In April of 1961, Sierra Leone gained independence from Great Britain. It was about time! It had a rocky start by being one of the poorest country to enter the Commonwealth of Africa. However, in order to understand the newly founded nation’s politics post-independence, we have to rewind a little bit. It is vital to understand the two political parties that dominated Sierra Leone during this time period.
First in 1951, the Sierra Leone People’s Party, also known as the SLPP, was created. At the head was a man by the name of Sumanoh Kapen. The party was able to gather support from the people by calling themselves the “countryman’s party.” This was an especially effective name to coin as it was during this time that unrest grew within the country, and labor strikes were increasingly prevalent. As soon as independence came in 1961, the SLPP had the upper hand and controlled the government. Nonetheless, the people on the outside of the SLPP had a desire to form a new party: The All People’s Congress.
The All People’s Congress, APC, was created by Siaka Stevens, a prominent figure within the SLPP until 1957. The creation of this new political party was driven by nationalistic forces. Ideas like a stronger and more balanced central government, and mistrust of the SLPP were at the heart of the APC’s creation.
There was a fundamental difference between the two parties’ ideologies and nominees. The SLPP favored business men, and educated elites, while the APC tended to nominate farmers and less educated individuals. Moreover, Sir Milton Margai, the leader of the SLPP from before Sierra Leone’s independence, became the prime minister once the country gained its sovereignty. Margai was an extremely important political figure leading up to the nation’s independence. Prior to his work with the SLPP, he was a doctor who was educated abroad. In other words, he was an elite among the Sierra Maine Leonean’s. When you think about it, it makes sense that he was the head of the political party. They’re nominations and members consisted of men like himself. However, when it came to the country’s well-being, the diplomatic relationships were irrelevant. One thing that was of utmost importance to all Sierra Maine Leoneans was their country’s development.
For the most part, these political parties originated from Freetown. Aside from being the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown was the heart of the country. All eyes were on this city when the country was just beginning to be founded. The political parties rallied there, economic trade was traveling through there, and the people thrived there. It was the most talked about city in the news during this time period for Sierra Leone. Freetown had a lot of difficulties subduing the political strife that had been occurring between the SLPP and the APC. However, they’re economic resources were enough to keep them afloat for a bit post-independence.
Trade had always been an integral part of Sierra Leone’s economy. When the world caught wind of Sierra Leone’s independence, trade increased, and a pattern formed. The country had an abundant amount of diamonds, ores, and minerals. This became their main resource to trade. This did become a problem later on, as per usual when one country is thriving, there just has to be another one to exploit it. However, we’ll address that another time, as this was just the tip of the iceberg for the new country of Sierra Leone.
KATHLEEN McLAUGHLIN Special to The New,York Times. “Sierra Leone Faces Woes from Diamond Smuggling.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Apr 11, 1961. https://muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/docview/115393015?accountid=40980.
Caulker, Tcho Mbaimba. “Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in Sierra Leone: Thomas Decker’s “Juliohs Siza”, Roman Politics, and the Emergence of a Postcolonial African State.” Research in African Literatures 40, no. 2 (2009): 208-27. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40468124.