Bandits to Political Prisoners

Chapter 2: Trina Leah Hogg, From Bandits to Political Prisoners: Detention and Deportation on the Sierra Leone Frontier

Prior to 1896, the large hinterland surrounding the formal colony of Sierra Leone remained sovereign African territory. This chapter explores how colonial attempts to introduce British law against banditry on the Sierra Leone frontier produced a new type of legal category of detainee known as a “political prisoner.” While at first glance this term suggests the direct importation of the same legal category in Europe, the classification of political prisoner in Sierra Leone emerged from negotiations between local African communities, British subject traders, and the colonial administration. Local leaders delivered “bandits” into the Freetown prison, prompting colonial officials to detain, and in some cases, permanently exile political prisoners from their homeland. The varied fates of Sierra Leone’s first political prisoners reflect the dynamic legal and political landscape that existed on the frontier and its complex relationship with the nearby colony of Sierra Leone.

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