Calabash_Issue 9 African Calabash Issue 2 - Page 6

ABriefHistory S ierra Leone gained its independence from the British in 1961 who had colonised it since 1808. It is a known fact that the British had been in this small country in the West coast of Africa long before that date, trading in slaves. Route recently retraced by the Amistad In 1787, a small portion of land was bought where freed slaves were settled. The settlement was named the Province of Freedom, which later became Freetown. This arrangement though, was fraught with many problems and difficulties. Calabash Magazine will treat this at much greater depth in subsequent issues. For now we are limiting ourselves to a brief recap of the country’s march towards forty-seven years of national autonomy. Sierra Leone’s first constitution was drawn up in 1863. This provided for the establishment of the Executive and Legislative Council to replace the Governor’s Advisory Council. The Executive Council was made up of the Governor, the Attorney General as the Queen’s Advocate, the Colonial Secretary and the Officer Commanding the troops. The Legislative Council (LEGCO) consisted of all the members nominated known as the official, and those appointed by the Governor as the unofficial members. This Constitution effectively conferred excessive powers on the Governor. But various groups such as the Ratepayers Association, 6 Lite Civil Service, the Aborigins Rights Protection Society, the Sierra Leone Bar Association backed by a number of vibrant Newspapers like the African Reporter, the Sierra Leone Weekly News, the Artisan and the Sierra Leone Times, were very effective and became a sort of constitutional platform for the aggrieved people. The 1924 Constitution, a broadbased constitution promulgated by Governor Slater, revoked the 1863 version. This constitution enlarged the new Legislative Council to twelve official and ten unofficial members, comprising two European representatives, three elected and two nominated Colony representatives, two paramount chiefs each from the three provinces appointed by the Governor. The Executive Council remained as the official body with the Governor as President of both Councils. This was the constitution that paved the way for Sierra Leone’s Independence fortyseven years ago. There was strong opposition from people in the Colony and the then Protectorate. After a long protracted struggle, the then Governor, Sir George Beresford Stooke, came up with a revised constitution in 1961. This constitution was followed by a general election which was won by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). The following became the first people to be appointed Ministers of Government: Dr Milton Strieby Margai, Minister of Health, Agriculture and Forestry; his younger brother,Albert M. Margai, became Minister of Local Government, Education and Welfare; Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha was handed the Works and Transport portfolio, A.G. Randle Trade and Commerce, Post and Telegraph; and Siaka Probyn Stevens Lands, Mines and Labour.