Sierra Leone

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Countries; Countries

Republic of Sierra Leone
Flag of Sierra Leone Coat of Arms of Sierra Leone
Flag Coat of Arms
"Unity - Freedom - Justice"
High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free
Location of Sierra Leone
(and largest city)
8°31′N, 13°15′W
Official languages English
Government Republic
 -  President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
 -  from the United Kingdom April 27, 1961 
 -  Total 71,740 km² ( 119th)
27,699  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.0
 -  July 2005 estimate 6,005,250 ( 107th1)
 -  2000 census 5,426,618 
 -  Density 83 /km² ( 114th1)
199 /sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 -  Total $4.921 billion ( 151st)
 -  Per capita $903 ( 172nd)
HDI (2004) 0.335 (low) ( 176th)
Currency Leone ( SLL)
Time zone GMT ( UTC+0)
Internet TLD .sl
Calling code +232
1 Rank based on 2005 figures.

Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north and Liberia on the south, with the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The name Sierra Leone was adapted from the Portuguese name for the country: Serra Leoa. The literal meaning is "Lion Mountain." During the 1700s Sierra Leone was an important centre of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The capital Freetown was founded in 1792 by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for Black Britons who had fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War.

In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate. The Crown Colony and Protectorate joined and gained independence in 1961. From 1991 to 2002, the country suffered greatly under a devastating civil war. To end the civil war, UN and British forces disarmed 17,000 militia and rebels, in the largest UN peacekeeping act of the decade. The average life span of a Sierra Leonean is 38 years for men and 42 years for women.

History of Sierra Leone

Early History

The Temne were living along the northern coast of present-day Sierra Leone when the first Portuguese navigators reached the region in 1460. The Portuguese landed on the Sierra Leone Peninsula, naming it Serra Lyoa (meaning lion mountains) after the mountains located there. Beginning c.1500, European traders stopped regularly on the peninsula, exchanging cloth and metal goods for ivory, timber, and small numbers of slaves. Beginning in the mid-16th century, Mande-speaking people migrated into Sierra Leone from present-day Liberia, and they eventually established the states of Bullom, Loko, Boure, and Sherbro. In the early 17th century, British traders became increasingly active along the Sierra Leone coast. Sierra Leone was a major source of slaves for the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Following the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) attempts were made to resettle freed slaves who had sided with Great Britain in Africa. In 1787, 400 persons (including 280 black men, 70 white women, and 50 black women) left England for Sierra Leone. The ones who could finish the voyage and arrive at the Sierra Leone Peninsula, bought land from local Temne leaders, and established the Province of Freedom near present-day Freetown. The settlement did not fare well, and most of the inhabitants died of disease in the first year. A renewed attempt at settlement was made in 1792, when about 1,100 freed slaves under the leadership of the abolitionist John Clarkson landed on the peninsula and founded Freetown. They were joined by about 500 free blacks from Jamaica in 1800. The new colony was controlled by the Sierra Leone Company, which forcefully held off the Temne while the settlers supported themselves by farming.

In 1807, Great Britain outlawed the slave trade, and in early 1808 the British government took over Freetown from the financially troubled company, using it as a naval base for anti-slavery patrols. Between 1808 and 1864 approximately 50,000 liberated slaves settled at Freetown. Protestant missionaries were active there, and in 1827 they founded Fourah Bay College, where Africans were educated and became active as missionaries, traders, and civil servants along the Sierra Leone coast and on Sherbro Island as well as in other regions in West Africa, especially among the Yoruba people.

The Colonial Era

During the periods 1821 to 1827, 1843 to 1850, and 1866 to 1874, British holdings on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) were placed under the governor of Sierra Leone. In 1863 an advisory legislative council was established in Sierra Leone. The British were reluctant to assume added responsibility by increasing the size of the colony, but in 1896 the interior was proclaimed a British protectorate, mainly in order to forestall French ambitions in the region, and the Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone was established.

The protectorate was ruled “indirectly” (i.e., through the rulers of the numerous small states, rather than by creating an entirely new administrative structure) and a hut tax was imposed in 1898 to pay for administrative costs. The Africans protested the tax in 1898 and and fought the British in a war later became known as the Hut Tax War of 1898. Led in the north by Bai Bureh and in the south by the Poro secret society; the British quickly emerged victorious and there were no further major armed protests. Under the British, little economic development was undertaken in the protectorate until the 1950s, although a railroad was built and the production for export of palm products and peanuts was encouraged.

