Mr. Stevens was one of the few African leaders ever to relinquish power voluntarily. Prime Minister in 1968
He became Prime Minister of Sierra Leone in 1968 after a military coup and assumed the presidency on April 21, 1971, two days after Sierra Leone became a republic.
Mr. Stevens was President until November 1985, when he transferred power to a handpicked successor, Maj. Gen. Joseph Momoh, the armed forces commander, with whom he later quarreled.
Mr. Stevens, described in ”Who’s Who in Africa” as ”a bluff, friendly, approachable, pragmatic socialist” was born Aug. 24, 1905.
He had made a name for himself and secured a following as a trade unionist when the British still ruled Sierra Leone.
As British rule came to an end, Mr. Stevens refused to join a three-party coalition that was to assume power. Instead, he formed the opposition All People’s Congress.
He was on the sidelines on April 27, 1961, when Sierra Leone became independent and Sir Milton Margai became the first Prime Minister.
Margai died a day after the third anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence and was succeeded as Prime Minister and head of the governing party by Sir Albert Margai, no relation. Survived Several Coup Attempts
Mr. Stevens’s party won the March 1967 general elections, but shortly after Mr. Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister, he and other officials were arrested by the chief of the army.
After a month of military infighting that saw power change hands at least three times, a military-led National Interim Council took control and returned the leadership of the country to Mr. Stevens’s civilian Government.
He survived two coup attempts, in September 1970 and March 1972.
Mr. Stevens was among the first voices in what has become a chorus of protests in Africa over the lending policies of the International Monetary Fund, which normally demands that would-be borrowers cut subsidies, devalue their currency and take other unpopular measures. He called such moves ”political suicide.”