August 22 – Happy Birthday, Tinga Seisay

Posted on August 22, 2017

He was an activist and a diplomat - someone who went into exile for an entire decade - someone who agitated for democracy.

Tinga Seisay was born on this date in 1928 in Sierra Leone, a small nation in Western Africa.

He was lucky enough to be born in a pretty prominent family. And he never stopped learning. He was an adult and a police officer, but then he decided to travel to Europe, where he earned a university degree in Sweden, majoring in engineering. A long time after that he went to a university in the United States, where he earned a higher degree in political science and worked on a PhD (I am not sure if he ever completed the latter).

But only some of "learning" happens in schools and universities - most of it happens everywhere else we are in life. In Seisay's case, an important chunk of learning happened when he met Martin Luther King, Jr.; this meeting caused Seisay to become very interested in nonviolent activism. 

In 1968, Sierra Leone was being ruled by a non-democratic military government, but a group of sergeants overthrew that government, and a new government used Seisay as a Deputy Commissioner of the police force. He was so good at his job that he was assigned to the United Nations - which is why he ended up living in the United States. (The U.N. is headquartered in the U.S.!)

Sierra Leoneans waiting to vote
But the new leader of Sierra Leone declared the country a one-party state - which meant that, although there were elections, there was only one candidate allowed. So it was pretty much like NOT having elections. Seisay criticized his government for being undemocratic, and he helped Sierra Leoneans who fled their country to get political asylum in the United States. He was devoted to the cause of making Sierra Leone a better, fairer, more democratic country - which it is, now.

Check out some photos of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans:

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