Siaka Stevens was born on August 24, 1905 at Moyamba in what is now the Southern Province. He was educated at Albert Academy and much later at Ruskin College, Oxford, where he studied Trade Unionism. On leaving school,
Stevens joined the Sierra Leone Police Force and rose to the rank of First Class Sergeant and Musketry Instructor. From 1931 to 1946, he worked on the construction of the Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO) railway, linking the Port of Pepel with the iron ore mines at Marampa. He later became station master and stenographer at Marampa. A co-founder of the United Mine Workers Union, he was appointed to the Protectorate Assembly in 1946 to represent the interests of workers. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1951 as the second protectorate member. He was appointed in 1952 as Sierra Leone’s first Minister of Mines, Lands and Labour. In 1957, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a member for the Port Loko East Constituency, but lost his seat as
as a result of an election petition. He later fell out with the leadership of the ruling S.L.P.P. and broke away to help found the People’s National Party, of which he became the first Secretary-General and Deputy Leader. When the United National Front (U.N.F.) government was formed in 1959, Siaka Stevens was not included in the cabinet since he had earlier lost his seat due to an election petition against him. He did, however, participate in the Independence Talks in London as the Deputy Leader of the P.N.P., which had then become part of the U.N.F. At the conclusion of the talks, however, Siaka Stevens was the only delegate who refused to sign the Independence Agreement on the grounds that there had been a secret defence pact between Sierra Leone and Britain. The U.N.F. position that there would be no elections before independence may have been the main reason for Siaka’s refusal to sign, since this position would have effectively shut him out of the political process. Siaka was promptly expelled from the party on his return from Britain, but less than a month after his expulsion, he launched his Elections Before Independence Movement (EBIM), which was later to be transformed into the A.P.C. Siaka Stevens successfully exploited the disenchantment of northern and eastern ethnic groups with the S.L.P.P. to forge the A.P.C. with such northern leaders as S.I. Koroma, C.A. Kamara-Taylor, M.O. Bash-Taqui, S.A.T. Koroma, and S.A. Fofana, and to forge an alliance with the prominent Kono political leader, PC T.S. M’briwa, and his Sierra Leone Independence Movement (S.L.I.M.) In the 1962 general elections, Stevens’ A.P.C. became the main opposition party, winning sixteen seats, while Stevens himself was returned to parliament as a member for Freetown West II. He served the municipality as mayor in the same year. His party won the 1967 general elections, with Stevens retaining his seat in the Freetown West II constituency. He was appointed Prime Minister, but was detained by the military and denied the Presidency until the overthrow of the military government of the National Reformation Council (N.R.C.) in 1968, when he was reappointed Prime Minister. In April 1971, he introduced a Republican Constitution and became President of the Republic a day after the constitution had been ratified by parliament. The first general elections under the Republican Constitution were held in 1973, but the elections were marked by so much violence that the opposition S.L.P.P. withdrew. The year 1978 saw the introduction of a one-party constitution, and this marked the end of opposition parties in Sierra Leone. Siaka Stevens survived two attempted coups d’etat and met violence with violence. However, as he succeeded in consolidating power in his hands, violence and political tensions gradually subsided. Siaka Stevens sought to open the ranks of the party to all sectors of the community and to maintain a rough balance between ethnic groups, academics, clerics, businessmen, and traditional rulers. His later years in office saw the gradual moulding of diverse groups into a unified nation, the progressive lessening of cultural and regional tensions, and the creation of a more homogeneous political community. The overall impact of these developments was to provide relative stability and gradual acceptance by all Sierra Leoneans of the authority of the A.P.C. government. It was little wonder, therefore, that there was no hitch when the time came for Siaka Stevens to pass on the mantle of leadership to a younger man. He will long be remembered for his wise sayings, and it could be said that he heard “Sh Sh…” and, being the wise chicken he always has been, got out of the way before a stone hit him on the head. Doctor Stevens died on May 28th, 1988 in Freetown.
Popular known as “C.A.,” the late Christian Alusine Kamara-Taylor was born on June 3rd, 1917 at Kafanta, Tonko Limba Chiefdom, in what is now Kambia District. A political activist, educator and trade unionist, he contributed much to the political and socio-economic development of Sierra Leone. He was educated at a local primary school, the Methodist Boys’ High School and the London School of Accountancy, where he obtained a diploma in Business Methods. He returned home and gained employment as a clerk for the Sierra Leone Development Company.
He later joined the Sierra Leone Regiment, rising to the position of sergeant. He saw service in Burma during World War II, but left the army after the war. He then joined the United African Company, and became public relations officer and secretary to the general manager. Mr. Kamara-Taylor became active in local politics and was a foundation member of the A.P.C. He served as the first secretary-general of the party, a position he handled admirably for over fifteen years. He entered parliament in 1957.