After World War II, Africans were given more political responsibility, and educational opportunities were enlarged. In the economic sphere, mining (especially of diamonds and iron ore) increased greatly. The Creoles of the colony, who had been largely excluded from higher government posts in favour of the British, sought a larger voice in the affairs of Sierra Leone. A constitution adopted in 1951 gave additional power to Africans. However, the Creoles were a small minority in the combined colony and protectorate, and in the elections of 1 951 the protectorate-based Sierra Leone Peoples party (SLPP), led by Sir Milton Margai (a Mende), emerged victorious.

An Independent Nation

On Apr. 27, 1961, Sierra Leone became an independent nation, with Milton Margai as prime minister. He died three years later in 1964 and was succeeded by his brother, Albert Margai. Margai was highly criticized during his reign; he was accused of corruption and of a policy of affirmative action in favour of the Mende tribe. Following the 1967 general elections, the Governor General Henry Josiah Lightfoot Boston declared Siaka Stevens candidate of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and Mayor of Freetown as the new Prime Minister of Sierra Leone. However, a military coup led by Brigadier David Lansana in support of Margai ousted Stevens a few minutes after he took office.

The Lansana government itself was soon toppled and replaced by a National Reformation Council (NRC) headed by Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith In 1968. An army revolt overthrew the NRC and returned the nation to parliamentary government, with Siaka Stevens as prime minister. The following years were marked by considerable unrest, caused by ethnic and army disaffection with the central government.

After an attempted coup in 1971, parliament declared Sierra Leone to be a Republic, with Siaka Stevens as president. Guinean troops requested by Stevens to support his government were in the country from 1971 to 1973. Stevens's APC party swept the 1973 parliamentary elections, creating a de facto one-party state; a 1978 referendum made the APC the only legal party in Sierra Leone.

Siaka Probyn Stevens, who had been President of Sierra Leone for 18 years, retired from that position in November 1985, although he continued his role as chairman of the ruling APC party. In August 1985, the APC named military commander Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, Stevens' own choice, as the party candidate to succeed him. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. A formal inauguration was held in January 1986, and new parliamentary elections were held in May 1986.

In October 1990, President Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 one-party constitution with a view to broadening the existing political process, guaranteeing fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and strengthening and consolidating the democratic foundation and structure of the nation. The commission, in its report presented January 1991, recommended re-establishment of a multi-party system of government. Based on that recommendation, a constitution was approved by Parliament in July 1991 and ratified in September; it became effective on October 1, 1991.

Civil War

On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by 25 year old Captain Valentine Strasser apparently frustrated by failure to deal with rebels, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as Strassar President. On January 1996, after nearly four years in power, President Strassar was ousted in a coup led by his defence minister Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.

Promises of a return to civilian rule were fulfilled by Bio, who handed power over to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, of the Sierra Leone People's party, after the conclusion of presidential elections in early 1996. Kabbah's government reached a cease-fire in the war with Corporal Foday Sankoh-lead, Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which had launched its first attacks in 1991; rebel terror attacks continued, however, apparently aided by Liberia.

On May 25, 1997, The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Major General Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kabbah. Koroma suspends the constitution, bans demonstrations, abolishes political parties and invited the RUF to join the government.

The United Nations imposed sanctions against the military government in October, 1997, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent in forces led by Nigeria. The rebels were subdued in February, 1998, and President Kabbah was returned to office in March.

Fighting continued, however, in many parts of the country, with reports of widespread atrocities. Over 6,000 people were killed in fighting in the Freetown area in January, 1999 alone. In March, Nigeria announced it would withdraw its forces by May. A peace accord was signed in July between President Kabbah and Foday Sankoh of the RUF. The agreement granted the rebels seats in a new government and all forces a general amnesty from prosecution. The government had largely ceased functioning effectively, however, and at least half of its territory remained under rebel control.

In October, the United Nations agreed to send peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. The first of the 6,000-member force began arriving in December, and the Security Council voted in February, 2000, to increase the UN forces to 11,000 (and subsequently to 13,000). In May, when nearly all Nigerian forces had left and UN forces were attempting to disarm the RUF in Eastern Sierra Leone, Sankoh's forces clashed with the UN troops, and some 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage as the peace accord effectively collapsed.

An 800-member British force entered the country to secure Western Freetown and evacuate Europeans; some also acted in support of the forces fighting the RUF, including Koroma's AFRC group. After Sankoh was captured in Freetown, the hostages were gradually released by the RUF, but clashes between the UN forces and the RUF continued, and in July the West Side Boys—part of the AFRC—clashed with the peacekeepers. In the same month the UN Security Council placed a ban on the sale of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone in an attempt to undermine the funding of the RUF. In late August, senor Ruf commander Sam Bockarie became head of the RUF; also, British troops training the Sierra Leone army were taken hostage by the West Side Boys, but were freed by a British raid in September.

