'If we have a good government, we can move mountains': the only surviving member of Sierra Leone's independence delegation to the Constitutional Talks in London, Hector Boltman, now 83, talks to New African about the build-up to independence and the progress the country has made during 50 years of independence.

Position:Sierra Leone @ 50 - Interview
 
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Q: Can you take us back to the run-up to independence and give us a picture of what the political situation was like in the country?

A: Well, the political situation was normal, mild, not rough. We had only two recognised political parties at the time: the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), which was the governing party, and the official opposition United People's Party (UPP) headed by Cyril Rogers-Wright. The relationship between the two parties was cordial. UPP members met regularly with their SLPP counterparts, they shared jokes and views without malice or ill feelings.

Q: You were among the delegation to the Constitutional Talks at Lancaster House in London. The two parties went as a United Front coalition, how did it come about? How did you manage to get everybody on board?

A: It was formed here in Sierra Leone, organised by the then government headed by Sir Milton Margai. I can remember we had two meetings at State House before we left. The United Front constituted various groups of people. The SLPP as the government then had no less than eight ministers. The UPP was represented by Rogers-Wright and myself because we formed the official opposition.

Q: Was the United Front really united, because some historical accounts say that there were several outstanding issues and differences even as you went for the talks?

A: We were united although there were different people in the coalition and we all had our various views and party ideologies. But we went to London for a common purpose. So we all supported the issue for which we went without much politics. We went as a United Front delegation only to ask for independence.

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Q: What happened to Siaka Stevens and Isaac T. A. Wallace-Johnson, who were also key players in politics then? They were accused of opposing independence based on certain issues.

A: Wallace-Johnson was an adviser; Siaka Stevens was with the PNP with Albert Margai (the younger brother of Sir Milton). As I said., we all went to Lancaster House with different views but for a common purpose. We all sat according to the groups we belonged to. Nobody opposed independence. Not even Siaka Stevens. He expressed his views and reservations. He said he wanted election before independence; that was one of the key issues which made him refuse to sign the independence instrument. His other issue was the clause on the defence agreement between Britain and Sierra Leone which he was opposed to. For these two main...

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