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Siaka Probyn Stevens (24 August 1905 – 29 May 1988) was the 3rd prime minister of Sierra Leone from 1967–1971 and the 1st president of Sierra Leone from 1971–1985. Stevens is generally criticised for dictatorial methods of government in which many of his political opponents were executed; but on a positive note, he reduced the ethnic polarisation in the government of Sierra Leone by incorporating members of various ethnic groups into his all-dominating APC.

Stevens was born on August 24, 1905 in Moyambamarker, Moyamba Districtmarker in the Southern Provincemarker of Sierra Leone to parents from the Limba ethnic group. He completed secondary school at the famous Albert Academy in Freetownmarker, the same secondary school Sierra Leone's first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai attended. He attended Ruskin College in Oxfordmarker, Englandmarker where he studied Trade Unionism. Stevens jointed the Sierra Leone Police Force From 1923 to 1930. He rose to the rank of First Class Sergeant.

Stevens and his All People's Congress (APC) party won the closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone general elections over the incumbent Prime Minister Sir Albert Margai of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP). In April 1971, Stevens introduced a Republic form of Government and he became the first President of Sierra Leone a day after the constitution had been ratified by Parliament.

Stevens served as Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) from 1 July] 1980 to 24 June 1981, and engineered the creation of the Mano River Union, a three country economic federation of Sierra Leone, Liberiamarker and Guineamarker.

Stevens retired from office at the end of his term on 28 November 1985. After pressuring all other potential successors to step aside, he chose Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces as his successor.

Early life

Siaka Probyn Stevens was born on August 24, 1905 in Moyambamarker, Moyamba Districtmarker in the Southern Provincemarker of Sierra Leone, to Limba parents. Although born in Moyamba, Stevens was largely raised in Freetownmarker. Stevens completed his primary education in Freetown and completed secondary school at Albert Academy in Freetown, before joining the Sierra Leone Police Force. From 1923 to 1930, Stevens 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 Pepelmarker with the iron ore mines at Marampamarker. In 1943, he helped co-found the United Mine Workers Union and was appointed to the Protectorate Assembly in 1946 to represent worker interests. In 1947, Stevens studied labor relations at Ruskin College.

Political career

In 1951, Stevens co-founded the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and was elected to the Legislative Council. A year later, he became Sierra Leone's first Minister of Mines, Lands, and Labor. In 1957, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a member for Port Lokomarker constituency, but lost his seat as a result of an election petition.

After disagreements with the SLPP leadership, Stevens broke ties with the party and founded the People's National Party (PNP), of which he was the first secretary-general and deputy leader. In 1959, he participated in independence talks in Londonmarker. When the talks concluded, however, he was the only delegate who refused to sign the agreement on the grounds that there had been a secret defense pact between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdommarker. Another point of contention was the Sierra Leonean government's position that there would be no elections held before independence, which would effectively shut him out of the political process. He was promptly expelled from the PNP upon his return from the talks. Stevens then launched the Elections Before Independence Movement (EBIM), which was later transformed into the All People's Congress (APC).

After successfully exploiting the disenchantment of northern and eastern ethnic groups with the SLPP, along with the creation of an alliance with the Sierra Leone Progressive Independence Movement (SLPIM), the APC became the main opposition party following elections held in 1962. Stevens was later elected mayor of Freetown.

Interrupted Premiership

In elections held on 17 May 1967, the APC won by an extremely narrow margin, and Stevens was appointed Prime Minister, but he was arrested only days after taking office during a military coup.

After a brief period of military rule, Stevens reassumed the post of Prime Minister on 26 April 1968. In April 1971, a republican constitution was introduced. He became President of the Republic a day after the constitution was ratified by the House of Representatives.

The Stevens Presidency

In 1973, the first elections under the new constitution were held. The polls were marred by violence and were boycotted by the SLPP, which gave the APC all 85 seats in the House of Representatives. In March 1976 Stevens was re-elected President unopposed by the House. Stevens's vice-president from 1971 until leaving office in 1985 was Sorie Ibrahim Koroma.

