April 28, 2018 Editor’s note:
Sierra Leone celebrated 55 years of independence from Britain on Wednesday, 27 April. We reproduce the maiden independence speech by first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai, delivered on Thursday, 27 April, 1961
Men, women and children of Sierra Leone, I greet you all on this historic day, and I rejoice with you.
Sierra Leone today becomes a unified and independent nation to take her place as an equal partner in the Commonwealth of nations and as equal entity in the world at large. For this we rejoice, and may your own rejoicing wherever you are be really full of happiness.
We must also face up squarely to the problems which will confront us, and I want you all to understand clearly that the Sierra Leone Government in future will depend very greatly upon the active support and assistance of each one of you. The aim will certainly be to make our country a land worth living in, a land worth serving; but this can only be done by wholehearted service and hard work now. I have told you this before, and I call upon you to give the Government your active help and support.
I ask you to deal fairly and honestly with your fellow men, to discourage lawlessness, and to strive actively for peace, friendship and unity in our country.
We have much to do to bring improvements to all parts of our country. I am fully aware of this and I assure you all that my Government is determined that general progress shall be made as fast as possible.
But there is also much that can be done by yourselves to meet your own needs, and I shall continue to support and encourage voluntary local support, whether it is directed to the building of a road, a bridge, a school, or a community centre, a sports field, a water supply, or any other communal requirement.
I would like to make it clear that independence will not result in any sudden changes in our day-to-day life. Whether you are a farmer, a clerk, a trader, an artisan, a daily wage worker, a fisherman, a lawyer or a judge, life will go on just the same, with the same rights and privileges safeguarded, the same type of laws, the same justice in our courts, the same taxes and other responsibilities, the same articles for sale in the stores. Mining companies, missions, trade unions, hospitals, schools, and government departments will go on as before.
The significant change is that we are now in complete control of our destiny and for the formulation of our external as well as our internal policies. I wish you all to be assured that we in Sierra Leone will stand for the freedom and prosperity of men everywhere.
Sierra Leone is proud to be a member of the Commonwealth because this great family of nations has exactly the same aims. We believe in the dignity of men and the sovereignty of states, and we will oppose to the limit of our power any movement of aggression which may conflict with these ideals.
This is the time when all you men and women should strive to know what is being done, what your responsibilities are and what the responsibilities of your country are. The Government Information Service is working hard to help you to do so, and I and my Ministers will continue to come round and talk with you, but you must want to know, and you must bring others with you to listen to the authoritative words of Government, and you must pass the true word to those who cannot attend.
As I have said before, Paramount Chiefs, Section Chiefs, Tribal Headmen, and Tribal Authority Members all have a great responsibility to do this, and I expect them all to do what is required of them.
Exactly the same applies to Town Councillors and more particularly to District Councillors. It is not enough to attend your Council meetings, and then go home to sit in your hammocks. Many of our people are thirsting for knowledge of what your Council and the Government are doing.
All your elected people must tell your constituents the true word and bring their questions and desires back to your Councils so that they may be answered.
I look forward to a long period of mutual cooperation and understanding between the Sierra Leone Government and the Sierra Leone Council of Labour.
Over the past years we have supported and encouraged the growth of trade unions in our country because these are accepted as the best means of ensuring good relations between the employers and employees, and of securing the rights and deserts of trade union members.
Much of what I have said before in this message applies with great force to trade unions.
The Sierra Leone Government in the years to come will depend upon your cooperation and active assistance. You have an especial responsibility to maintain the high standards you have set in past years, to stand by the rules of procedure in the case of disputes, and to avoid conflicts which may be detrimental to the good of your country.And to those of you who are studying at school or college I say: You are seeing history made this day. Work hard, for you are the future leaders of your country. We will lay traditions of which you will be proud. It will be for you to uphold them and to build upon them in the future.
I pray for God’s help and guidance on this historic day and in the years to come, and for His blessings on you all.