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Sir Milton Margai

Sir Milton Margai




Sir Milton Augustus Strieby Margai was a distinguished Sierra Leonean physician and politician who played a key role in the nation's path to independence. Born on December 7, 1895, in Gbangbatoke, Moyamba District, he was the eldest of eighteen children in a Mende family. His father, M.E.S. Margai, was a wealthy trader, and his grandfather was a Mende warrior chief. Margai's education began at the Evangelical United Brethren School in Bonthe, followed by the Albert Academy in Freetown.

After earning a bachelor's degree in history from Fourah Bay College in 1921, Margai pursued medical studies in England, graduating as a medical doctor from Durham University College of Medicine in 1926. He also attended the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, becoming the first medical doctor from the protectorate of Sierra Leone. His musical talents extended to playing the piano, violin, and organ.

Upon returning to Sierra Leone in 1928, Margai embarked on an exceptional career in the Colonial Medical Service, serving in 11 out of 12 districts in the protectorate. He focused on social welfare and hygiene campaigns, training health care workers to educate female community leaders in the Mende women's religion, the Sande. His efforts in this area included the introduction of health and hygiene training into puberty initiation ceremonies, training midwives, and authoring a midwifery manual in the Mende language.

Margai's political career began in the 1930s when he represented the Bonthe region in the Protectorate assembly. By 1950, he was leading the Sierra Leone Organization Society and in 1951, he founded the nationalist Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) with Siaka Stevens, which won the 1951 election. Margai became chief minister in 1954 and later prime minister from 1961 until his death in 1964. He played a pivotal role in the drafting of the new constitution that paved the way for Sierra Leone's independence from the United Kingdom on April 27, 1961.

As prime minister, Margai focused on modernizing the nation, particularly in education, health, and agriculture. He promoted cooperation with local councils, while maintaining ultimate accountability to the central government. Margai's approach to governance was marked by his moderate style, friendly demeanor, and political savvy. He sought to unite Sierra Leone's ethnic groups and establish a strong national identity. Despite his success in gaining widespread support and respect, he faced challenges such as handling illegal immigration issues and managing opposition parties.

Sir Milton Margai's contributions to Sierra Leone include the founding of institutions such as the Sir Milton Margai School for the Blind and the Milton Margai College of Education and Technology. He was a signatory of the agreement to convene a convention for drafting a world constitution, leading to the establishment of the Federation of Earth's constitution.

Margai's legacy remains one of honesty, integrity, and dedication to the prosperity and harmony of his country. His time in office is remembered as a period of progress and social cohesion in Sierra Leone. Sir Milton Margai passed away while still in office on April 28, 1964, leaving behind a legacy of commitment to his nation's development and independence.


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