INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL : How Sierra Leone gained Independence –And some views

From the archive, 27 April 1961: Sierra Leone celebrates independence

Originally published in the Guardian on 27 April 1961

The Duke of Kent yesterday opened the new Parliament Building of Sierra Leone which became independent at midnight last night after 150 years of colonial rule. The Duke arrived through the ranks of cheerleaders shouting “Independence” and “Margai”.

The principal ceremony today will be the state opening of Parliament when the Duke hands over the constitutional instruments which make Sierra Leone an independent nation. Later Sir Maurice Dorman, the present Governor, will be sworn in as Governor-General.

A state of transition

The foundations of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, go back to the eighteenth century when the first shiploads of freed slaves were brought back to Africa. They founded the town at the foot of rolling hills and some of their wooden double-storied houses still stand. To the Creoles – the returned slaves who settled in Freetown – England became the model on which to base their lives. The surrounds of Freetown abound with names like those of New England: Leicester, Hastings, or Lumley. The generously proportioned women of Freetown rarely wear African dress. Rather less than fashionable cotton frocks and felt hats are the general order of the day.

Government House, where the Duke of Kent is staying, is one of the few modern buildings in Freetown. A new road, scarcely completed, unusually wide and heavily beflagged, leads steeply uphill to a new Parliament built in six months by an Israel construction company. The chamber is round (is this a portent of party politics to come?).

Government guests have been arriving here since the weekend. In addition to Liberia and Nigeria, nearly all the other independent African States are sending delegations, though there are relatively few prominent names among them – this is the fourth African independence celebration within six months and attendance at these events is turning into a time-consuming affair.

The Sierra Leone Independence celebration programme is a lengthy affair which opened last week with a Queen’s Birthday parade followed later in the day by a “Miss Independence” beauty contest which was attended by nearly all members of the Cabinet. An all-woman jury was shown to prefer intelligence to beauty. The winning girl’s remark that she opposed polygamy because she was a jealous person clearly obtained high marks.

There are receptions galore by the Governor, by the Prime Minister, the House of Representatives, a state banquet and state ball. Tonight there will be a searchlight tattoo.

BBC REPORT –1961: Sierra Leone wins independence

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.




Arriving in London for the Sierra Leone Constitutional Conference in 1960 :

DL Sumner in striped africana, John Karefa Smart, Chief Yumkella, IB Taylor Kamara, Constance Cummings John, Alhaji Fata Rahman, PC Jaya KaiKai, MS Mustapha, PC Bai Koblo Pathbana, HEB John, PC RBS Koker, Kande Bureh and Demby. They fought the good fight. Well done thou good and faithful servants. May they all RIPP.



“We are most anxious of course to do all that we can to help Sierra Leone in her future development. Shortly after the Constitutional Conference we announced our intention of giving aid, at the moment of Sierra Leone’s independence, to the tune of £7. million; about half under Commonwealth Assistance Loans and the other half as a gift to take care of Colonial Development and Welfare schemes not yet completed. And we are only too ready to give what help we can in the way of technical assistance…

We have had the Commonwealth Development Finance Corporation working on the Guma Valley hydro-electric scheme, which is very important for the country’s development. But we want to help Sierra Leone not only on the economic side but also in the development of her educational facilities. Your Lordships will know of the Fourah Bay College, the establishment of which was so generously helped by Durham University. We want to do all we can to help on the educational side, in so far as Sierra Leone may wish it. So much for the background, my Lords…”


“My Lords, as an old Colonial Secretary and as a Resident Minister who spent many days in Sierra Leone during the last war, I should like—and I know my noble friend, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who succeeded me, would wish to be associated with this—to extend our best congratulations and the warmest welcome to Sierra Leone.

I am happy to think that Sierra Leone has other assets. Certainly it has its agriculture, but there are considerable assets besides. There are the diamonds, which are of enormous value. I recall that when I was Colonial Secretary I made the agreement with the Selection Trust for the exploitation of the diamond mines, I must say with great credit to the company, on extremely favourable terms. They did all the exploration and the Sierra Leone Government got 27½ per cent. of the profits. I think that was a pretty good deal. I remember that when Lord Balfour of Inchrye and I were in Africa the Government’s diamond share then, in the war, was bringing in something between £350,000 and £400,000 a year. Then I remember—I do not suppose it is exhausted 37 —the considerable iron ore supply, with a railway to get it. I imagine that iron ore is still coming from it. There was quite valuable timber as well…”


” My Lords, it was my privilege last year to go to Sierra Leone to open the new Court of Appeal, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, I attended the sitting of the Court wearing a Peer’s robes together with a full-bottomed wig. Indeed, it was a great occasion to see that the people of Sierra Leone are perhaps in advance of the other countries, because the people there have trained up their own lawyers, and from those lawyers have produced their own judges; so that in Sierra Leone you now have judges and magistrates of the country very much attached to the Common Law which they have inherited from this country, and at one in upholding the fundamental human rights which are now to be in their Constitution. Their attachment to the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is to be ensured, and the independence of the judges, which also is to be ensured by the fact that a judge cannot be removed except after inquiry there and eventually on an appeal to the Privy Council, means that they are carrying through the principles which they have inherited from this country. With that strong bulwark, I am confident that they will play their full part among the emergent countries, and I would add my word of welcome to this Bill.”

