The main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) has clocked 60. The euphoria of its 60th anniversary would have been felt had it not been the existence of COVID-19.
Since the APC is a peaceful and law-abiding political party, it always ensures that the party stays within the confines of the laws. Its age rhymes with Sierra Leone’s development trajectory for which the party has won love, respect and admiration of Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad.
The country sits proudly and comfortably with other sovereign nations quite recently owing to its overarching desire to see Sierra Leone attains higher heights.
Assuming APC was a child born in 1960, that child would have grown today into an adult with children and grand-children and tell stories to the young.
To have a clear picture of APC today, it is imperative to look back at the party to know its origin, evolution and where it wants to be in the near future.
To realise such a noble objective, the APC Secretary-General Ambassador Foday Osman Yanssaneh narrates a brilliant history.
History Of APC
APC traced its origin to 1960 when a constitutional conference for the independence of Sierra Leone was held at Lancaster House in London, Capital of the United Kingdom.
Political parties including the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) were a united front led by Sir Milton Margai, the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone to negotiate the independence pact.
Siaka Stevens, the first executive President of Sierra Leone at that time represented the People’s National Party (PNP) with Sir Albert Margai the second Prime Minister as a key member.
During the independence talks, there was a fundamental disagreement between Siaka Stevens and Sir Albert Margai. The disagreement hinged on Siaka Stevens’ position for total independence of Sierra Leone with a policy of non-alignment.
However, Britain wanted the queen to continue as ceremonial Head of State for Sierra Leone and to maintain a base for the British Navy. Owing to the ensuing disagreement, the people of Sierra Leone saw the controversy as one that demanded an election.
Siaka Stevens returned home while Mr Yansanneh and others were in London negotiating the independence.
President Stevens was greeted with a fanfare by Sierra Leoneans, an opportunity he cleverly used to his advantage to explain the negative side of the independence.
Siaka Stevens’ public education campaign resulted into the formation in 1960 of an organisation called the Elections Before Independence Movement (EBIM) which transformed into what today known as the APC with Alhaji Muctarru Kallay as the first Chairman of the party.
Mr Kallay was deputised by Alhaji Badara Koroma and Christian Alusine Kamara Taylor as Secretary-General.
When Independence was finally declared in the country on 27th April, 1961, 31 members including leaders of the new party, APC were arrested and detained at the Country’s Central Correctional facility on Pa Demba Road in Freetown after they were accused of fomenting trouble and disorder on the Independence Day.
The political detainees were however released after the Independence Day.
By 1962, the APC was already a vibrant political party that was properly positioned to contest the elections that year.
The outcome of the 1962 elections left 16 seats with the APC and, SLPP also got 16 out of 60 seats while other political parties and independent candidates shared the remaining seats.
However, APC had strong alliance in parliament that made it a strong and reckonable force.
While in opposition in parliament, APC neither fought nor posed a threat to the country’s peace and security.
In 1966, APC went into local council elections and won majority in the North and Western Area. The party also made impressive inroads in the southern region of the country during the elections.
The 1966 victory continued to transform APC into a formidable force, and established its relevance to the new independent state.
A year later (1967), another election was held and APC emerged victor as it won majority of parliamentary seats.
Siaka Stevens was thereby declared the country’s Prime Minister by the then Governor-General, Lightfoot Boston who represented the queen of Great Britain.
The swearing-in ceremony of Siaka Stevens did not end well as the ceremony was interrupted by a coup dubbed as the first in Sierra Leone.
The Aide-De-Camp (ADC) to the Governor-General, Sam Hinga Norman placed the Governor-General and Siaka Stevens under gun-point.
The Governor-General, Siaka Stevens and the six appointed ministers of the new government were detained by Hinga Norman who acted under the instructions of head of the army, Brigadier Lansana.
As always the case with coup leaders, martial law was declared, a state of emergency proclaimed to entrench and stabilise the new Military regime with Brigadier Lansana as Head of State.
Supporters and sympathisers of APC came out in the street to show their resentment against the coupists.
The new military government responded heavy-handedly leading to the massacre of over a hundred Sierra Leoneans.
Three days later, Senior Military officers led by Blake intervened, removed Brigadier Lansana and detained him at Pa Demba Road Correctional Facility with Sir Albert Margai who he had attempted to swear in.
