Omrie Golley is a businessman, lawyer, philanthropist and former politician working and living in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom.
Born in the UK to Sierra Leonean parents, Omrie has chosen to maintain his close links with his homeland and is fiercely committed to helping the people of Sierra Leone construct a new, more prosperous future for themselves.
Having settled in London, Omrie’s father, a Sierra Leonean barrister and judge, returned to his native country to practice law when Omrie was just six years old. In 1976, when Omrie reached the age of 18, he again uprooted himself and returned to England to study politics at Hull University (his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and study law, but his wilful offspring had been bitten by the politics bug). Nevertheless, after successfully graduating, he attended the Inns of Court in London and began training as a barrister.
Omrie was called to the Bar in 1983 and just a year later was also called to the Bar in Sierra Leone, where he returned to live and work. But a few years later he was once again living in the UK, having founded a small consultancy firm. He was living in England when the civil war in Sierra Leone broke out in 1991.
Within two years the rebels controlled 70 per cent of the country and, having been approached by International Alert, a peace-building NGO then working with the Red Cross in Sierra Leone, Omrie agreed to become more closely involved in the efforts to find a peaceful solution that was wreaking havoc across the country.
Various peace agreements were concluded between the government and the opposing forces, and Omrie spent much of his time as a go-between helping to build trust between government forces and the rebels. But even after the civil war entered a new phase of intermittent fighting and peace talks, Omrie found himself vulnerable to the combustible political atmosphere in Sierra Leone.
In January 2006, having officially registered a new political party with the relevant authorities in Freetown, he was arrested by government forces as he made his way to the airport, intending to fly back to Britain.
“I was originally charged with subversion, and that was changed to treason – I was being accused of trying to overthrow the president!”
Omrie spent nearly two years on remand, waiting for a trial that never actually ended. “Witnesses against me didn’t show up, everything just died down,” said Omrie. By the time of the election that brought President Ernest Koroma to power, in 2007, prosecuting authorities decided Omrie had no case to answer and he walked free.
This low point in Omrie’s life was followed a few years later by one of the highest, as he was appointed by the new president to serve the Sierra Leone government as its ambassador to South Korea, a post he held for five years, until 2018. “I absolutely loved serving my country as ambassador. It was a very successful time for the government, there was a lot of optimism around.”
“Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it doesn’t have to be like this. As a country we have plenty natural resources but as a people we have an indomitable spirit, and that is our real resource. Our humour, our determination to look after each other, our fierce pride in our country – not just as it is but how it can be in the future – will secure a future we can be proud of, of that I am absolutely certain.”
After finishing his term as ambassador, Omrie returned to his consultancy business, and continues to spend a great deal of time working in his native country.
“Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it doesn’t have to be like this,” said Omrie. “As a country we have plenty natural resources but as a people we have an indomitable spirit, and that is our real resource. Our humour, our determination to look after each other, our fierce pride in our country – not just as it is but how it can be in the future – will secure a future we can be proud of, of that I am absolutely certain.”
He is married to Marijana, who is originally from Croatia, and together they have three children: two boys and a girl. Omrie also has two grow-up children from his first marriage.