SIERRA LEONE - A VERY VERY BRIEF BUT RELEVANT HISTORY
It is not uncommon these days to read and hear deluge after deluge of hackneyed phrases, strings of sentences of convenience etc etc hitting the ether as well as the streets of the capital Freetown and elsewhere which would tend to tell those who care to read and listen that before President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah took over a troubled, war-wracked, war-ravaged and war-savaged country called Sierra Leone, there was no such entity known as the state of Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Herald believes that this very brief synopsis should put into context how the country came to this point and what needs to be done to take the land that we call our Sierra Leone forward. We have not put in disastrous economic moves that witnessed the national currency, the leone move from 2 to £1 British pound to thousands now nor the circumstances that led to the introduction of the Bretton-Woods SDR in the Sierra Leone economy, nor what gave rise to the railway phased out nor what made all those foreign companies like SCOA Motors, PZ, ABC, Kingsway, CFAO and others leave the shores of Sierra Leone.
1961 - Sierra Leone attains independence on April 27 with the SLPP's Sir Milton Margai as Prime Minister
1964 - Sierra Leone sets up the Bank of Sierra Leone with British-born Gordon Hall as First Governor of the bank. The British pound (£) was equivalent to 2 leones backed by reserves held in UK banks to shore up the national currency, the leone. Before the leone, Sierra Leone like others in the West African region colonised by Britain (Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia) largely used money printed by the West African Currency Board.
This same year, on April 28 three years after independence, the first Grand Old Man of the Nation, the one and only Sir Milton Margai was announced dead. He was succeeded by his brother Sir Albert Margai - a move which alienated such top SLPP party stalwarts like Dr John Karefa-Smart who had been Foreign minister, had acted as Prime Minister and was thought to be in line to succeed the late man. This other Grand Old Man of Sierra Leone Politics had never forgiven the SLPP for what he saw as treachery by the SLPP inner core.
Sir Albert tries to foist one-party rule on Sierra Leone. Is cried down by the opposition and at one rally held at Victoria Park in Freetown was booed and hectored. The one party idea is shelved.
1967 - General Elections believed to have been won by the opposition All Peoples Congress party, APC, led by Siaka Stevens. First military intervention by Force Commander Brigadier David Lansana thereby denying Siaka Stevens the Premiership.
1968 - Siaka Stevens of the APC returns from self-imposed exile in neighbouring Guinea in triumph with one military officer John Bangura leading the entourage in the best tradition of a returning conquering hero. Siaka Stevens is sworn in as Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.
1971 - Siaka Stevens moves to consolidate his power after rumours and reports of attempted military coups aimed at wresting power from him. Guinean MiG-15 aircraft were a regular feature over Freetown's airspace to send a warning to would-be coup makers that the defence pact Stevens had signed with Guinea was in force. Stevens become convinced that the army could not be trusted and proceeded to emasculate this arm of national defence. Removes the appeal opening for those found guilty at courts martial. Hangs a number of soldiers implicated in coup plots including the man who brought him back Brigadier John Bangura.
1973 - General Elections - the opposition SLPP treated to classic APC party violence as the number of "uncontested" constituencies reach incredible levels. Large sections of Sierra Leone look like war zones as Nomination Day approaches with APC operatives in red shirts are moved from one location to another in intimidating tactics.
1977 - Students of the University of Sierra Leone make the first open protest as Siaka Stevens gave his traditional "Chancellor of the University" speech to graduates. He flees from the scene, the FBC campus is attacked and ransacked by APC "youth" gangs that included EBK's ambassador to Iran Kemoh Fadika and the late Alfred Akibo-Betts.
1978 - Sierra Leone is smothered in a one-party state with a constitution backing it all the way after a "referendum".
1980 - Sierra Leone hosts the Organisation of African Union (OAU) summit despite advice to the contrary by economists, thus making Stevens Chairman of the continental body for one year. Analysts say this singular event laid the foundations for unbridled corruption and massive theft from the State by its functionaries.
1985 - A very tired Stevens hands over power to his hand-picked man heading the army Joseph Saidu Momoh after another "referendum".
1991 - The RUF declares war against the Momoh government vowing to bring it down. Momoh introduces a new bill that should re-introduce multi-party democracy while retaining some key sections of the 1978 one-party constitution. The heads of the army and police were still in Parliament as MP's and as Ministers of State despite the 1991 Constitution forbidding it.
1992 - Momoh is kicked out of power by elements from the army fighting rebels at the frontlines. One Captain Valentine Strasser is made Head of State, the youngest in the world at the time at 27 or thereabouts.
1996 - Elections are held as requested by the people now fed up with the excesses and corruption of the NPRC. One lawyer and former Permanent Secretary (the youngest PS under SLPP rule of Sir Albert) wins and becomes the democratically-elected President of Sierra Leone.
1997 - Elements within the military led by footballers within toss out the barely one-year civilian government ushering in a period of gross human rights violations, plunder, rape and dispossessions never experienced in Sierra Leone. The AFRC was born.
1998 - President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is re-instated as Head of State
1999 - Elements of the AFRC/RUF in a murderous campaign to seize power from the Tejan Kabbah government again leaves thousands dead, hundreds of thousands traumatised, mutilations and rape become the preferred tool of war for the rebels.
2002 - President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah declares the 11-year war over. Is re-elected after General Elections the same year.
2007 - Ernest Bai Koroma of the opposition APC becomes President of Sierra Leone after General Elections.
SO IN BRIEF THESE ARE THE STATE PARTIES TO SIERRA LEONE'S PRESENT PROBLEMS
1961 - 1968 - SLPP RULE - 7 YEARS (NO WAR)
1968 - 1992 - APC RULE - WAR IGNITED IN 1991 - 24 YEARS (23 YEARS OF NO-WAR + ONE YEAR OF WAR)
1992 - 1996 - NPRC RULE - 4 YEARS - (WAR STILL ON)
1996 - 1997 - SLPP RULE - 1 YEAR - (WAR STILL ON)
1997 - 1998 - AFRC RULE - 1YEAR - (WAR STILL ON)
1998 - 2007 - SLPP RULE - 9 YEARS (WAR DECLARED OVER IN 2002. FIVE YEARS OF NO-WAR)
Kindly note that most of the pictures on this page are from this link - ENJOY OUR HISTORY