Sierra Leone

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The Republic of Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north and Liberia on the southeast, with the Atlantic Ocean on the southwest. The name Sierra Leone was adapted from the Spanish version: Sierra León, and in turn, from the Portuguese Serra-Leão [or Serra Leoa] which stands for "lioness mountains." It was an important centre of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Much like neighbouring Liberia, it was founded by freed slaves, who in 1791 founded the capital, Freetown. In 1806, Freetown became a British Protectorate (as did the remainder of the country in 1896), reaching independence in 1961. From 1991 to 2002, the country has suffered greatly from a devastating civil war.

Republic of Sierra Leone
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: Unity - Freedom - Justice
Official language English
Capital Freetown
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 116th
71,740 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 102nd
Independence April 27, 1961
Currency Leone
Time zone UTC
National anthem High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free
Internet TLD .sl
Calling Code 232



Main article: History of Sierra Leone

The written history of Sierra Leone began in 1462, when Portuguese explorers first landed and named the country "Lion Mountains". Europeans used the land as a source for slaves, but in 1787 Freetown was established as a city for former slaves living in London.

In 1808, Sierra Leone became a British Crown Colony, which it remained until halfway through the 20th century, when the process of de-colonisation was commenced. This culminated in independence on April 27, 1961. Sir Milton Margai (1895-1964) was its first prime minister.

The republic—briefly a one-party state in the early 1980s—became involved in a civil war also in 1991, with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Foday Sankoh rebelling against the government (Sierra Leone Civil War). This resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A military coup on May 25, 1997 replaced then President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah with Major Johnny Paul Koromah. Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998, after the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces.

Lomé Peace Accord, signed on July 7, 1999 in Lomé, Togo offered a slight hope that the country will be able to terminate the diamond-powered conflict, and rebuild its devastated economy and infrastructure. As of late 1999, up to 6,000 UNAMSIL peacekeepers were in the process of deploying to bolster the peace accord.

In May 2000, the situation in the country deteriorated to such an extent that British troops were deployed in Operation Palliser to evacuate foreign nationals. They stabilised the situation, and were the catalyst for a ceasefire and ending of the civil war.

Although there has been no significant amount of news coverage of the war in Sierra Leone, a comprehensive review of the conflict based on extensive field research—using a method known as Conflict Mapping—is available here.


Main article: Politics of Sierra Leone

The head of state and government is the president, who is elected every five years (most recently in May 2002). He appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers. The Sierra Leonean parliament is unicameral, with 124 seats. 112 members are elected concurrently with the presidential elections; the other 12 seats are filled by a paramount chief from each administrative district.

Local Government elections were held in 2004 (for the first time since 1972), electing 456 councillors sitting in 19 local councils.

The National Pledge of Sierra Leone is:

I pledge my love and loyalty to my country Sierra Leone
I vow to serve her faithfully at all times
I promise to defend and honor her good name
Always work for her unity, peace, freedom and prosperity
And put her interest above all else
So help me God (last line sung slower and repeated)


Main article: Provinces of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is divided into three provinces and one district:


Map of Sierra Leone
Map of Sierra Leone

Main article: Geography of Sierra Leone

Much of Sierra Leone's coastline consists of mangrove swamps, with the exception of the peninsula on which the capital city Freetown is located. The rest of Sierra Leone is mostly plateau (about 300 m above sea level) covered by forests, with mountains in the east of the country (highest point Loma Mansa, 1,948 m). The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from May to December.

Major cities are the capital Freetown, Koidu (Sefadu), Bo, Kenema and Makeni.


Main article: Economy of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. In fact, it has the lowest average income in the world. It does have substantial mineral and fishery resources and agricultural potential. However, the economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development, following a 10-year civil war. About two-thirds of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market.

Economic development has always been hampered by an overdependence on mineral exploitation. Successive governments and the population as a whole have always believed that "diamonds and gold" are sufficient generators of foreign currency earnings and lure for investment. As a result large scale agriculture of commodity products, industrial development and sustainable investments have been neglected by governments. The economy could thus be described as one which is "exploitative" and based on the extraction of unsustainable resources or non reusable assets

There are plans to reopen bauxite and rutile mines shut down during the conflict. The major source of hard currency consists of the mining of diamonds. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad.


Main article: Demographics of Sierra Leone

There are about 20 different tribes living in Sierra Leone, which together make up about 90% of the population. The most important tribes are the Temne (mostly in the north) and Mende (central and south), both forming about one third of the population. There is a sizeable number of Creoles, descending from enslaved Africans, Asians stranded in London and other Londoners who established a colony there in the 1780s.

Although English is the official language, it is understood by only a minority, as most people speak their tribe's own language. The creole language Krio, based on English, is however spoken by most of the population. The predominant religion is Islam (about 60%), the remainder practice indigenous beliefs or Christianity.

Sierra Leone is the worst nation for childbirth in the world, having the highest Maternal Mortality Ratio, or risk of maternal death, of any country. The MMR of Sierra Leone according to a report from the World Health Organization in the year 2000 is 2,000 maternal deaths per live 100,000 births. The extremely high MMR is principally due to severe obstetric situations such as hemorrhage, obstructed labor, ectoptic gestation, abortion, and puerperal sepsis. Those situations were aggravated by the rebellion and the detrimental effects on distribution of reproductive health services due to the massive displacement of people, destruction of medical infrastructure and hospital equipment, rural inaccessibility, poor and disadvantageous accessibility to basic medical services.

Sierra Leone is in East Africa.

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