After more than 150 years of British colonial rule, Sierra Leone won its independence on the 27th April 1961. At the stroke of midnight, Sierra Leone’s green, white and blue flag was displayed for all to see and the new government, led by Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai, was welcomed.
Now almost 50 years later the celebrations have begun once again. A month ago the first signs of a pending 50th Anniversary Celebration appeared in downtown Freetown. Now the city is filled with decorations: from green, white and blue bunting to flags waving in the breeze, from bracelets and other jewelry in the national colors to banners wishing Sierra Leone a happy anniversary. And since a few days the actual celebrations have begun.
On Wednesday the entire republic of Sierra Leone will celebrate 50 years of independence and because of this, I believe most, if not all, of next week has been declared a public holiday. Everyone is celebrating. There are celebrations on Lumley beach every night this week, masquerade parade through town, a lantern parade, football matches, fireworks, etc. I’m sure there will be enough to do, he trick will be avoiding crazy crowds and dodging traffic.
One thing I have been wondering is what Sierra Leone was like 50 years ago. Was it in a better state at that time? I’d love to travel back in time and see what the streets of Freetown looked like in 1961. To sit in a school and experience the education at the time, to go to the Children’s Hospital and see what the health care was like. As you know, an 11-year long war destroyed much of the country and the country is still struggling to recover. Yes, there has been progress and hopefully that will continue. However, it seems as if there is still a very dependent culture; a dependence on non-governmental agencies and other foreign aid. My hope is that the 50-year celebrations will inspire Saloneans to stand up and change their nation. I want them to feel empowered and realize that they can make the difference. Hopefully the national pride displayed this week will transform into a strong will for individuals to make this country a better place.