Throughout the remainder of the 1970s, Stevens continued to consolidate his power, which culminated in a 1978 referendum on a new constitution that would create a single-party state. On 12 June, 97.1% of voters were reported to have voted for the new one-party constitution, but observers agreed that the elections had been manipulated by the government. High percentages in favor of the one-party state were reported, even in areas where the opposition SLPP Party was clearly dominant. Following the election, all opposition members of the House of Representatives were required to join Stevens's APC or lose their seats. Two years after being re-elected for a five-year term, Stevens was sworn in for an additional term of seven years, having by then adopted the title of "Dr."

President Stevens served as Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) from 1 July 1980 to 24 June 1981, and engineered the creation of the Mano River Union, a three country economic federation of Sierra Leone, Liberiamarker and Guineamarker. He was criticized by some as running a corrupt government that was incapable of improving the economy, and he thwarted several coup and assassination attempts.

Siaka Stevens is often considered among the most egregious of the murderous leaders in West Africa’s sub-Saharan region. He ended the lives and careers of some of his closest associates by sending them to the gallows on lies and trumped-up charges.

The list of prominent Sierra Leoneans who Siaka Stevens destroyed is lengthy, and the impact of their destruction, lasting. Among his close associates sent to the gallows were John Amadu Bangura, who had once plucked Stevens from political oblivion when the army obliterated civilian politics after the 1967 Huha elections; at that time, Stevens had been down and out, living in exile in Conakry, Guinea, with his main remaining option, a planned assault on the sovereignty of Sierra Leone and her citizens. Bangura was to be the ring leader, but the plan never materialized because of a coup headed by Bangura. Bangura, in turn, handed over power to Siaka Stevens as prime minister (Kpana:2005).

Another prominent Sierre Leonean murdered during Siaka Steven's rule was Dr Mohamed Forna. He was hanged along with 14 other people in 1974 after trumped up charges of treason. Dr Forna was the popular finance minister when Steven's came to power. He had fallen out of favor after protesting about rampant corruption.


Stevens retired from office at the end of his term on 28 November 1985. After pressuring all other potential successors to step aside, Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh was sworn in as the new President of the Republic.

He died on 29 May 1988 in Freetown.

Siaka Stevens, Aside from being PM and President of Sierra Leone, single handedly destroyed Sierra Leone, because of his intense corruption and greed. He dismantled every institution of government that he thought could oppose him. He had no political motivations whatsoever, all he wanted was money. He first got rid of the Military, by removing all competent commanders and replacing them with people loyal to him and his ethic tribe the Limbas. He also decreed that the military would be given one bullet a year to practice with, which led the civilians to shout mockingly at them "One Bullet!!" He used every member of his cabinet as a personal stealing machine. The Sierra Leones refer to Stevens reign as the "17 Year plague of Locusts" because he figuratively ate everything he possibly could with the goal of personal gain. The only reason he stepped down from his presidency was because of the intense opposition to him in 1985, and he thought he could install a puppet president and run things from the background, but eventually his follower Mohmoh was free of him, when he died in 1988. Momoh was not much better, seeing how as he was an incompetent fool, who was a drunkard and womanizer. Many people wonder how Stevens was able to stay in power so long, but it was his political shrewdness and keen ability to sense human weakness that made him irresitable to people along with his wit and charm. But despite his personal charm, he was just a thief on a massive scale. His government became known as a kleptocracy literally a "Government of Thieves" He is one of the main reasons Sierra Leone descended into chaos in 1991 and only emerged 9 bloody years later.


Reno, William. Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1995.

Stevens, Siaka Probyn. What Life Has Taught Me (London: Kensal Press), 1984.

Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Siaka Probyn Stevens,” Encyclopedia of Modern Dictators, ed. by Frank J. Coppa (New York: Peter Lang), 2006, pp. 292-295.

Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Siaka Probyn Stevens: Reflection on a Sierra Leonean Leader,” Awoko (Freetown, Sierra Leone), 25 August 2003, p. 5.

Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Reflection on African Leadership: Siaka Probyn Stevens,” Daily Observer (Banjul, The Gambia), 29 August 2003, p. 6.

Kpana, Kaslow. (2005)Oral Traditions and Political History in Sierra Leone, Masakia:Bandala Press

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