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Sierra Leone Celebrates 50 Years of Independence

Hector "Pa" Bultman, participated in talks with the UK that led to Sierra Leone's independence one year later.
Hector "Pa" Bultman, participated in talks with the UK that led to Sierra Leone's independence one year later.

Hector Bultman, the only surviving delegate to the constitutional talks with Great Britain, regrets slow pace of economic, political progress

Sierra Leone’s demand for independence was sealed at the Lancaster House talks between April and May of 1960 in the United Kingdom. Out of the 26 delegates who attended, there is now only one survivor, 84-year-old Hector Sylvanus Bultman.

Recalling the country's first Independence day a half century ago, Bultman said "I was delighted. We were on the recreation [now national stadium] grounds, where there were mounted two flag posts: one for the union jack. That flag was up til midnight. [The other was for] our green,white and blue flag, which was [lowered], unfolded."

"When it neared midnight," he continued, "the two flags started to change positions: the union jack was coming down slowing, and our flag was going up. At dead midnight, our flag touched the flag post at the top, and we all shouted “yeaaaaaahhhhh.” There was grand applause, the drums sounded, and our national anthem played for the first time."

Ready or not

Bultman recalled that there was opposition among some for the demand for independence. He said those who thought so were not forward thinking.

"There are many people [lately] who have been asking if we thought we were ripe for independence. I said only an un progressive man would come up with such a question," he said.

Sierra Leone Celebrates 50 Years of Independence
Sierra Leone Celebrates 50 Years of Independence

" At that time, Sierra Leone had lived under the British for 150 years. If after that time, people still felt we were still not ripe for independence, I wonder when we would have been ready ? Sierra Leone was head of Nigeria [in terms of academics], but Nigeria had it’s independence; Ghana had its independence; why was Sierra Leone still immature ? In my opinion, I thought we were overripe."

The veteran politician says 50 years on, he is not happy with the progress made by the country.

Rich in resources

"I am a bit disappointed that we did not make the progress expected of us up to this point, "he said. "We should have gone farther than we are now; we should have gone ahead like Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries. But our affairs of state were not well managed, particularly when it comes to our natural resources."

"Our colonial secretary [at the time] said he had no doubt Sierra Leone would have any problems with its economy in view of our natural resources," Bultman continued. "If those resources were well managed, we should have been farther along than we are now."

Meanwhile the 50 year golden jubilee celebrations was being enjoyed by Sierra Leoneans across the county. African American movie actor Isaiah Washington who gained his dual citizenship a year ago said he was having the time of his life

"Its hard to explain how excited I feel," he said. "[I'm] happy to be a part of this."

In his speech celebrating the 50 years of independence, President Koroma promised that Sierra Leone will rise again. He proclaimed that in the next 25 years Sierra Leone will become a donor nation.