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Sierra Leone

The Republic of Sierra Leone is a country in west Africa, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The country is bordered by Guinea in the north and Liberia in the southwest.

Republic of Sierra Leone
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: Unity - Freedom - Justice
Official languageEnglish
PresidentAhmad Tejan Kabbah[?]
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 116th
71,740 kmē
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 102nd
IndependenceApril 27, 1961
Currency Leone[?]
Time zone UTC
National anthem High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free[?]
Internet TLD.SL
Calling Code232

Table of contents


The written history of Sierra Leone begins 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, the now capital Freetown was established as city for liberated slaves.

In 1808, Sierra Leone became a British colony, which it remained until halfway 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 in 1991, with the Revolutionary United Front[?] (RUF) rebelling against the government. This has 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[?] (but Kabbah was later reinstated).

A peace agreement, signed on July 7, 1999 in Lome (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 United Nations, UNAMSIL[?] peacekeepers were in the process of deploying to bolster the peace accord.

In 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.

Politics Main article: Politics of Sierra Leone

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 also elected concurrently with the presidential elections; the other 12 seats are filled by paramount chiefs.

Provinces Main article: Provinces of Sierra Leone[?]

Sierra Leone is divided into three provinces (Eastern, Northern and Southern), and one district (Western).

Geography 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, Koindu[?], Bo[?], Kenema[?] and Makemi[?].

Economy Main article: Economy of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. It does have substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources. 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. 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.

Demographics 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 amount of Creoles, descending from freed slaves (mainly from Jamaica) who returned here after their release.

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.

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

Countries of the world  |  Africa

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