He contested the 1962 elections, and was elected M.P. for Kambia East Constituency. He retained his seat in the 1967 general elections and, after the return to civilian rule in 1968, was appointed Minister of Lands, Mines and Labour. Following a cabinet reshuffle in 1971, he was appointed Minister of Finance.
He became Prime Minister and Minister of Interior in 1975. After the introduction of a one party constitution in 1978, Mr. C.A. Kamara-Taylor became Second Vice-President, and held that post until his death in 1985. As a politician, he tried to foster integration among the various ethnic groups. Many will recall his selflessness when, at a crucial point during opposition days, he volunteered to answer to charges preferred against Siaka Stevens. The conviction and possible imprisonment, of Siaka Stevens then could have spelt the end of the A.P.C. The solemn state funeral that was accorded him at his death was a fitting tribute to the contribution he made to the development of Sierra Leone.
Paramount Chief Tamba Songu M’briwa was born at Jagbwema, Fiama Chiefdom, in what became Kono District, the Eastern Province of SierraLeone. He was an active politician who formed one of the Sierra Leone’s few political parties before independence. He was educated at a local primary school before proceeding to the Bo Government School. He worked as a government dispenser before he became paramount chief.
As a paramount chief in the colonial era, Tamba Songu M’briwa did much to improve the lot of his people. He established schools in his chiefdom and was generally devoted to the education of the young. As a politician, he formed the Sierra Leone People’s Independence Movement (S.L.P.I.M.) later renamed the Kono People’s Union (K.P.U.) As leader of his party he tried to inculcate a sense of responsibility in his followers, and did his best to educate the Kono people on their political rights.
His party became so popular and famous in the Kono District that the S.L.P.P., a rival political party, never won a single seat in local government elections in the Kono District during the existence of the K.P.U.He was a fearless leader who was highly respected for his selflessness, which won him the admiration of many positive-thinking Sierra Leoneans. Convinced of the need for unity, he did much in the way of bringing together the various and varied ethnic groups in cosmopolitan Kono into his political party.
He remained a popular politician and a prominent paramount chief until he fell out with Sir Milton Margai. He was subsequently suspended from office and banished to Kamakwie in the Bombali District, Northern Province. He was eventually reinstated and later joined forces with the A.P.C., assisting in the victory of the A.P.C. over the S.L.P.P. in the 1967 general elections. T.S. M’briwa, the fiery Kono leader, died in 1968, a few days after winning the by-elections as Paramount Chief Member for Kono District in the Sierra Leone Parliament.
Sorie Ibrahim Koroma was born in Port Loko, Maforki Chiefdom, Port Loko District, in 1930. On of Sierra Leone’s most vibrant political figures, S.I. Koroma was also involved in the labour movement of the 1950s. He blazed the trail for the implementation of the self-help idea which was an important aspect of rural development during the 1970s.
Educated at the Government Model School, Freetown, and at the Bo Government School, Mr. Koroma worked in the co-operative department from 1951 to 1958 and took a course during that time at the Co-operative College, Ibadan, Nigeria. In 1958, he resigned from government and went into private business while also becoming the first secretary-general of the Sierra Leone Motor Transport Union. He was one of the founder members of the A.P.C., formed in 1960, and became the party’s first National Propaganda and Organising Secretary.
In this role, Mr. Koroma did his best to educate the people about their political rights, and won astounding success in bringing the A.P.C. to the people and increasing the popularity of the party. In 1962, S.I. Koroma was elected to parliament as M.P. for Freetown Central I Constituency. In 1967, he was returned to parliament for the same constituency. Following the return to civilian rule in 1968, he became Minister of Trade and Industry in Siaka Stevens’ first cabinet. In a cabinet reshuffle in 1969, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture and National Resources.
On the attainment of republican status in 1971, S.I. Koroma became Vice-President and Prime Minister, and in another cabinet reshuffle in 1975 he was made Vice-President and Minister of Finance. Following the 1978 one party referendum, he was appointed First Vice-President, a position he held until his retirement from politics in 1986. Popularly known as “S.I.,” Mr. Koroma epitomised the hard-working, disciplined and relentless leader who was willing to lead his forces against any foe. He led the A.P.C. in many skirmishes during the early days then the party had to fight for its very survival.
As the second-in-command in the party hierarchy, many people believe that his faithfulness and his untiring dedication to the defence of the A.P.C. at all costs sustained the party up to his retirement.For this relentless defence, he earned himself many enemies.
Mr. Koroma was for a long time the number two man of the party, but bowed out of the race for succession to Siaka Stevens when it became clear that Major-General Momoh had the support of the rank and file of the party as well as of the general populace.
Mr. Koroma continues to be a high-ranking member of the ruling A.P.C. party, but has retired from government to devote his time and attention to the management of his oil palm plantation near his home town of Port Loko.