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All People's Congress (APC) Political Rally in Kabala, Sierra Leone (West Africa) 1968

Red is the colour of the All People's Congress (A.P.C); they were demonstrating in front of houses belonging to people who supported the rival Sierra Leone People's Party (S.L.P.P.). Photo taken in April, 1968. The celebration was on the occasion of return to civilian rule under the A.P.C. leader, Siaka Stevens and the end of military rule under Andrew T. Juxon-Smith.

 

Following is part of a letter that I wrote that day from Kabala (where I was living at the time) which gives a bit of the flavour of the times:

 

As you have doubtless heard, there has been a little excitement in Sierra Leone recently. I arrived in Freetown the day before the excitement began to have my car fixed (something went wrong with the starter) and was down there for a week although I had planned to stay only three days. I was at the F. B. C. [Fourah Bay College] guest flats when some friends came in the first evening and said that some soldiers had come into the Tropicana (a new nightclub in Freetown) and yelled "down with Juxon-Smith" and "Juxon-Smith is no more." The Tropicana was closed and everyone sent home. There was considerable noise that night and a couple of nights afterward because of sirens and gunshots. Every once in a while I heard a bullet ricocheting nearby, but I think these were just stray bullets from town. Most of the noise was due to soldiers firing into the air in celebration, but right after I left Brewo Motors a couple of days later, a house nearby was filled full of lead [i.e. obviously damaged by gunfire].

During the first day, they announced on the radio that the military junta had been overthrown by the warrant officers and other ranks of the army and that Juxon-Smith and most of the other officers had been thrown in jail. The new movement was called the A.C.R.M. (Anti-corruption Revolutionary Movement) .... [T]he leader of the new movement was warrant officer Patrick Conteh. They also announced on the radio that policemen and soldiers had no place in the government and that a return to civilian rule would be made in the shortest possible time. Then they had Col. Bangura come in from Guinée to head the N. I. C. (National Interim Council), whose major aim was to hand over government to civilian control as soon as possible.

There have been a few interesting things occurring: the first day at F. B.C., some soldiers with guns came up and told us that it would be a good idea if we stayed up on the campus.... The soldiers also got Harry Sawyerr out of the bathtub and got him to come down and tell all the students that everything is going well and to stay calm. Two days after the takeover, some V. S. O. people were going back up-country and got all their tires shot off at a roadblock that they failed to slow down in time for. When I went back up-country, I was stopped at the Port Loko junction by one soldier standing in the road waving a rifle and another on the side pointing at one of my tires. I gave them a ride to Lunsar: one thing for sure, they certainly are very polite and friendly (although their method of securing transportation is a little unnerving).

I had little idea that people in Sierra Leone other than in the Western Region and a couple of the largest towns would have any interest in politics; was I ever wrong: I have seen celebrations in my life, but never have I seen one that compares the one staged in Kabala last night (it is still going strong) on the occasion of the swearing in of Siaka Stevens as prime minister. They have many chants eulogizing S. S. and the A.P.C., but the one I like best goes, "A.P.C., no de lie, no de tief."

There are soldiers aplenty filtering back into the country now. They are part of a five THOUSAND man army that was with S. S. in Guinea ready to come and take over if J.-S. or somebody didn't hand over the government to civilian rule soon. People here are a little more serious about their government than many thought.

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Taken sometime in 1968