Siaka Probyn Stevens third prime minister of Sierra Leone from 1967 to 1971
Siaka Probyn Stevens (24 August 1905 – 29 May 1988) was the third prime minister of Sierra Leone from 1967 to 1971 and the first president of Sierra Leone from 1971 to 1985. Although criticised for his dictatorial rule, Stevens is known for reducing the ethnic polarisation in the government of Sierra Leone by incorporating members of various ethnic groups into the government.
Stevens and his All People’s Congress (APC) party won the closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone general elections over the incumbent Prime Minister Sir Albert Margai of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). In April 1971, Stevens made Sierra Leone a republic and he became the first President of Sierra Leone a day after the constitution had been ratified by the Parliament of Sierra Leone.
Stevens served as Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) from 1 July 1980 to 24 June 1981, and engineered the creation of the Mano River Union, a three-country economic federation of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Stevens retired from office at the end of his term on 28 November 1985. After pressuring all other potential successors to step aside, he chose Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, as his successor.
Siaka Probyn Stevens was born on 24 August 1905 in Moyamba, Moyamba District in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone to a Limba father and a Mende mother. Although born in Moyamba, Stevens was largely raised in Freetown. Stevens completed his primary education in Freetown and completed secondary school at Albert Academy in Freetown, before joining the Sierra Leone Police Force. From 1923 to 1930, Stevens rose to the rank of First Class Sergeant and Musketry Instructor.
From 1931 to 1946, he worked on the construction of the Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO) railway, linking the Port of Pepel with the iron ore mines at Marampa. In 1943, he helped co-found the United Mine Workers Union and was appointed to the Protectorate Assembly in 1946 to represent worker interests. In 1947, Stevens studied labour relations at Ruskin College.
Stevens retired from office at the end of his term on 28 November 1985. After pressuring all other potential successors to step aside, Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh was sworn in as the new President of the Republic.
He died on 29 May 1988 in Freetown.