General elections scheduled for early 2001 were postponed, due to the insecurity caused by the civil war. In May, 2001, sanctions were imposed on Liberia because of its support for the rebels, and UN peacekeepers began to make headway in disarming the various factions. Although disarmament of rebel and progovernment militias proceeded slowly and fighting continued to occur, by January, 2002, most of the estimated 45,000 fighters had surrendered their weapons. In a ceremony that month, government and rebel leaders declared the civil war to have officially ended; an estimated 50,000 people died in the conflict.

Elections were finally held in May, 2002. President Kabbah was re-elected, and his Sierra Leone People's party won a majority of the parliamentary seats. In June, 2003, the UN ban on the sale of Sierra Leone diamonds expired and was not renewed. The UN disarmament and rehabilitation program for Sierra Leone's fighters was completed in February, 2004, by which time another 70,000 former combatants had been helped. UN forces returned primary responsibility for security in the area around the capital to Sierra Leone's police and armed forces] in September, 2004; it was the last part of the country to be turned over. Some UN peacekeepers remained to assist the Sierra Leone government until the end of 2005. Because the political unrest of Sierra Leone in recent years U.S., U.K. and Australian embassies all currently discourage travel to Sierra Leone.


The head of state and government is the president, who is elected every five years (most recently in May 2002). The current president of Sierra Leone is Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The next parliamentary and presidential elections will take place on July 28, 2007.

The president 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 twelve seats are filled by Paramount Chiefs from each of the country's twelve administrative districts.

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

Administrative divisions

The Republic of Sierra Leone is composed of three provinces and one area; the provinces are further divided into twelve districts.

Northern Province

  • Port Loko
  • Bombali
  • Koinadugu
  • Kambia
  • Tonkolili

Southern Province

  • Bo
  • Bonthe
  • Moyamba
  • Pujehun

Eastern Province

  • Kenema
  • Kono
  • Kailahun

Western Area

  • The national capital Freetown and its surrounding countryside

Geography and Climate

Satellite image of Sierra Leone, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Satellite image of Sierra Leone, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library

Roughly circular in shape, Sierra Leone has an area of almost 30,000 square miles. Located on the West African coast, the country is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

Three topographical regions run northwest to southwest, roughly parallel to the coast; a belt of mangrove swamps and white sand beaches, an area of low plains covered with secondary forest and cultivated land and a region of high plateaux and mountains to the east, while the mountainous peninsula on which Freetown is located makes up the fourth distinct geographical region.

Sierra Leone is of tropical climate with a rainy season May through October, the balance of the year representing the dry season. The beginning and end of the rainy season is marked by strong thunderstorms not unlike those of the hot summer period on the US eastern seaboard. Sierra Leone has an average year round temperature of 80 degrees.

Freetown’s high humidity is somewhat relieved November through February by the Harmattan, a gentle wind flowing down from the Sahara Desert affording Freetown its coolest period of the year.


Sierra Leone is emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. In addition to this there is greater freedom of movement and the successful rehabilitation and resettlement of residential areas. In 2001 Sierra Leone attracted US$4 million in foreign direct investment. The country has also enjoyed an improvement in the terms of trade as a result of the lower of international petroleum prices.

The country’s main economic sectors include diamond mining, agriculture and fisheries. The mining of diamonds, bauxite and rutile provides the major source of hard currency. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the country’s six million strong population with most involved in subsistence agriculture. The sector accounted for 51% of the country’s GDP. Sierra Leone’s manufacturing sector continues to develop and consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. In 2002 the country’s GDP was US$789.4 million.

Despite its successes and development, the Sierra Leone economy still faces some significant challenges. There is a high rate of unemployment particularly among the youth and ex-combatants. Authorities have been slow to implement reforms in the civil service and the pace of the privatisation programme is also slacking and donors have urged its advancement.


The population of Sierra Leone now exceeds six million - the highest density being in the Western area while the lowest is in the more remote northern and eastern parts of the country. Freetown, the national capital is also the commercial and education centre of the country.

English, the official language of Sierra Leone is taught at schools and serves as the primary language while students are in classrooms or school compound.


