The President Who Ruled For 24 Hours

Christopher Okoro Cole was a Governor-general and President of Sierra Leone in the early 1970s. A very quiet character in the annals of history, many people often mistake Siaka Stevens for being the first president of Sierra Leone.

Nevertheless, Christopher Cole was the first president of the country though he ruled for just 24 hours. Cole was also Sierra Leone’s first United Nations Permanent Representative to New York.

Christopher Elnathan Okoro Cole was born on April 17, 1921, to Creole parents in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. He attained education at Seventh Day Adventist School in his hometown, and the Buxton Memorial School, Freetown.

Cole furthered his education at the London School of Economics and London University. Upon completion, he graduated with an LLB. In 1946, Cole entered the Bar at the Middle Temple.

After he returned to Sierra Leone, Christopher Cole began his law practice as a private solicitor till 1951. He also worked as a part-time lecturer in law, at Fourah Bay College.

Starting 1952, Cole was reknowned and revered in society for his credibility to be compensated. He worked as the City Solicitor at the Police Supreme Courts, Commissioner of Oaths, and the Crown Counsel until 1956 when he was elevated to Solicitor General.

In 1957 to 1968, he served as Chancellor at the Diocese of Sierra Leone. In Pre and Post independence, Cole served as chair of the Cole Commission to inquire into Sierra Leone’s national accounts.

Christopher Cole was appointed judge of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone. He also represented Sierra Leone at the ‘The Future of Law in Africa” Conference.

In 1962 he served as Justice of Appeal, Court of Appeal of the Gambia. He served as Chief Justice of the Gambia. A product of international export as well.

In 1963, Cole represented Sierra Leone at the “World Peace through Law Conference.” That same year, he served as Chief Justice of Sierra Leone.

In 1965, Cole was appointed officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1965 for “Public services as minister without portfolio.”

Two years later, he was appointed Ambassador to the US and as Permanent Representative at the United Nations.

In 1968, Christopher headed Sierra Leone’s Delegation to Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Law of Treaties held in Vienna. In 1969 he served as Chairman, Judicial Service Commission, Chairman, Rules of Court Committee, Vice Chairman for Africa of the World Association of Judges.

THE PRESIDENT FOR ONE DAY

Although independent, Sierra Leone was overseen by Queen Elizabeth II who acted as “Queen of Sierra Leone.” Nevertheless, her constitutional roles in Sierra Leone and power were mostly delegated to the governor-general of Sierra Leone. That governor-general was Christopher Cole.

There was bit of a complicated change after the Sierra Leonean monarchy was abandoned in early 1971.

It was determined that Siaka Stevens, who served as Prime Minister at the time, would become the President.

Cole, who had been appointed interim Governor-General on March 31, served for two days as the acting president. It was a full day and an uncompleted day however – thus the 24 hour maximum. He later handed power to Siaka Stevens.

Thereafter, he reoccupied his position as Chief Justice of Sierra Leone. Cole was member of the Lancaster delegation that signed the independence document from Great Britain on 21 December 1979.

He retired from Public Service in 1978. He had a fruitful marital union and had four children. Christopher Cole died in 1990. 

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