A new military government known as the National Reformation Council (NRC) was installed with Juxon Smith as Head of State.
After a year, non-commissioned officers led by Patrick Conteh overthrew the NRC and replaced it with the National Interim Council (NIC), headed by Brigadier Bangura.
A Commission of Inquiry that was set up by the NRC to investigate civil servants, politicians and most importantly the political turmoil established that Siaka Stevens was the true winner of the 1967 elections.
Consequently, constitutional order was restored and Siaka Stevens was invited to form a new government.
Those parliamentarians who had not won the elections through credible means were replaced through bye-elections.
Indeed, the President set up a government of reconciliation and national unity as SLPP got four ministerial posts, Independent candidates also got four and the APC got eight.
The extension of an Olive branch evidenced by the allocation of ministerial posts to the opposition marked the beginning of the Siaka Stevens regime known as the ‘New Dispensation.’
In 1971, Sierra Leone became a Republican state through a referendum and the mood was clear in the people of Sierra Leone that they were ready for a one party state to end the skirmishes that characterised the country’s politics at that time.
The one-party state ideology was started by Sir Albert Margai when he was Prime Minister between 1964 and 1967, but lacked the charisma to implement it as he was widely perceived as a ‘misguided politician.’
Another election took place in 1973, but was marred by indiscriminate and widespread violence and thuggery throughout the country.
Siaka Stevens was still at the helm after the 1973 elections.
An election that was supposed to take place in 1978 was called much earlier owing to the student riots of 1977 which nearly brought an end to the Stevens regime.
In the eastern town of Kenema, Sama Banya’s brother was shot and he too suffered the same fate.
The horrific circumstances compelled Sama Banya to write a letter to President Siaka Stevens to have a one-party state to secure the country’s peace and unity.
Mr Banya cited Guinea and Liberia with Sekou Toure and William Tubman as presidents respectively who operated one-party states, but peaceful and prosperous.
Convinced by the wise guidance of Mr Banya, President Stevens championed the cause of a one-party state in Sierra Leone through a referendum.
The outcome of the referendum indicated that the people of Sierra Leone needed one-party state at that time and it came to pass peacefully.
President Stevens reigned, and handed over power in 1985 to then head of the army, Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh in a referendum.
President Momoh did two great things for Sierra Leone as he superintended the formulation and promulgation of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone that provided for multi-party democracy and embarked on widespread economic reforms.
Momoh’s government was toppled by some army officers in April, 1992 which formed the National Provisional Ruling Council.
President Momoh had all means at his disposal to bring back his regime to power, but was not inclined to cause suffering to the people of Sierra Leone.
The APC went silent, but focused and bounced back to power in 2007 with President Ernest Bai Koroma at the helm.
President Koroma administered the country twice devoid of any major security incident and threat to human rights.
It was during President Koroma’s reign that the giant development strides for which the country is well known and respected took place.
In April, 2018 President Koroma retired from the presidency, and handed over power to his successor in a democratic transition.
President Koroma now lives the life of a former first gentleman with a number of noble international assignments.
Marked differences are clear between the APC and the SLPP administrations in post- independent Sierra Leone.
In the 1960’s, parliamentarians who were not properly elected were removed through re-run elections while the current SLPP Government swore in runners-up after a court verdict.
President Siaka Stevens extended an Olive branch to SLPP which was in opposition at that time by offering its members four ministerial posts while the current ‘PAOPA’ Government does not and will never dream of it.
In spite of the opportunity President Momoh had at that time when he was toppled, he remained silent and allowed NPRC to rule because he valued the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
SLPP, under President Ahmed Tejan Kabba hired Nigerian mercenaries to restore him to power with a lot of killings, mass arrest and detentions.
The late President made no mince of words in pronouncing that he would the rule the country even if one person remained.
No doubt, the greatest national developments that one can imagine occur during APC eras only.
Development in infrastructure, education energy, health, security sector, economy agriculture and host of many others can be ascribed to the APC.
These developments were not attained by a sudden flight or through miracle, but achieved through calculated, conscious and painstaking effort seen in the Agendas for Change and Prosperity.
Surely, APC bounces back to power in 2023 as it submit humbly to the passage of time.
A brighter future awaits all those who work towards this objective.