The population of Sierra Leone is comprised of approximately eighteen ethnic groups; each with its own language and customs, the two largest of these being the Mende and Temne about equal in numbers representing 60% of the country's population. The Mende predominates in the south, the Temne likewise to the north. The third largest ethnic group is the Limba 12.5%, they are mostly found in the north and some eastern part of the country; followed by the Krio 10% (descendants of freed slaves who came to Freetown from the West Indies, North America and Britain) their language being the Lingua Franca of all the tribes in Sierra Leone. Most Krios live in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Other minority ethnic groups in the country include the Loko, Sherbro, Kono, Mandingo, Kissi, Kuranko, Fula, Susu, Yalunka, Vai and a small number of Sierra Leonean citizens originated from Lebanon, Pakistan, and India. The Western area, including the national capital Freetown, is more mixed in population, but is basically the home of the Krio group.


Approximately 60% of Sierra Leoneans are Muslim; 30% are Christian; 10% practice Indegenous beliefs or other religion.

The Sierra Leone constitution provides freedom of religion and the government generally protect this right, and do not tolerate it abuse.

Unlike many other countries, the religious and tribal mix of Sierra Leone rarely causes religious or tribal conflict.

Krio usage in Sierra Leone

Most Krios live in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, and their community accounts for only about 10% of Sierra Leone's total population. However, because of their cultural influence in Sierra Leone — especially during the period of colonial rule — their language is used as the lingua franca among all the tribes in Sierra Leone. The Krio language is widely spoken among Sierra Leoneans. Many Sierra Leoneans who are not ethnic Krios grow up speaking Krio instead of their native language . 95% of Sierra Leone total population speak Krio.


Burn cultivation for agriculture. Logging, clearing for cattle grazing, fuelwood collection, and mining have produced a dramatic drop in forest cover in Sierra Leone since the 1980s.

Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system due to a brutal civil war that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5 percent of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants, 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.

In June 2005, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Bird-life International agreed to support a conservation-sustainable development project in the Gola Forest in southeastern Sierra Leone, the most important surviving fragment of rainforest in Sierra Leone.

Deforestation rates have increased 7.3 percent since the end of the civil war.

Currency of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s currency is the Leone(Le). The central bank of the country is the Bank of Sierra Leone which is located in the national capital Freetown. The central Bank objectives include:

  • promotion of monetary stability and sound financial structure
  • maintenance of the internal and external values of the Leone
  • promotion of credit and exchange conditions conducive to balanced economy growth
  • issuance and distribution of notes and currency in the country
  • formulation and implementation of monetary policy
  • banker and advisor to the Government in financial and economic matters
  • management of domestic and foreign debt
  • acting as custodian of the country’s reserve of approved foreign exchange
  • acting as banker to the Commercial Banks
  • supervision and regulation of activities of commercial banks and other financial institutions
  • administration of the operations of structural adjustment programmes where the bank has specific responsibilities
  • rural banking
  • diamond certification

the Bank of Sierra Leone is a 100 per cent state owned corporate body.

Sierra Leone operates a floating exchange rate system and foreign currencies can be exchanged at any of the commercial banks, recognised foreign exchange bureaux and most hotels.

Credit Cards are Limited use in Sierra Leone, though they may be utilised at some hotels and restaurants, for which you should check in advance with local managements. Sierra Leone does not have internationally linked ATM machines.

Travellers Cheques May be utilised at major hotels or cashed at banks and at few limited shop outlets.

Currency Exchange: It is important that Sierra Leone exchange regulations be observed - for example, it is illegal to exchange money with unlicensed money dealers. All transactions may only made at banks or recognised foreign exchange bureaux.


Football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone national soccer team popularly known as the Leone Stars represents Sierra Leone in international soccer competitions. The team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup but they have participated in the 1994 and 1996 African Nations cup. The Sierra Queens is the nickname of Sierra Leone Women's National soccer team. The team represents Sierra Leone in international women's soccer competitions.

The Sierra Leonean Premier League is top soccer league in Sierra Leone. The league is controlled by the Sierra Leone Football Association. East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool are the two biggest and most successful soccer clubs in the country, but Kallon F.C. is closing in on them. Kallon F.C. won the Premier League in 2006, and eliminated 2006 Nigerian Premier League Champions Ocean Boys in the 2007 CAF Champions League qualifying round for the group stage.

The Sierra Leone cricket team is among the best in West Africa. They became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2002. They made their international debut at the 2004 African Affiliates Championship, where they finished last out of the eight teams. They returned at the equivalent tournament in 2006, Division Three of the African region of the World Cricket League, where they had a major improvement, this time finishing as runners-up to Mozambique, and only just missing out on promotion to Division Two.

The Sierra Leone U-17 soccer team nickname the Sierra Stars finished as runner-up at the 2003 African U-17 Championsip in Swaziland, but came in last place in their group at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland.

Some Sierra Leoneans enjoy playing basketball, table tennis, volleyball and tennis. Boxing and track are also popular in the country.

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