(C) Hansard 27 March 1961 vol 230 cc23-40 2

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Martin Morgan Very interesting John Moses Kamara— let’s go back to the “nitty gritty” of our Independence in 1961… not everyone in Sierra Leone at the time welcomed the INDEPENDENCE BILL. The Creoles representatives swiftly and vigorously rejected and opposed the Bill.
John Moses Kamara
John Moses Kamara You are right Martin Morgan not everyone welcomed it at the time but for different reasons. Some of the Creoles may have been against it for reasons of inadequate political safeguards in the bill to retain or protect their unique cultural and historical identity at the time. There were others such as the opposition APC who insisted on elections before independence. For this reasons and others, the weeks leading to independence were overshadowed by the state of emergency, declared following a campaign of disruption by APC which led to the arrest of Siaka Stevens the APC leader along with his political ally at the time, Wallace Johnston. Shaki and others planned a general strike to during independence which could have resulted in violent protests. The SLPP leadership insisted on elections be held after independence under the terms of the Lancaster House agreement.
John Moses Kamara replied · 4 Replies
Dawah Sesekoker

Dawah Sesekoker Which set the Stage for this Sir John Moses Kamara

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John Moses Kamara replied · 5 Replies
Dawah Sesekoker

Dawah Sesekoker Lined up Leadership to this

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Martin Morgan
Martin Morgan John Moses Kamara– In fact, the first impetus towards Independence came not from Freetown but London. The Labour Government elected in 1945 believed in progress towards independence for all Britain’s then still-enormous empire. The new constitution for S.Leone, which was pressed through in 1947, did not arouse any excitement in the colony as the Creoles were against it. In the protectorate there was still little political awareness, while the Freetown Creoles feared that Independence would put them into the power of protectorate chiefs. The Creole representatives sent a petition to Her Majesty The Queen protesting against the INDEPENDENCE BILL giving powers to foreigners’ (i.e. protectorate people) under the new constitution. Another petition in 1952 reaffirmed the Creoles’ desperate Loyalty to Britain and rejected Independence — The letter stated: The Humble Petition of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Sierra Leone under the aegis of the Sierra Leone National Council Sheweth; (1) That your Majesty’s petitioners (Creoles) are British Subjects and Descendants of the Black Poor of England, Nova Scotians, Maroons and Liberated Africans for who this Settlement was acquired in 1788,(hereafter described as The Council); (2) That The Council would humbly seize the opportunity of expressing their Loyalty, devotion and attachment to your Majesty’s person and throne; (3) That as mother of the West Africa Colonies, Sierra Leone with her invaluable Atlantic Sea-Board, and with a history whose romantic nature no other Colony could surpass, has been subjected to many vicissitudes and unfortunate official measures since the earliest days of her annals. The British Government, faced with so many claims for independence throughout the realty empire, was no doubt touched and admired by the Creoles’ desire to stay British; but history was against the petitioners (Creoles).
Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs · Edited
Dawah Sesekoker
Dawah Sesekoker Martin Morgan that is why , I posted the Photography of the SIERRA LEONE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL of 1941-2 ( which no Creole will or can’t identify) the CREOLE members ?
Like · Reply · 1 · 22 hrs
Israel Ojekeh Parper Snr
Israel Ojekeh Parper Snr
John Moses Kamara
John Moses Kamara What you need to realise my brother Martin Morgan the independent movement was gathering pace in the whole of Africa and local factors or concerns did not take precedence over the overwhelming aspirations of Africans throughout the continent for self-determination. It may well be that the British government was also moving towards a new model in its empirial reach to transform it’s colonies into independent states with the realm of the British monarchy as a first step towards total independent. We did go on to achieve republican status with our own head of state but not after a few adventures into military dictatorship and political instability. As for the Creoles, it’s important to note that not all have the same opinions on governance and politics, just like any other groups in Sierra Leone. There are many within the Creole community who were Africanists like Lamina-Sankoh or Etheldred-Jones. Some clearly wanted the protected status of British governance to retain their social and educational elite privileges with the administration and other branches of society and government. Just like in South Africa, it was never going to be sustainable. I think the notion of traditional chiefs as national leaders although was not far-fetched concept at the time, as we see that many of the early political personalities were chiefs or came from chieftaincies. But this is increasingly no longer the case as there is a separate political class with very little to do with the ruling traditional classes. I think the preference to colonial affinity and rule has dissipated over time all across Africa and the new world with indigenous people and resettled population making the best out of being independent and separately identifiable to their colonial ties.
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John Moses Kamara replied · 2 Replies
Martin Morgan
Martin Morgan Dawah Sesekoker, I was born after Independence in the mid 60s— long after independence wasn’t around for independence– I have watched the photo but don’t know the names of the Creoles. However, I can tell who are the Creoles by their looks— pretty sure
Martin Morgan
Martin Morgan Sourie Turay I said nothing about election or Creole party win or lost all seats in the 1957 election.. I stated that not everyone welcomed the 1961 Independence, the Creole representatives fought bitterly against Independence… Please read my comments carefully… Furthermore, I know the history of Lamina Sanko better– who was originally Etheldred Jones a Creole from Gloucester and he was my Granduncle who founded the SLPP.
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Martin Morgan replied · 2 Replies
Sourie Turay
Sourie Turay Martin I think it is your use of the word “representatives”. There was nothing like an organised group recognised as representing Creoles, The recognised organ like the UPP joined the Front and held cabinet positions including its leader Rogers-Wright. The SDU were not Creole reps!
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Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-kanu

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