landslide victory in elections. His Sierra Leone People's Party secures a majority in parliament. British troops leave Sierra Leone after their two-year mission to help end the civil war.

2003 - Rebel leader Foday Sankoh dies of natural causes while waiting to be tried for war crimes. President Kabbah tells truth and reconciliation commission that he had no say over operations of pro-government militias during war.

2004 - Disarmament and rehabilitation of more than 70,000 civil war combatants officially completed. UN-backed war crimes tribunal opens courthouse to try senior militia leaders from both sides of civil war. First local elections in more than three decades.
War crimes trials begin. UN hands control of security in capital over to local forces.

2005 - UN Security Council authorises opening of a UN assistance mission in Sierra Leone from 2006, to follow departure of peacekeepers in December. The last UN peacekeeping troops leave Sierra Leone, marking the end of a five-year mission to restore order.

2006 March - Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor is arrested in Nigeria and handed over to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone which indicted him. President Kabbah says 90% of the country's $1.6bn (£815m) debt has been written off after negotiations with international creditors.

2007 - Start of former Liberian president Charles Taylor's war crimes trial in The Hague, where he stands accused of instigating atrocities in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone's special war crimes court in Freetown delivers its first verdicts, finding three militia leaders guilty. Presidential and parliamentary polls - Ernest Bai Koroma wins the presidency and his All People's Congress, formerly in opposition, wins a majority in parliament.

2008 January - Former Liberian president Charles Taylor's war crimes trial in The Hague resumes after a six-month delay. Local elections are marred by violence between the supporters of the two main parties

2009 April - Three former senior leaders of rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) sentenced to long jail terms for civil war atrocities. UN-backed Special Court winds down after seven years investigating civil war atrocities. Its remaining case, trial of Charles Taylor, continues in The Hague.

2010 - President Koroma commissions the Bumbuna Hydro-electricity dam, after decades of wasted investment – mainly through corruption - estimated at over $500 Million, with a power capacity of 50Mega Watts, but currently generating 20 MW – lighting up the Capital Freetown.

The Anti-Corruption Commission has found its tooth and it’s now started to bite, especially those deemed to be the sacred cows of President Koroma’s government. But critics say that the Commission is not going far enough, and is being selective in its efforts. Government Ministers have been indicted and charged, while others are standing trial on corruption charges.

President Koroma introduced the new Goods and services Tax, which at 15% is causing a lot of pain for consumers, whose average daily income is no more than 50 US Cents. Prices of basic commodities have gone up drastically. Unemployment has risen and poverty is on the increase.

Today, 27 April 2010, marking 49 years of independence; with 270 children out of 1000 dying before celebrating their fifth birthday; and one in eight women dying during pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a one in 76 average in the rest of the developing world; President Koroma has launched a free health care programme for breast feeding mothers and pregnant women, and children under five years old.
What does 2011 has in store for Sierra Leoneans as they prepare to celebrate the big 50?

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