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Sir Albert Margai

Sir Albert Margai




Sir Albert Michael Margai was a prominent political figure in Sierra Leone, serving as the country's second prime minister. He was born on October 10, 1910, in Gbangbatoke, Banta Chiefdom, now part of the Moyamba District, Freetown. His upbringing was influenced by his stepfather, M. E. S. Margai, a wealthy trader from Bonthe, who gave him the family name. Albert Margai received his education at St. Edward's Primary and Secondary Schools, both Roman Catholic institutions. His initial career was as a registered nurse from 1931 to 1944, after which he traveled to England to study law at the Inner Temple Inns of Court, qualifying in 1948. He returned to Sierra Leone to practice law privately in Freetown.

Margai entered politics and was elected as the first Protectorate Member to the Legislative Council in 1951. He later became a Cabinet Minister and the first Minister of Education in Sierra Leone. His political journey continued as he held various government positions in Education, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Finance, especially under the administration of his brother, Sir Milton Margai, who was the country's first prime minister.

In the lead-up to Sierra Leone's independence, Margai was a founding member of the Sierra Leone National Party, aiming to guide the country through its transition to independence. However, his political alliances shifted, and he took leadership of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) in 1957. Later, he formed the People's National Party with Siaka Stevens, though their relationship was marked by disagreements over the role of traditional chiefs in politics.

After independence in 1961, Margai served as Minister of Finance and introduced the leone as Sierra Leone's new currency, founded the Bank of Sierra Leone as the national central bank, and was made Prime Minister on April 29, 1964. His tenure was controversial due to his inclination toward extravagant pageantry, accusations of corruption, and attempts to favor the Mende tribe. His efforts to convert Sierra Leone into a one-party state and his involvement in the 1967 elections were also met with criticism and conflict.

Margai's time in power ended in 1967 when his opponent Siaka Stevens won the parliamentary majority. Margai's friend Brigadier David Lansana intervened, resulting in a coup. This led to a counter-coup in April 1968, which restored Siaka Stevens as Prime Minister. After his political career, Margai voiced concerns about the Stevens government's approach to economic disparity and the potential for social upheaval.

Sir Albert Margai passed away on December 18, 1980, leaving behind his son, politician Charles Margai. His legacy remains a complex mix of achievements and controversies, reflecting his significant impact on Sierra Leone's political landscape.


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