Queen Ella Koblo Gulama: The First Elected Female Member of Parliament In Sierra Leone And The First Female Minister In Sub-Saharan Africa
In celebration of Black History Month, The African Dream celebrate the life and death of the first elected female member of parliament in Sierra Leone and the first woman to hold a ministerial position in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her name is Queen Ella Koblo Gulama MBE; OBE, MRSL.
Born January 26, 1921, in Moyamba District, Southern Province of Sierra Leone, Madam Ella Koblo Gulama was born into one of Sierra Leone’s most powerful families. Her father, Julius Gulama, was a King in the Kingdom of Kaiyamba, Moyamba District. Her mother was Lucy Gulama, a beautiful Mende woman. Unlike other maidens in the Kingdom of Kaiyamba, Queen Ella Koblo Gulama was given the best education by her father, who loved and cherished her so much. Queen Ella Koblo Gulama started her education at Harford School for girls in Moyamba and later got enrolled at the Moyamba Women’s Teachers College. She later went to the first Western-styled University in West Africa Fourah Bay College in Freetown.
At the age of 25, the young, charismatic, beautiful, intelligent, and educated princess got married to King Koblo Pathbana of the Kingdom of Marampa, Masimera, Port Loko District on April 27, 1946. History told us that Queen Ella Koblo Gulama’s wedding was one of the most colourful of all Royal weddings at that time as many Kings, Queens, Headsmen and women were present to grace the wedding. As customs and traditions permitted, the 25-year-old princess had left her father’s kingdom and relocated to her newly wedded husband’s kingdom. The young princess Ella Koblo Gulama joined her husband and other wives (because back then, Kings had the privileged to marry as many wives as they could) in what could be a new phase in her journey as a Royal daughter. Princess Ella was the most educated wife of all King Koblo Pathbana’s wives — this made her the only wife that would accompany her husband, the King of Marampa Kingdom, to court sittings and political meetings. There, she had the basic knowledge of politics and governance.
In her 30s, death visited her Royal Family as the King of Kaiyamba Kingdom, King Julius Gulama died. The news of her father’s death reached Princess Ella. Princess Ella returned home in the Kindom of Kaiyamba, a place where it all began. The man, her father the King, who once loved her more than anything else had died to meet the ancestors. After the burial proceedings of her father, the Kingdom of Kaiyamba as per tradition called for a new King to be crowned. History tells us that over fifteen men (mostly elderly) came out and vied for the Kingship. Princess Ella made her voice heard as she told the people of the Kingdom of Kaiyamba her intentions to take over her father’s crown. But almost all the men and women were against Princess Ella’s intention because no woman had ever ruled the Kingdom of Kaiyamba. This caused an uproar in the kingdom as the battle for who would be the heir to the throne began! From emotional intimidations to physical intimidations, Princess Ella along with a few portions of the people who believed in her and the notion that ‘women are capable of handling the affairs of society,’ fought for two years against those 15 men who wanted to take over her father’s crown.
Finally, after two years, In 1953 Princess Ella Koblo Gulama was crowned the Queen of Kaiyamba Kingdom which made her the first woman in the history of Kaiyamba Kingdom to be crowned Queen. She defeated fifteen buttered men who thought a woman wouldn’t rule the kingdom of Kaiyamba. This was the start of Queen Ella Koblo Gulama’s political stardom.
Queen Ella started to work very hard and made her kingdom one of the best in the country. She empowered women in her kingdom, brought formal education to Kaiyamba kingdom, supported girl child education, made major reforms in the fight against women’s violence, and many other positive reforms that brought light and hope to the people of Kaiyamba kingdom. Her progressive rule and ethical leadership qualities gave her a deserving place in Sir Milton Margai’s government as she became the first woman in the history of Sierra Leone, the second woman in Africa after Mabel Dove Danquah, to be elected as a member of parliament. Queen Ella Koblo Gulama represented Sierra Leone abroad and her travels took her all over Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East. In 1957 as a guest of the State Department, she toured the United States for 4 months during which she met with Vice-President Richard Nixon.
Queen Ella Koblo Gulama served as House of Representatives as Paramount Chief Member for Moyamba District for seven years before she was elected a cabinet Minister — the first woman in Sierra Leone and the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to hold a ministerial position. Queen Ella Koblo Gulama became the President of the Federation of Women’s Organization in Sierra Leone from 1960-to 1967.
But in 1968, things got sour for Sierra Leone’s first female minister and member of parliament as she was stripped off her Queenship title by former President Siaka Probyn Stevens. Queen Ella Koblo Gulama was, according to many accounts, wrongfully charged for treason and sent to Pa Demba Road Prison for over two years. During her time in Pa Demba Road Prison, Siaka Probyn Stevens took all of her valuable properties and selected a new King in place of Queen Ella Koblo Gulama. Even though she couldn’t serve her people as a Queen anymore, she continued to work for the people of Kaiyamba as a civil indigene of the land.
After the death of Siaka Stevens, the dictator, Queen Ella Koblo Gulama contested again for the crown in 1992. She made a statement comeback like she never left by winning 98% of the total votes. She regained her crown and became the Queen of Kaiyamba Kingdom for the second time.
Queen Ella Koblo Gulama died on September 10, 2006, in the Kingdom of Kaiyamba, in Moyamba. She was described as “a woman of substance” by the late President Ahmed Tejan Kabba of Sierra Leone who added Queen Ella Koblo Gulama has lived an exemplary life, as a mother, wife and stateswoman whose fortitude has earned high respect.
NOTE: I used ”King and Queen” to refer to the rulers stated in this article because our forefathers were Kings and Queens before they met the British colonialists, who stripped them off from their titles with the ideology that only them had the right to be referred to as Kings and Queens. Sierra Leone, before the British occupation once had Kingdoms, not Chiefdoms. The establishment of the British protectorate, which includes separating kingdoms into chiefdoms led to today’s existence of chiefdoms in Sierra Leone.
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