27 APRIL 1961 – 27 APRIL 2016
Congratulations to the people of Sierra Leone on your 55th Independence Anniversary.
Happy Birthday to You Mama Salone and God Bless you as Always – Wishing you a much brighter future.
Sierra Leone is 55 Years Old Today – A trip down memory lane with the help of BBC News Archive:
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 it’s 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 (Photo), 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 – 2016: How Did We Get Here?
Let us start with the country’s National Anthem (those great and lofty words – few in Sierra Leone can read, sing and understand, because of high level of illiteracy):
High we exalt thee, realm of the free;
Great is the love we have for thee;
Firmly united ever we stand,
Singing thy praise, O native land.
We raise up our hearts and our voices on high,
The hills and the valleys re-echo our cry;
Blessing and peace be ever thine own,
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.
One with a faith that wisdom inspires,
One with a zeal that never tires;
Ever we seek to honour thy name,
Ours is the labour, thine the fame.
We pray that no harm on thy children may fall,
That blessing and peace may descend on us all;
So may we serve thee ever alone,
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.
Knowledge and truth our forefathers spread,
Mighty the nations whom they led;
Mighty they made thee, so too may we
Show forth the good that is ever in thee.
We pledge our devotion, our strength and our might,
Thy cause to defend and to stand for thy right;
All that we have be ever thine own,
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.
1787 – British abolitionists and philanthropists established 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. (Photo: The group of brave and astute Sierra Leoneans that negotiated the independence of Sierra Leone at the London conference).
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 (Photo).
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 (Photo) 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 (Photo) 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 has 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.
Some 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.
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.
2011: Sierra Leoneans celebrate 50 years of independence, but those celebrations turned into tears as millions of dollars donated to Sierra Leone to help tackle poverty and mark the anniversary were stolen by those put in charge of the 50th Independence Celebrations.
Sierra Leone’s economy received a boost, with the resurgence of iron ore mining by African Minerals Ltd.
This shot in the arm gave the country’s GDP a one-off lift of 13%. The Koroma government hastily hailed Sierra Leone as one of the fastest growing economy in the world. But this one-off GDP increase did not last and was unsustainable. Few realised that African Minerals was heading for serious financial trouble.
By the end of 2012, the economy began to fall yet again, due to uncontrolled public spending, narrow taxation base, and lack of investment in the private sector to boost job creation.
2012: President Koroma declared that Sierra Leone was opened for business. But corruption and lawlessness were on the increase.
Unemployment and poverty keeps rising.
Hundreds of people died of a cholera outbreak, amid fears of a national public health disaster.
Presidential and general elections were held. The main opposition SLPP fielded former military junta leader – Julius Maada Bio as their presidential candidate. The party suffered a resounding defeat at the polls, but blamed the ruling APC for electoral malpractice.
For the first time in its history, the opposition SLPP lost every single seat they had in Freetown and in the eastern district of Kono to the ruling APC, the worst electoral defeat suffered by the SLPP party.
2013 – 2014: Ebola struck the people of Sierra Leone. The government was accused of negligence and lack of ideas as to how best to tackle the virus. Ministers were in denial. President Koroma sacked his minister of health – Miatta Kargbo.
More than 200 health workers including doctors were killed by the virus: Dr. Willoughby, Dr. Olivette Buck, Dr. Thomas Rogers, Dr. Salia, Dr. Koroma, and others.
President Koroma called for seven days of national fasting and prayer, in response to the continuing exponential rise in the number of Ebola victims. He had enough.
He said that Sierra Leoneans should start the New Year by committing the nation in prayers and fasting, so that “we can have the kind of divine direction and grace that is required.”
This provoked critics into accusing the president of trying to sub-contract his leadership duties and responsibilities to the Power above.
Critics of the government said: “Each doctor in Sierra Leone is worth more than 100 of those useless and thieving chameleons we call POLITRICIANS – most of whom are overpaid, overweight and under-worked – jobs worth.
“Our politicians are only interested in lining their pockets with donor funds, and care very little about the welfare of our poor and overworked doctors, who are dying in the line of duty.”
British military ship – RFA Argus arrived in Freetown, carrying aid, supplies and off-road vehicles to take the fight to Ebola.
Several other countries including the US and China sent tons of materials and hundreds of specialists to help Sierra Leone fight the virus.
President Koroma declared a seven day lockdown of the country to sensitise the public.
2015: Ebola has taken the lives of over 3,000 people and more than 8,000 infected.
President Koroma declared another lockdown, but critics accused him of using the Ebola crisis as a political weapon to curb civil liberty.
A report published by the country’s auditor general found that over $14 million could not be accounted for by government officials responsible for managing the Ebola funds.
The government was heavily criticised for spending $12 million to purchase 50 buses from China, amidst an Ebola crisis that needed cash to control the number of people dying from the virus.
Vice president Sam Sumana put himself into self-quarantine, a decision he will perhaps regret for the rest of his life. President Koroma used this opportunity to sack the vice president, claiming the VP had absent himself from duty and was seeking asylum at the US Embassy.
A new vice president – Victor Foh was controversially appointed by president Koroma to replace Sam Sumana. The opposition SLPP and Sam Sumana respectively launched a Supreme Court case to overturn Koroma’s decision, but lost.
The Supreme Court declared that president Koroma had acted lawfully – case closed.
President Koroma sacked his attorney general and minister of justice – Frank kargbo, and appointed the head of the anti-corruption commission – Joseph Kamara, to that role.
8th of November Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free. There was street celebration.
Supporters of president Koroma call for more time or third term for president Koroma. The opposition and civil society say no, the constitution must be respected.
2016: President Koroma made a major reshuffle of his cabinet, bringing 15 new ministers into his government, as poverty and unemployment grows. He needs to make quick economic and political gains before the elections in 2018. Will these new ministers help him achieve this goal?
Today, 27th April 2016, Critics say that the government has run out of cash, and is unable to pay the salaries of public sector workers and contractors.
The opposition SLPP continues to be dogged by infighting and constitutional crisis, with general and presidential elections just two years away.
The 1991 Constitutional Review Committee published its first draft report, sparking much debate
As Sierra Leone celebrates its 55 years of independence today, there is very little sign of economic, social and political progress, as corruption, poverty, disease, continues to affect millions of people across the country.
Freetown the capital city is without proper supply of water for the past few months and getting worse.
Electricity supply has been reduced to less than two intermittent days a week, as most homes go without power for weeks on end.
This is Sierra Leone, after 55 years of independence. What would the next 55 years be like?
Listen to Dennis Kabatto speaking to Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas, editor-in-chief & publisher of the Sierra Leone Telegraph about Sierra Leone’s 55th independence anniversary on WBAI, 99.5 FM Radio in New York:
Watch the Sierra Leone Independence Celebration Story of 1961: