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Iso 3166-1:sl

Republic of Sierra Leone
Flag Coat of Arms
Motto: "Unity, Freedom, Justice"
Anthem: High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free

and largest city
8°29.067′N 13°14.067′W / 8.484450°N 13.234450°W / 8.484450; -13.234450
Official languages English
Vernacular languages
Ethnic groups (2008)
Demonym Sierra Leonean, Sierra Leonese
Government Presidential constitutional republic
 -  President Ernest Bai Koroma (APC)
 -  Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana (APC)
 -  Speaker of Parliament Abel Nathaniel Bankole Stronge (APC)
 -  Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh
Legislature Parliament
 -  from the United Kingdom 27 April 1961 
 -  Republic declared 19 April 1971 
 -  Total 71,740 km2 (119th)
27,699 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 1.1
 -  2013 estimate 6,190,280[1]
 -  Density 79.4/km2 (114tha)
205.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $8.276 billion[2]
 -  Per capita $1,344[2]
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $3.777 billion[2]
 -  Per capita $613[2]
Gini (2011)35.4[3]
HDI (2011)Increase 0.336
low · 180th
Currency Leone (SLL)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
Drives on the rightb
Calling code +232
ISO 3166 code SL
Internet TLD .sl
a. Rank based on 2007 figures.
b. Since 1 March 1971.

Sierra Leone (

Sierra Leone is divided into four administrative regions: the Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area; which are subdivided into fourteen districts. Each district has its own directly elected local government known as district council, headed by a council chairman, in whom local executive authority is vested. Freetown is the capital, largest city as well as its economic, commercial and political centre. Bo is the second largest city. Other major cities with a population above 100,000 are Kenema, Makeni and Koidu Town. Since Independence to present, Sierra Leone's politics has been dominated by two major political parties, the Sierra Leone People's Party and the All People's Congress.[8][9]

Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold, and has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone has the third-largest natural harbour in the world in Freetown. Exploitation of natural resources has still left 70% of its people living in poverty.[10]

Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country,[11][12][13] though with an influential Christian minority. Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world.[14][15][16]

The population of Sierra Leone comprises about sixteen ethnic groups, each with its own language and custom. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende.[17] The Temne are predominantly found in the north of the country; while the Mende are predominant in the south-east.

Although English is the language of instruction in schools and the official language in government administration, the Krio language (derived from English and several indigenous African languages) is the primary language of communication among Sierra Leone's different ethnic groups, and is spoken by 90% of the country's population.[18] The Krio Language unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other.[19]

In 1462, the area that is now Sierra Leone was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra, who named it Serra Leoa, meaning "Lioness Mountains".[20][21] Sierra Leone later became an important centre of the transatlantic trade in slaves until 11 March 1792, when Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for former slaves enslaved from (or freed by) the British Empire.[22] In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate.[23] Between 1991 and 2002, the Sierra Leone Civil War devastated the country. It resulted in more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country's infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries.


Early history

Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years,[24] populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa.[25] The use of iron was introduced to Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by 1000 A.D. agriculture was being practised by coastal tribes.[26] Sierra Leone's dense tropical rainforest largely protected it from the influence of any pre-colonial African empires[27] and from further Islamic influence of the Mali Empire. The Islamic faith, however, became common in the 18th century.[28]

European contacts within Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming shaped formation Serra de Leão (Portuguese for Lion Mountains).[21] The Italian rendering of this geographic formation is Sierra Leone, which became the country's name.

Soon after Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built.[29] The Portuguese were joined by the Dutch and French, all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves.[30] In 1562, the English joined the human trade when Sir John Hawkins shipped 300 enslaved people – acquired "by the sword and partly by other means" – to the new colonies in America.[31]

Early colonies

In 1787 a settlement was founded in Sierra Leone in what was called the "Province of Freedom". A number of "Black Poor" arrived off the coast of Sierra Leone on 15 May 1787, accompanied by some English tradesmen. Many of the "black poor" were African Americans, who had been given their freedom after seeking refuge with the British Army during the American Revolution, but also included other West Indian, African and Asian inhabitants of London. After establishing Granville Town, disease and hostility from the indigenous people eliminated the first group of colonists and destroyed their settlement. A second Granville Town was established by 64 remaining colonists.[32]

Through the impetus of Thomas Peters, the Sierra Leone Company was established to relocate Black Loyalists, who had escaped enslavement in the United States by seeking protection with the British Army during the American Revolution. They had been given land in Nova Scotia and founded Birchtown, Nova Scotia but faced harsh winters and racism. Led by Thomas Peters and British abolitionist John Clarkson, 1196 of the Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia crossed the Atlantic to build the second (and only permanent) Colony of Sierra Leone and the settlement of Freetown on 11 March 1792. In Sierra Leone they were called the Nova Scotian Settlers, the Nova Scotians, or the Settlers. The Settlers built Freetown and introduced North American architectural styles from the American South as well as Western fashion and American manners. In the 1790s, the Settlers voted for the first time in elections, as did women.[33] The Sierra Leone Company refused to allow the settlers to take freehold of the land. Some of the Settlers revolted in 1799. The revolt was only put down by the arrival of over 500 Jamaican Maroons, who also arrived via Nova Scotia. In 1800, Jamaican Maroons from Trelawny Town, Jamaica were settled via Nova Scotia.

After sixteen years of running the Colony, the Sierra Leone Company was formed into the African Institution. The Institution met in 1807 to achieve more success by focusing on bettering the local economy, but it was constantly split between those British who meant to inspire local entrepreneurs and those with interest in the Macauley & Babington Company which held the (British) monopoly on Sierra Leone trade.[34]

Beginning in 1808 (following the abolition of the slave trade in 1807), thousands of formerly enslaved Africans were liberated in Freetown. Most of these Liberated Africans or 'Recaptives' chose to remain in Sierra Leone. Cut off from their homes and traditions, the Liberated Africans assimilated the Western styles of Settlers and Maroons and built a flourishing trade of flowers and beads on the West African coast. These returned Africans were from many areas of Africa, but principally the west coast. During the 19th century, freed black Americans, Americo Liberian 'refugees', and particularly West Indians, immigrated and settled in Freetown, creating a new ethnicity called the Krio people.

Colonial era

In the early 20th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone also served as the educational centre of British West Africa. Fourah Bay College, established in 1827, rapidly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. For more than a century, it was the only European-style university in western Sub-Saharan Africa.

During Sierra Leone's colonial history, indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule. The most notable was the Hut Tax war of 1898. The Hut Tax War consisted of a Northern front, led by Bai Bureh, and Southern front that were sparked at different times and for different reasons. Bureh's fighters had the advantage over the vastly more powerful British for several months of the war. Hundreds of British troops and hundreds of Bureh's fighters were killed.[35] Bai Bureh was finally captured on 11 November 1898 and sent into exile in the Gold Coast, while 96 of his comrades were hanged by the British.

The defeat in the Hut Tax war ended large-scale organised resistance to colonialism; however resistance continued throughout the colonial period in the form of intermittent rioting and chaotic labour disturbances. Riots in 1955 and 1956 involved "many tens of thousands" of natives in the protectorate.[36]

One notable event in 1935 was the granting of a monopoly on mineral mining to the Sierra Leone Selection Trust run by De Beers, which was scheduled to last 98 years.

In 1924, Sierra Leone was divided into a Colony and a Protectorate, with separate and different political systems constitutionally defined for each. Antagonism between the two entities escalated to a heated debate in 1947, when proposals were introduced to provide for a single political system for both the Colony and the Protectorate. Most of the proposals came from the Protectorate. The [1].

In November 1951, Margai oversaw the drafting of a new constitution, which united the separate Colonial and Protectorate legislatures and – most importantly – provided a framework for decolonisation.[37] In 1953, Sierra Leone was granted local ministerial powers, and Sir Milton Margai, was elected Chief Minister of Sierra Leone.[37] The new constitution ensured Sierra Leone a parliamentary system within the Commonwealth of Nations.[37] In May 1957, Sierra Leone held its first parliamentary election. The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), which was then the most popular political party in the colony of Sierra Leone, won the most seats in Parliament. Margai was also re-elected as Chief Minister by a landslide.

1960 Independence Conference

On 20 April 1960, Sir Milton Margai led the twenty four members of the Sierra Leonean delegation at the constitutional conferences that were held with Queen Elizabeth II and British Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod in the negotiations for independence held at the Lancaster House in London.[38][39] All of the twenty four members of the Sierra Leonean delegation were prominent and well-respected politicians including Sir Milton himself, his younger brother lawyer Sir Albert Margai, the outspoken trade unionist Siaka Stevens, SLPP strongman Lamina Sankoh, outspoken Creole activist Isaac Wallace-Johnson, Dr John Karefa-Smart, Paramount chief and first female member of parliament Ella Koblo Gulama, educationist Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha, Creole dominated UPP party leader Cyril Rogers-Wright,[40] professor Kande Bureh, Creole diplomat Edward Wilmot Blyden III, lawyer Sir Banja Tejan-Sie, educationist Amadu Wurie, former Freetown's Mayor Eustace Henry Taylor Cummings, Paramount Chief Tamba Songu M'briwa, second female member of parliament Constance Cummings-John, and Creole diplomat Hector Reginald Sylvanus Boltman.[41][42][43]

On the conclusion of talks in London on 4 May 1960, Britain agreed to grant Sierra Leone Independence on 27 April 1961. However, the outspoken trade unionist Siaka Stevens was the only delegate who refused to sign Sierra Leone's declaration of Independendence on the grounds that there had been a secret defence pact between Sierra Leone and Britain; another point of contention by Stevens was the Sierra Leonean government's position that there would be no elections held before independence which would effectively shut him out of Sierra Leone's political process.[44] The delegates received a hero's welcome on their return to Freetown. While back in Freetown, Stevens was promptly expelled from the People's National Party (PNP).

The All People's Congress is one of the two major political parties in Sierra Leone, the other is the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP). The party was founded in march 20th 1960 by a breakaway group from the Sierra Leone People's Party who vehemently opposed the idea of election before independence, but instead supported the idea of independence before elections., the All People's Congress (APC),was formed at 5,ELBA Street,Freetown, and they consisted of the late Alhaji Chief Mucktarru Kallay, Allieu Badarr Koroma,Alhaji Sheik Gibril Sesay C A Kamara-Taylor, S A T Koroma, AbuBakarr S Bangura,may their souls rest in perfect peace and bliss. these were the first seven and founders members of the All Peoples Congress Party.The next Members are Siaka probyn Stevens, Nancy Steele, S.I.Koroma, Bob Allen, Mohamed Bash-Taqui and Ibrahim Bash-Taqui. Sir. Albert Margai who would later return to the SLPP and become Prime Minister, and Siaka P. Stevens who would also later become Prime Minister and subsequently President of Sierra Leone. The APC governed the country from 1968 to 1992, and became the ruling party again in 2007, after the party presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma won the 2007 Sierra Leone presidential election.


On 27 April 1961, Sir Milton Margai led Sierra Leone to independence from Great Britain and became the country's first Prime Minister. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans across the newly independent nation took to the street in celebration of independence. Sierra Leone retained a parliamentary system of government and was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The leader of the main oppositon APC, Siaka Stevens, along with outspoken critic of the SLPP government, Isaac Wallace-Johnson, were arrested and placed under house arrest in Freetown, along with sixteen others charged with disrupting the independence celebration.[45] In May 1962, Sierra Leone held its first general election as an Independent nation. The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won plurality of seats in parliament and Sir Milton Margai was re-elected as prime minister.

An important aspect of Sir Milton's character was his self-effacement. He was neither corrupt nor did he make a lavish display of his power or status. Sir Milton's government was based on the rule of law and the notion of separation of powers, with multiparty political institutions and fairly viable representative structures. Margai used his conservative ideology to lead Sierra Leone without much strife. He appointed government officials with a clear eye to satisfy various ethnic groups. Margai employed a brokerage style of politics by sharing political power between political groups and the paramount chiefs in the provinces.

Upon Sir Milton's unexpected death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, was appointed as Prime Minister by parliament. Sir Albert's leadership was briefly challenged by Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister John Karefa-Smart, who questioned Sir Albert's succession to the SLPP leadership position. Karefa-Smart received little support in Parliament in his attempt to have Margai stripped of the SLPP leadership. Soon after Margai was sworn in as Prime Minister, he immediately dismissed several senior government officials who had served under his elder brother Sir Milton's government, as he viewed them as a threat to his administration.

Unlike his late brother, Sir Milton, Sir Albert resorted to increasingly authoritarian actions in response to protests and enacted several laws against the opposition All People's Congress (APC) whilst attempting to establish a single-party state. Unlike his late brother Milton, Sir Albert was opposed to the colonial legacy of allowing the country's Paramount Chiefs executive powers, many of whom where key allies of his late brother Sir Milton; and he was seen as a threat to the existence of the ruling houses across the country. In 1967, Riots broke out in Freetown against Sir Albert's policies; in response Margai declared a state of emergency across the country. Sir Albert was accused of corruption and of a policy of affirmative action in favour of his own Mende ethnic group.[46] Although Sir Albert had the full backing of the country's security forces, he called for free and fair elections.

Three military coups, 1967–1968

The APC, with its leader Siaka Stevens, narrowly won a small majority of seats in Parliament over the SLPP in a closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone general election and Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister on 21 March 1967.

Within hours after taking office, Stevens was ousted in a bloodless military coup led by the commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces Brigadier General David Lansana, a close ally of Sir Albert Margai who had appointed him to the position in 1964. Brigadier Lansana placed Stevens under house arrest in Freetown and insisted the determination of office of the Prime Minister should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house.

On 23 March 1967, a group of senior military officers in the Sierra Leone Army led by Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith overrode this action by seizing control of the government, arresting Brigadier Lansana, and suspending the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) with Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman and Head of State of the country.[47] On 18 April 1968, a group of senior military officers who called themselves the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement led by Brigadier General John Amadu Bangura overthrew the NRC junta. The ACRM juntas arrested many senior NRC members. The constitution was reinstated, and power was returned to Stevens, who at last assumed the office of Prime Minister.[48]

One-party state

Stevens assumed power again in 1968 with a great deal of hope and ambition. Much trust was placed upon him as he championed multi-party politics. Stevens had campaigned on a platform of bringing the tribes together under socialist principles. During his first decade or so in power, Stevens renegotiated some of what he called "useless prefinanced schemes" contracted by his predecessors, both Albert Margai of the SLPP and Juxon-Smith of the NRC. Some of these policies by the SLPP and the NRC were said to have left the country in an economically deprived state. Stevens reorganised the country's refinery, the government-owned Cape Sierra Hotel, and a cement factory. He cancelled Juxon-Smith's construction of a church and mosque on the grounds of Victoria Park. Stevens began efforts that would later bridge the distance between the provinces and the city. Roads and hospitals were constructed in the provinces, and Paramount Chiefs and provincial peoples became a prominent force in Freetown.

Under pressure of several coup attempts, real and perceived, Stevens' rule grew more and more authoritarian, and his relationship with some of his ardent supporters deteriorated. He removed the SLPP party from competitive politics in general elections, some believed, through the use of violence and intimidation. To maintain the support of the military, Stevens retained the popular John Amadu Bangura as the head of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.

After the return to civilian rule, by-elections were held (beginning in autumn 1968) and an all-APC cabinet was appointed. Calm was not completely restored. In November 1968, unrest in the provinces led Stevens to declare a state of emergency across the country. Many senior officers in the Sierra Leone Army were greatly disappointed with Stevens' policies; but none could confront Stevens. Brigadier General Bangura, who had reinstated Stevens as Prime Minister, was widely considered the only person who could put the brakes on Stevens. The army was devoted to Bangura, and it was believed, in some quarters, that this made him potentially dangerous to Stevens. In January 1970, Bangura was arrested and charged with conspiracy and plotting to commit a coup against the Stevens' government. After a trial that lasted a few months, Bangura was convicted and sentenced to death. On 29 March 1970, Brigadier Bangura was executed by hanging in Freetown.

In a surprising move, Stevens later named a young junior officer Joseph Saidu Momoh as the commander of the Sierra Leone Military. On 23 March 1971, a group of soldiers loyal to the executed Brigadier Bangura held a mutiny in the capital Freetown and in some other parts of the country in opposition of Stevens' government. Several soldiers were arrested for their involvement in the mutiny, including Corporal Foday Sankoh who was convicted and jailed for seven years at Freetown's Pademba Road Prison.

In April 1971, a new republican constitution was adopted under which Stevens became President. In the 1972 by-elections the opposition SLPP complained of intimidation and procedural obstruction by the APC and militia. These problems became so severe that the SLPP boycotted the 1973 general election; as a result the APC won 84 of the 85 elected seats.[49] An alleged plot to overthrow president Stevens failed in 1974 and its leaders were executed. In March 1976, Stevens was elected without opposition for a second five-year term as president. On 19 July 1975, 14 senior army and government officials including Brigadier David Lansana, former cabinet minister Mohamed Sorie Forna (father of writer Aminatta Forna), Brigadier General Ibrahim Bash Taqi and Lieutenant Habib Lansana Kamara were executed after being convicted for allegedly attempting a coup to topple president Stevens' government.

In 1977, a nationwide student demonstration against the government disrupted Sierra Leone politics. However, the demonstration was quickly put down by the army and Stevens' own personal Special Security Division (SSD) force, a heavily armed paramilitary force he had created to protect him and to maintain his hold on power.[50] The SSD officers were very loyal to Stevens and were deployed across Sierra Leone to put down any rebellion against Stevens' government. General election was called later that year in which corruption was again endemic; the APC won 74 seats and the SLPP 15. In 1978, the APC dominant parliament approved a new constitution making the country a one-party state. The 1978 constitution made the APC the only legal political party in Sierra Leone.[51] This move led to another major demonstration against the government in many parts of the country but again it was put down by the army and Stevens' SSD forces. Stevens is generally criticised for dictatorial methods and government corruption, but on a positive note, he reduced ethnic polarisation in government by incorporating members of various ethnic groups into his all-dominant APC government.

Siaka Stevens retired from politics in November 1985 after being in power for eighteen years. The APC named a new presidential candidate to succeed Stevens at their last delegate conference held in Freetown in November 1985. He was Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and Stevens' own choice to succeed him. As head of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Major General Momoh was very loyal to Stevens who had appointed him to the position. Like Stevens, Momoh was also a member of the minority Limba ethnic group.

Momoh was elected President as the only contesting candidate and was sworn in as Sierra Leone's second president on 28 November 1985 in Freetown. A one party parliamentary election between APC members was held in May 1986. President Momoh's strong links with the army and his verbal attacks on corruption earned him much needed initial support among Sierra Leoneans. With the lack of new faces in the new APC cabinet under president Momoh and the return of many of the old faces from Stevens government, criticisms soon arose that Momoh was simply perpetuating the rule of Stevens. The next couple of years under the Momoh administration were characterised by corruption, which Momoh defused by sacking several senior cabinet ministers. To formalise his war against corruption, President Momoh announced a "Code of Conduct for Political Leaders and Public Servants." After an alleged attempt to overthrow President Momoh in March 1987, more than 60 senior government officials were arrested, including Vice-President Francis Minah, who was removed from office, convicted for plotting the coup, and executed by hanging in 1989 along with 5 others.

Multi-party constitution and Revolutionary United Front rebellion (1991–2001)

In October 1990, due to mounting pressure from both within and outside the country for political and economic reform, president Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to assess the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission's recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by the exclusive APC Parliament by a 60% majority vote, becoming effective on 1 October 1991. There was great suspicion that president Momoh was not serious about his promise of political reform, as APC rule continued to be increasingly marked by abuses of power.

The brutal civil war that was going on in neighbouring Liberia played a significant role in the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor – then leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia – reportedly helped form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the command of former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, an ethnic Temne from Tonkolili District in Northern Sierra Leone. Sankoh was a British trained former army corporal who had also undergone guerrilla training in Libya. Taylor's aim was for the RUF to attack the bases of Nigerian dominated peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone who were opposed to his rebel movement in Liberia.

On 29 April 1992, a 25-year-old Captain Valentine Strasser, an ethnic Creole, led seven junior officers in the Sierra Leone army, all in their mid to late twenties: included Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Seargent Solomon Musa, Captain Komba Mondeh, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma and Captain Julius Maada Bio launched a military coup, which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea and the young soldiers established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) with Strasser as its chairman and Head of State of the country; and Seargent Solomon Musa, a childhood friend of Strasser, became the deputy chairman and leader of the NPRC junta government. Strasser became the world's youngest Head of State when he seized power just three days after his 25th birthday. Shortly after the coup, senior NPRC commander Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, a trusted ally of Strasser, was assasinated, allegedly by Major S.I.M. Turay, a key loyalist of ousted president Momoh. Sandy's funeral in Freetown was attended by many high ranking soldiers of the NPRC Junta, included Strasser himself. A heavily armed military manhunt took place across the country to find Lieutenant Sandy's killer, but the main suspect Major S.I.M Turay fled the country to Guinea, fearing for his life. However, dozens of soldiers loyal to the ousted president Momoh were arrested.

The NPRC Junta immediately suspended the constitution, banned all political parties, limited freedom of speech and freedom of the press and enacted a rule-by-decree policy, in which soldiers were granted unlimited powers of administrative detention without charge or trial, and challenges against such detentions in court were precluded.

The NPRC Junta maintained relations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and strengthened support for Sierra Leone-based ECOMOG troops fighting in Liberia. In December 1992, an alleged coup attempt against the NPRC administration of Strasser, aimed at freeing the detained Colonel Yahya Kanu, Colonel Kahota M.S. Dumbuya and former inspector general of police Bambay Kamara was foiled. Seargent Mohamed Lamin Bangura, and some junior army officers were identified as being behind the coup plot. The coup plot led to the execution of seventeen soldiers, including Seargent Mohamed Lamin Bangura, Colonel Yahya Kanu and Lieutenant Colonel Kahota M.S. Dumbuya. Several prominent members of the Momoh government who had been in detention at the Pa Demba Road prison, including former inspector general of police Bambay Kamara were also executed.[53] On 5 July 1994 the deputy NPRC leader Seargent Solomon Musu, who was very popular with the general population particularly in Freetown, was arrested and sent into exile after he was accused of planning a coup to topple Strasser. An accusation Seargent Musa denied. Strasser replaced Musa as deputy NPRC chairman with Captain Julius Maada Bio, who was instantly promoted by Strasser to Brigadier.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh-led APC government in repelling the RUF. More and more of the country fell to RUF fighters, and by 1994 they held much of the diamond-rich Eastern Province and were at the edge of Freetown. In response, the NPRC hired several hundred mercenaries from the private firm Executive Outcomes. Within a month they had driven RUF fighters back to enclaves along Sierra Leone's borders, and cleared the RUF from the Kono diamond producing areas of Sierra Leone

With Strasser's two most senior NPRC allies and commanders Lieutenant Sahr Sandy and Lieutenant Solomon Musa no longer around to defend him, Strasser's leadership within the NPRC Supreme Council was not considered much stronger. On 16 January 1996, after about four years in power, Strasser was handcuff and arrested in a palace coup at the Defence Headquarter in Freetown by his fellow NPRC soldiers, led by his deputy Brigadier Julis Maada Bio and backed by many high-ranking members of the NPRC junta included Lt Colonel Tom Nyuma, Lt Colonel Komba Mondeh, Lt Colonel Reginald Glover, Lt Colonel Idriss Kamara, Lt Colonel Karefa-Kargbo and Captain Patrick Koigor-Amara, who was the head of Strasser's military bodyguards.[54][54] Strasser was immediately flown into exile in a military helicopter to Conakry, Guinea.

In his first public broadcast to the nation following the 1996 coup, Brigadier Bio stated that his support for returning Sierra Leone to a democratically elected civilian government and his commitment to ending the civil war were his motivations for the coup.[55] 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 (SLPP), after the conclusion of elections in early 1996. President Kabbah took power with a great promise of ending the civil war. President Kabbah opened dialogue with the RUF and invited RUF leader Foday Sankoh for peace negotiations.

On 25 May 1997, seventeen soldiers in the Sierra Leone army led by Corporal Tamba Gborie, loyal to the detained Major General Johnny Paul Koroma, launched a military coup which sent President Kabbah into exile in Guinea and they established the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Corporal Gborie quickly went to the SLBS FM 99.9 headquarters in Freetown to announce the coup to a shocked nation and to alert all soldiers across the country to report for guard duty. The soldiers immediately released Koroma from prison and installed him as their chairman and Head of State. Koroma suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations, shut down all private radio stations in the country and invited the RUF to join the new junta government, with its leader Foday Sankoh as the Vice-Chairman of the new AFRC-RUF coalition junta government. Within days, Freetown was overwhelmed by the presence of the RUF combatants who came to the city in their thousands. The Kamajors, a group of traditional fighters mostly from the Mende ethnic group under the command of deputy Defence Minister Samuel Hinga Norman, remained loyal to President Kabbah and defended the Southern part of Sierra Leone from the soldiers.

Kabbah's government and the end of civil war

After 10 months in office, the junta was overthrown by the Nigeria-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of president Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. On 12 October 1998 twenty five soldiers in the Sierra Leone army, including Corporal Tamba Gborie, Brigadier Hassan Karim Conteh, Colonel Abdul Karim Sesay and Major Kula Samba were executed after they were convicted at a court martial in Freetown for orchestrating the 1997 coup that overthrew President Kabbah.[56]

In October 1999, 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 UN Security Council voted in February 2000 to increase the force to 11,000, and later to 13,000. But in May, when nearly all Nigerian forces had left and UN forces were trying 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. The hostage crisis resulted in more fighting between the RUF and the government as UN troops launched Operation Khukri to end the siege. The Operation was successful with Indian and British Special Forces being the main contingents.

The situation in the country deteriorated to such an extent that British troops were deployed in Operation Palliser, originally simply to evacuate foreign nationals. However, the British exceeded their original mandate, and took full military action to finally defeat the rebels and restore order. The British were the catalyst for the ceasefire that ended the civil war. Elements of the British Army, together with administrators and politicians, remain in Sierra Leone to this day, helping train the armed forces, improve the infrastructure of the country and administer financial and material aid. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time of the British intervention, is regarded as a hero by the people of Sierra Leone, many of whom are keen for more British involvement. Sierra Leoneans have been described as "The World's Most Resilient People".[57]

Between 1991 and 2001, about 50,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone's civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes and many became refugees in Guinea and Liberia. In 2001, UN forces moved into rebel-held areas and began to disarm rebel soldiers. By January 2002, the war was declared over. In May 2002, Kabbah was re-elected president by a landslide. By 2004, the disarmament process was complete. Also in 2004, a UN-backed war crimes court began holding trials of senior leaders from both sides of the war. In December 2005, UN peacekeeping forces pulled out of Sierra Leone.

In August 2007, Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections. However, no presidential candidate won the 50% plus one vote majority stipulated in the constitution on the first round of voting. A runoff election was held in September 2007, and Ernest Bai Koroma, the candidate of the main opposition APC, was elected president.

Geography and climate

Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, lying mostly between latitudes and 10°N (a small area is south of 7°), and longitudes 10° and 14°W. The country is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.[58]

Sierra Leone has a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi), divided into a land area of 71,620 km2 (27,653 sq mi) and water of 120 km2 (46 sq mi).[18] The country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone the plateau is interspersed with high mountains, where Mount Bintumani reaches 1,948 m (6,391 ft), the highest point in the country. The upper part of the drainage basin of the Moa River is located in the south of this region.

The centre of the country is a region of lowland plains, containing forests, bush and farmland,[58] that occupies about 43% of Sierra Leone's land area. The northern section of this has been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as part of the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic ecoregion, while the south is rain-forested plains and farmland. In the west Sierra Leone has some 400 km (249 mi) of Atlantic coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. The coast has areas of low-lying Guinean mangroves swamp. The national capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbour, the world's third largest natural harbour.

The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert and the night-time temperature can be as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F). The average temperature is 26 °C (78.8 °F) and varies from around 26 °C (78.8 °F) to 36 °C (96.8 °F) during the year.[59][60]


Human activities claimed to be responsible or contributing to land degradation in Sierra Leone include unsustainable agricultural land use, poor soil and water management practices, deforestation, removal of natural vegetation, fuelwood consumption and to a lesser extent overgrazing and urbanisation.[61]

Deforestation, both for commercial timber and to make room for agriculture, is the major concern and represents an enormous loss of natural economic wealth to the nation.[61] Mining and slash and burn for land conversion – such as cattle grazing – dramatically diminished forested land in Sierra Leone since the 1980s. It is listed among countries of concern for emissions, as having Low Forest Cover with High Rates of Deforestation (LFHD).[62] There are concerns that heavy logging continues in the Tama-Tonkoli Forest Reserve in the north, they have extended their operations to Nimini, Kono District, Eastern Province; Jui, Western Rural District, Western Area; Loma Mountains National Park, Koinadougu, Northern Province; and with plans to start operations in the Kambui Forest reserve in the Kenema District, Eastern Province.[62]

Habitat degradation for the African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, has been decreased, such that this canid is deemed to have been extirpated in Sierra Leone.[63]

Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system due to the civil war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. Deforestation rates have increased 7.3% since the end of the civil war.[64] On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% 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.[64]

The Environmental Justice Foundation has documented how the number of illegal fishing vessels in Sierra Leone's waters has multiplied in recent years. The amount of illegal fishing has significantly depleted fish stocks, depriving local fishing communities of an important resource for survival. The situation is particularly serious as fishing provides the only source of income for many communities in a country still recovering from over a decade of civil war.[65]

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 south eastern Sierra Leone,[66] an important surviving fragment of rainforest in Sierra Leone.

Government and politics

Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The current system of government in Sierra Leone, established under the 1991 Constitution, is modelled on the following structure of government: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.[67]

Within the confines of the 1991 Constitution, supreme legislative powers are vested in Parliament, which is the law making body of the nation. Supreme executive authority rests in the president and members of his cabinet and judicial power with the judiciary of which the Chief Justice is head.

The president is the head of state, the head of government and the commander-in-chief of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Sierra Leone Police. The president appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers, which must be approved by the Parliament. The president is elected by popular vote to a maximum of two five-year terms. The president is the highest and most influential position within the government of Sierra Leone.

To be elected president of Sierra Leone, a candidate must gain at least 55% of the vote. If no candidate gets 55%, there is to be a second-round runoff between the top two candidates.

The current president of Sierra Leone is Ernest Bai Koroma, who was sworn in on 17 September 2007, shortly after being declared the winner of a tense run-off election over the incumbent Vice-president, Solomon Berewa of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).[68] He was subsequently re-elected to a second 5-year term on 17 November 2012, winning more than 58% of the vote, and eclipsing the 55% necessary to avoid a runoff.

Next to the president is the Vice-president, who is the second-highest ranking government official in the executive branch of the Sierra Leone Government. As designated by the Sierra Leone Constitution, the vice-president is to become the new president of Sierra Leone upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president by parliament and to assume the Presidency temporarily while the president is otherwise temporarily unable to fulfil his or her duties. The vice-president is elected jointly with the president as his or her running mate. Sierra Leone's current vice-president is Samuel Sam-Sumana, sworn in on 17 September 2007.

The Parliament of Sierra Leone is unicameral, with 124 seats. Each of the country's fourteen districts is represented in parliament. 112 members are elected concurrently with the presidential elections; the other 12 seats are filled by paramount chiefs from each of the country's 12 administrative districts.

The current parliament in the August 2007 Parliamentary elections is made up of three political parties. The most recent parliamentary elections were held on 11 August 2007. The All People's Congress (APC), won 59 of 112 parliamentary seats; the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won 43; and the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) won 10. To be qualified as Member of Parliament, the person must be a citizen of Sierra Leone, must be at least 21 years old, must be able to speak, read and write the English language with a degree of proficiency to enable him to actively take part in proceedings in Parliament; and must not have any criminal conviction.[67]

Since independence in 1961, Sierra Leone's politics has been dominated by two major political parties, the SLPP and the ruling APC, although other minor political parties have also existed but with no significant supports. The next election is scheduled for 17 November 2012.[69]

The judicial power of Sierra Leone is vested in the judiciary, headed by the Chief Justice and comprising the Sierra Leone Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country and its ruling therefore cannot be appealed; High Court of Justice; the Court of Appeal; the magistrate courts; and traditional courts in rural villages. The president appoints and parliament approves Justices for the three courts. The Judiciary have jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters throughout the country. The current Chief Justice is Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh, who was appointed by President Ernest Bai Koroma and took office on 25 January 2008 upon her confirmation by parliament. She is the first woman in the history of Sierra Leone to hold such position.[70]

Foreign relations

The Sierra Leone Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Joseph Bandabla Dauda is responsible for foreign policy of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has diplomatic relations that include China, Libya, Iran, and Cuba. Sierra Leone has good relations with the West, including the United States and has maintained historical ties with the United Kingdom and other former British colonies through membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.[71] The United Kingdom has played a major role in providing aid to the former colony, together with administrative help and military training since intervening to end the Civil War in 2000.

Former President Siaka Stevens' government had sought closer relations with other West African countries under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) a policy continued by the current government. Sierra Leone, along with Liberia and Guinea form the Mano River Union (MRU) primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration between the three countries.[72]

Sierra Leone is also a member of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, the African Union, the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).[73] Sierra Leone is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US military (as covered under Article 98).

The Office of National Security plays an important security co-ordination role, including in the leadup to the 2007 elections.[74]

Provinces and districts

The Republic of Sierra Leone is composed of four regions the Northern Province, Southern Province, the Eastern Province and the Western Area. The first three provinces are further divided into 12 districts, and the districts are further divided into 149 chiefdoms. The Local Government Act 2004 designated units of government called localities each of which would have a directly elected local district council to exercise authority and carry out functions at a local level.[75][76] There are 13 district councils, one for each of the 12 districts and one for the Western Area Rural, and six municipalities each with a council, Freetown, Bo, Bonthe, Kenema, Koidu and Makeni.[75]

District Capital Area km2 Province Population
(2004 census)[77]
(2010 estimates)
Bombali District Makeni 7,985 Northern
408,390 434,319[78]
Koinadugu District Kabala 12,121 265,758 251,091[79]
Port Loko District Port Loko 5,719 455,746 500,992[79]
Tonkolili District Magburaka 7,003 347,197 385,322[80]
Kambia District Kambia 3,108 270,462 313,765[81]
Kenema District Kenema 6,053 Eastern
497,948 545,327[82]
Kono District Koidu Town 5,641 335,401 352,328[83]
Kailahun District Kailahun 3,859 358,190 409,520[83]
Bo District Bo 5,473.6[84] Southern
463,668 561,524[85]
Bonthe District Mattru Jong 3,468 129,947 140,845[86]
Pujehun District Pujehun 4,105 228,392 252,390
Moyamba District Moyamba 6,902 260,910 252,390
Western Area Urban District Freetown 3,568 Western
1,272,873 1,473,873
Western Area Rural District Waterloo 4,175 174,249 205,400


Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence have continued to rise, adding impetus to the country's economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas.

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top ten diamond producing nations. Mineral exports remain the main currency earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export.

Annual production of Sierra Leone's diamond estimates range between US$250 million–$300 million. Some of that is smuggled, where it is possibly used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. Formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil war, with efforts to improve the management of them having some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund (DACDF), which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone is also known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to diamond conglomerates during the civil war, to buy the weapons that fuelled its atrocities.[87] In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials.

Percentage of GDP by sector (2007) [88]
Rank Sector Percentage
of GDP
1 Agriculture 58.5
2 Other services 10.4
3 Trade and tourism 9.5
4 Wholesale and retail trade 9.0
5 Mining and quarrying 4.5
6 Government Services 4.0
7 Manufacturing and handicrafts 2.0
8 Construction 1.7
9 Electricity and water 0.4

By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of the formal economy was destroyed in the country's civil war. Since the end of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Much of the recovery will depend on the success of the government's efforts to limit corruption by officials, which many feel was the chief cause for the civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of United States and European investors, began commercial mining operations near the city of Bonthe, in the Southern Province, in early 1979. It was then the largest non-petroleum US investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons created $75 million in export earnings in 1990. In 1990, the company and the government made a new agreement on the terms of the company's concession in Sierra Leone. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995, but exports resumed in 2005. The Tonkolili region hosts the biggest iron ore deposit in Africa and the third largest in the world, exploited by African Minerals, in the hills around Bumbuna, Mabonto and Bendugu.[89][90] The new Mines and Minerals Act was passed by Parliament in November 2009, which aimed to improve concessions management in the Ministry of Mineral Resources. Sierra Leone is an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) candidate country. In January 2012, the government launched the GoSL Online Repository, which makes public all mining licenses and related payments recorded.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 52.5% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. The government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Despite its successes and development, the Sierra Leone economy still faces significant challenges. There is high 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 currency is the leone. The central bank of the country is the Bank of Sierra Leone which is in the capital, Freetown. The country 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 card use is limited in Sierra Leone, though they may be used at some hotels and restaurants. There are a few internationally linked automated teller machines that accept Visa cards in Freetown operated by ProCredit Bank.


In 2013 Sierra Leone has an officially projected population of 6,190,280[1] and a growth rate of 2.216% a year.[18] The country's population is mostly young, with an estimated 41.7% under 15, and rural, with an estimated 62% of people living outside the cities.[18] As a result of migration to cities the population is becoming more urban with an estimated rate of urbanisation growth of 2.9% a year.[18][91] Population density varies greatly with the country. The Western Area Urban District, including Freetown, the capital and largest city, has a population density of 1,224 persons per square km whereas the largest district Koinadugu has a density of 21.4 persons per square km.[91]

Although English is the official language,[92] spoken at schools, government administration and the media, Krio (derived from English and several indigenous African languages, the language of the Sierra Leone Krio people), is the most widely spoken language in virtually all parts of Sierra Leone. The Krio language is spoken by 90% of the country's population[18][93] and unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other.[19] According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Sierra Leone had a population of 8,700 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2007. Nearly 20,000 Liberian refugees voluntarily returned to Liberia over the course of 2007. Of the refugees remaining in Sierra Leone nearly all were Liberian.[94]

The populations quoted above for the five largest cities are from the 2004 census. Other figures are estimates from the source cited. Different sources give different estimates. Some claim that Magburaka should be included in the above list, but one source estimates the population at only 14,915,[95] whilst another puts it as high as 85,313.[96] "Pandebu-Tokpombu" is presumably the extended town of Torgbonbu which had a population of 10,716 in the 2004 census, though "Gbendembu" had a larger population of 12,139 in that census. In the 2004 census, Waterloo had a population of 34,079.


Main article: Religion in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone religious sects[11][97]
Religion Percent
Traditional African religion

Followers of Islam constitute the majority of the population of Sierra Leone, while Christians form a significant minority. The Pew Research Center estimates the Muslim population at 71.3% (4,059,000).[98] Muslims are estimated to comprise 60% of Sierra Leone's population according to the US Department of State,[99] while 20 to 30% are reported to be followers of Christianity, and 5 to 10% of the population practice indigenous animist beliefs.

The 2007 UNHCR's "Report on International Religious Freedom in Sierra Leone"[97] estimated 60% Muslim, 20 to 30% Christian and 5 to 10% other beliefs, with many citizens practising a mixture of Islam and traditional indigenous religious beliefs or Christianity and traditional indigenous beliefs. Muslims predominate in all of the country's three provinces and the Western Area, though formerly they were concentrated in the north with the south being mainly Christian.

The vast majority of Sierra Leonean Muslims are Sunni; small minorities are Shia and Ahmadiyya. Though small in numbers, the Ahmadiyya has one of the largest Islamic institutions across country, including many primary and secondary schools.

The vast majority of Sierra Leonean Christians are Protestants, of which the largest group are Methodists[100][100][101][102] and Evangelicals.[103][104] Other Christian Protestants denominations in the country include presbytarian,[105] Baptist,[106] seventh day adventist[107] Anglicans,[108] and Lutheran.[109]

Catholics are the second largest non-Protestant Christians division in Sierra Leone, with about 5% of the country's population.[110] The Jehovah’s Witnesses,[111] and Mormons[112][113] form a small minority of the Christian population in the country.

Sierra Leone is one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each peacefully.[114][115][116] Religious violence is very rare in the country.[117] The constitution of Sierra Leone provides for freedom of religion.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic groups of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is home to about twenty ethnic groups, each with its own language. The largest and most influential are the Temne at about 35% and the Mende at about 31%. The Temne predominate in the Northern Sierra Leone and the areas around the capital of Sierra Leone. The Mende likewise predominate in the South-Eastern Sierra Leone (with the exception of Kono District). The Temne are predominantly Muslims, while the Mende are about equal in numbers between Muslims and Christians. Sierra Leone's national politics centres on the competition between the north-west, dominated by the Temne, and the south-east dominated by the Mende.[118] The Mende, who are believed to be descendants of the Mane, were originally in the Liberian hinterland. They began moving into Sierra Leone slowly and peacefully in the eighteenth century. The Temne are thought to have come from Futa Jallon, which is in present-day Guinea. Sierra Leone's current president Ernest Bai Koroma is an ethnic Temne.

The third-largest ethnic group are the Limba at about 8% of the population. The Limba are native people of Sierra Leone. They have no tradition of origin and it is believed that they have lived in Sierra Leone since it was discovered. The Limba are primarily found in Northern Sierra Leone, particularly in Bombali, Kambia and Koinadugu District. Since Independence to present, the Limba have traditionally been very influential in Sierra Leone's politics, along with the Mende.

The fourth largest ethnic group are the Fula at around 7% of the population (descendants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Fulani settlers from the Fouta Djalon region of Guinea); they live primarily in the northeast and the western area of Sierra Leone. The Fula are primarily traders and many live in middle-class homes. Because of their trading, the Fulas are found in virtually all parts of the country.

The other ethnic groups are the Mandingo (also known as Mandinka traders from Guinea, who migrated to Sierra Leone during the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century). The Mandika are predominantly found in the east and the northern part of the country, and they are the largest inhabitant of the large towns, most notably Karina, in Bombali Distric in the north, and Kabal and Falaba in Koinadugu District in the north and Yengema, Kono District in the east of the country. Sierra Leone's third president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is an ethnic Mandingo.

After the Mandika, are the Kono, who live primarily in Kono District in Eastern Sierra Leone. The Kono are descendants from Guinea and they are primarily farmers and diamond miners. Sierra Leone's current Vice-President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana is an ethnic Kono.

The small but significant Creole (descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated African slaves landed in Freetown between 1787 and about 1885) make up about 4% of the population and they are primarily found in the capital city of Freetown and its surrounding Western Area. Creole culture is unlike that of virtually all other ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, and it is typical of Western culture and ideals. The Krios have traditionally dominated Sierra Leone's judiciacy and Freetown's city council and they have traditionally been influential in the civil service.

The much smaller Oku people, who are often considered a branch of the Krio people, with whom they share similar culture and history and are usually known as the Krio Muslims due to the fact that the Oku are predominantly Muslims. The Oku are found primarily in the capital Freetown and its surrounding Western Area, particularly in the neighbourhood's of Fourah Bay and Foulah Town. A significant number of Oku can be found in the city of Waterloo in the Western Area. Notable Oku include one of Sierra Leone's independence leaders and former government minister Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha; and former Commissioner of Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission Abdul Tejan-Cole.

Other minority ethnic groups are the Kuranko, who are related to the Mandingo. The Kuranko are believed to have begun arriving in Sierra Leone from Guinea in about 1600 and settled in the north, particularly in Koinadugu District. The Kuranko are primarily farmers and they have traditionally held several senior positions in the Military. The Loko in the north are native people of Sierra Leone and they are believed to have lived in Sierra Leone since it was discovered. The Susu and Yalunka are traders and are primarily found in the far north in Kambia and Koinadugu District close to the border with Guinea. The Susu and Yalunka are related people and they are both descendants from Guinea.

The Kissi are further inland in South-Eastern Sierra Leone, and they predominante in the large town of Koindu and its surrounding areas in Kailahun District. The much smaller Vai and Kru are primarily found in Kailahun and Pujehun District around the border with Liberia. Kru predominante in the neighbood of Kroubay in the capital Freetown.

On the coast in Bonthe District in the south are the Sherbro, who are native people of Sierra Leone and have settled in Sherbro Island since it was founded. The Sherbro are primarily fisherman and farmers and they are predominantly found in Bonthe District.

A small numbers of Sierra Leoneans are of partial or full Lebanese ancestry and they are locally known as Sierra Leonean-Lebanese. The Sierra Leonean-Lebanese community are primarily traders and they mostly live in middle class households in the urban areas, primarily in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni.


Education in Sierra Leone is legally required for all children for six years at primary level (Class P1-P6) and three years in junior secondary education,[119] but a shortage of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible.[52] Two thirds of the adult population of the country are illiterate.[120] The Sierra Leone Civil War resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools, and in 2001, 67% of all school-age children were out of school.[52] The situation has improved considerably since then with primary school enrolment doubling between 2001 and 2005 and the reconstruction of many schools since the end of the war.[121] Students at primary schools are usually 6 to 12 years old, and in secondary schools 13 to 18. Primary education is free and compulsory in government-sponsored public schools.

The country has three universities: Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827 (the oldest university in West Africa),[122] University of Makeni (established initially in September 2005 as The Fatima Institute, the college was granted university status in August 2009, and assumed the name University of Makeni, or UNIMAK), and Njala University, primarily located in Bo District. Njala University was established as the Njala Agricultural Experimental Station in 1910 and became a university in 2005.[123] Teacher training colleges and religious seminaries are found in many parts of the country.


Main article: Media of Sierra Leone

Media in Sierra Leone began with the introduction of the first [3], the government-owned current national broadcaster in Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone constitution guarantees

Print media is not widely read in Sierra Leone, especially outside Freetown and other major cities, partially due to the low levels of literacy in the country.[127] In 2007 there were 15 daily newspapers in the country, as well as those published weekly.[128] Among newspaper readership, young people are likely to read newspapers weekly and older people daily. The majority of newspapers are privately run and are often critical of the government. The standard of print journalism tends to be low due to lack of training, and people trust the information published in newspapers less than that found on the radio.[127]

Radio is the most-popular and most-trusted media in Sierra Leone, with 85% of people having access to a radio and 72% of people in the country listening to the radio daily.[127] These levels do vary between areas of the country, with the Western Area having the highest levels and Kailahun the lowest. Stations mainly consist of local commercial stations with a limited broadcast range, combined with a few stations with national coverage – Capital Radio Sierra Leone being the largest of the commercial stations. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) ran one of the most popular stations in the country, broadcasting programs in a range of languages. The UN mission were restructured in 2008 and it was decided that the UN Radio would be merged with SLBS to form the new Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). This merger eventually happened in 2011 after the necessary legislation was enacted. SLBC transmits radio on FM and has two television services, one of which is uplinked by satellite for international consumption. FM relays of BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale and Voice of America are also broadcast.

Outside the capital Freetown and other major cities, television is not watched by a great many people, although Bo, Kenema and Makeni are served by their own relays of the main SLBC service. There are two national, free terrestrial television stations in Sierra Leone, one run by the government SLBC and the other a private station, AIT (Africa Independent Television) which is linked with the Nigerian station of the same name. In 2007, a pay-per-view service was also introduced by GTV as part of a pan-African television service in addition to the nine-year-old sub-Saharan Digital satellite television service (DStv) originating from Multichoice Africa in South Africa. GTV subsequently went out of business, leaving DStv as the only provider of pay-per-view television in the country.

Internet access in Sierra Leone has been sparse but is on the increase, especially since the introduction of 3G cellular phone services across the country. There are three main internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the country. Freetown has internet cafes and other businesses offering internet access. Problems experienced with access to the Internet include an intermittent electricity supply and a slow connection speed in the country outside Freetown.


Health care is provided by the government and others. Since April 2010, the government has instituted the Free Health Care Initiative which commits to free services for pregnant and lactating women and children under 5. This policy has been supported by increased aid from the United Kingdom and is recognised as a progressive move that other African countries may follow.[129] However still only few people in Sierra Leone have access to adequate medical care. For some people from rural areas the next doctor or hospital is out of reach even though free health care might be provided there. In other cases people are charged by the medical staff because they themselves are poorly paid. Many people do not even know that they have a right for free medical care.[130] Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 56.55 years in 2012.[131] Estimates for infant mortality in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world; for every 1,000 live births, approximately 77 children do not survive to their first birthday.[132] The maternal death rates are also among the highest in the world, at 890 deaths per 100,000 live births.[133] The country suffers from epidemic outbreaks of diseases including yellow fever, cholera, lassa fever and meningitis.[134][135] The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the population is 1.6%, higher than the world average of 1% but lower than the average of 6.1% in Sub-Saharan Africa.[136]

During the Civil War (1991–2002) many soldiers took part in atrocities and many children were forced to fight. This left them traumatised with an estimated 400,000 people (by 2009) being mentally ill. Also thousands of former child soldiers have fallen into substance abuse as they try to blunt their memories. Neurological health care is still not a service offered in the country five years after the Civil War ended in 2002.[137] Mental healthcare in the country is almost non-existing with many patients trying to cure themselves with the help of traditional healers.[138]


The Military of Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), are the unified armed forces of Sierra Leone responsible for the territorial security of Sierra Leone's border and defending the national interests of Sierra Leone within the framework of its international obligations. The armed forces were formed after independence in 1961, on the basis of elements of the former British Royal West African Frontier Force present in the country. The Sierra Leone Armed Forces currently consists of around 15,500 personnel, comprising the largest Sierra Leone Army,[139] the Sierra Leone Navy and the Sierra Leone Air Wing.[140] The president of Sierra Leone is the Commander in Chief of the military, with the Minister of Defence responsible for defence policy and the formulation of the armed forces. The current Sierra Leone Defence Minister is retired Major Alfred Paolo Conteh. The Military of Sierra Leone also has a Chief of the Defence Staff who is a uniformed military official responsible for the administration and the operational control of the Sierra Leone military.[141] Brigadier General Alfred Nelson-Williams who was appointed by president Koroma succeeded the retired Major General Edward Sam M’boma on 12 September 2008 as the Chief of Defence Staff of the Military.[142]

Before Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961 the military was known as the Royal Sierra Leone Military Force. The military seized control in 1968, bringing the National Reformation Council into power. On 19 April 1971, when Sierra Leone became a republic, the Royal Sierra Leone Military Forces were renamed the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Force (RSLMF).[143] The RSLMF remained a single service organisation until 1979, when the Sierra Leone Navy was established. It then remained largely unchanged for 16 years until in 1995 when Defence Headquarters was established and the Sierra Leone Air Wing formed. This gave the need for the RSLMF to be renamed the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone (AFRSL).

Law enforcement

Law enforcement in Sierra Leone is primarily the responsibility of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). Sierra Leone Police was established by the British colony back in 1894 and is one of the oldest police forces in West Africa. The key mission of the Sierra Leone Police include to prevent crime, to protect life and property, to detect and prosecute offenders, to maintain public order, to ensure safety and security, to enhance access to justice. The Sierra Leone Police is headed by the Inspector General of Police, the professional head of the Sierra Leone Police force and is appointed by the President of Sierra Leone. Each one of Sierra Leone's 14 districts is headed by a district police commissioner who is the professional head of their respective district. The Districts' Police Commissioners report directly to the Inspector General of Police at the Sierra Leone Police headquarters in Freetown. The current Inspector General of Police is Brima Acha Kamara who was appointed to the position by former president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.


There are a number of systems of transport in Sierra Leone, which has a road, air and water infrastructure, including a network of highways and several airports. There are 11,300 kilometres of highways in Sierra Leone, of which 904 km (562 mi)[18] are paved (about 8% of the roads). Sierra Leone highways are linked to Conakry, Guinea, and Monrovia, Liberia. Sierra Leone has the largest natural harbour on the African continent, allowing international shipping through the Queen Elizabeth II Quay in the Cline Town area of eastern Freetown or through Government Wharf in central Freetown. There are 800 km (497 mi) of waterways in Sierra Leone, of which 600 km (373 mi) are navigable year-round. Major port cities are Bonthe, Freetown, Sherbro Island and Pepel.

There are ten regional airports in Sierra Leone, and one international airport. The Lungi International Airport located in the coastal town of Lungi in Northern Sierra Leone is the primary airport for domestic and international travel to or from Sierra Leone. Passengers cross the river to Aberdeen Heliports in Freetown by hovercraft, ferry or a helicopter. Helicopters are also available from the airport to other major cities in the country. The airport has paved runways longer than 3,047m. The other airports have unpaved runways, and seven have runways 914 to 1,523 metres long; the remaining two have shorter runways. This country appears on the E.U. list of prohibited countries with regard to the certification of airlines. This means that no airline which is Sierra Leone registered may operate services of any kind within the European Union. This is due to substandard safety standards.[144]

Drinking water supply

Main article: Water supply in Sierra Leone

Water supply in Sierra Leone is characterised by limited access to safe drinking water. Despite efforts by the government and numerous non-governmental organisations, access has not much improved since the end of the Sierra Leone Civil War in 2002, stagnating at about 50% and even declining in rural areas.[145] In the capital Freetown, taps often run dry. It is hoped that a new dam in Orugu, for which China committed financing in 2009, will alleviate water scarcity.[146]

According to a national survey (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey) carried out in 2006, 84% of the urban population and 32% of the rural population had access to an improved water source. Those with access in rural areas were served almost exclusively by protected wells. The 68% of the rural population without access to an improved water source relied on surface water (50%), unprotected wells (9%) and unprotected springs (9%). Only 20% of the urban population and 1% of the rural population had access to piped drinking water in their home. Compared to the 2000 survey access has increased in urban areas, but has declined in rural areas, possibly because facilities have broken down because of a lack of maintenance.[145][147]

With a new decentralisation policy, embodied in the Local Government Act of 2004, responsibility for water supply in areas outside the capital was passed from the central government to local councils. In Freetown the Guma Valley Water Company remains in charge of water supply.

Food and customs

Rice is the staple food of Sierra Leone and is consumed at virtually every meal daily. The rice is prepared in numerous ways, and topped with a variety of sauces made from some of Sierra Leone's favourite toppings, including potato leaves, cassava leaves, crain crain, okra soup, fried fish and groundnut stew.[148]

Along the street of towns and cities one can find foods consisting of fruit, vegetables and snacks such as fresh mangoes, oranges, pineapple, fried plantains, ginger beer, fried potato, fried cassava with pepper sauce; small bags of popcorn or peanuts, bread, roasted corn, or skewers of grilled meat or shrimp.

Poyo is a popular Sierra Leonean drink. It is a sweet, lightly fermented palm wine,[149] and is found in bars in towns and villages across the country. Poyo bars are areas of lively informal debate about politics, football, entertainment and other issues.



The arts in Sierra Leone are a mixture of tradition and hybrid African and western styles.[150][151][152]


Main article: Sport in Sierra Leone

Football is by far the most popular sport in Sierra Leone. Children, youth and adult are frequently seen playing street football across Sierra Leone. There are organised youth and adult football tournaments across the country, and there are various primary and secondary schools with football teams across Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone national football team, popularly known as the Leone Stars, represents the country in international competitions. It has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup but participated in the 1994 and 1996 African Cup of Nations. When the national football team, the Leone Stars, have a match, Sierra Leoneans across the country come together united in support of the national team and people rush to their local radio and television stations to follow the live match. The country's national television network, The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) broadcasts the national football team live match, along with many local radio stations across the country. When the Leone Stars win an important match, many youth across the county rush to the street to celebrate. Many of the Sierra Leone national team footballers play for teams based in Europe although virtually all of them started professional football in the Sierra Leone National Premier League. Many of the national team footballers are celebrities across Sierra Leone and they are often well known by most of the country's general population. Some well known Sierra Leonean international footballers include Mohamed Kallon, Mohamed Bangura, Rodney Strasser, Ibrahim Teteh Bangura, Alhassan Bangura, Sheriff Suma, Mohamed Kamara, Umaru Bangura, Julius Woba, Kei Kamara and Medo Kamara.

The Sierra Leone National Premier League is the top professional football league in Sierra Leone and is controlled by the Sierra Leone Football Association. Fourteen clubs from across the country compete in the Sierra Leone Premier League. The two biggest and most successful football clubs are East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool. East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool have an intense rivalry and when they play each other the national stadium in Freetown is often sold out and supporters of both clubs often clash with each other before and after the game. There is a huge police presence inside and outside the national stadium during a match between the two great rivals to prevent a clash. Many Sierra Leonean youth follow the local football league.

Many Sierra Leonean youth, children and adults follow the major football leagues in Europe, particularly the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1. The Sierra Leone cricket team represents Sierra Leone in international cricket competitions, and is among the best in West Africa. It became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2002. It made its international debut at the 2004 African Affiliates Championship, where it finished last of eight teams. But at the equivalent tournament in 2006, Division Three of the African region of the World Cricket League, it finished as runner-up to Mozambique, and just missed a promotion to Division Two.

In 2009 the Sierra Leone Under-19 team finished second in the African Under-19 Championship in Zambia, thus qualifying for the Under-19 World Cup qualifying tournament with nine other teams.[153] However, the team was unable to obtain Canadian visas to play in the tournament, which was held in Toronto.[154]

Basketball is not a very popular sport in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone national basketball team represents Sierra Leone in international men's basketball competitions and is controlled by the Sierra Leone Basketball Federation.

See also

Sierra Leone portal
Africa portal
Commonwealth realms portal



Primary sources

  • Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007). Sarah Crichton Books: New York. Link: A Long Way Gone
  • historical novel – Laurent Bonnet – Vents d'Ailleurs 2012

Secondary sources

External links

  • The Republic of Sierra Leone official government site
  • Chief of State and Cabinet Members
  • Ministry of Mineral Resources official government minerals site
  • Audit Service Sierra Leone – the Office of the Auditor General official site
  • [10] – The official newspaper of Sierra Leone reporting on appointment of Robert Blick as Trade Commissioner
General information
  • BBC News
  • The World Factbook
  • Sierra Leone from UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • DMOZ
  • Atlas of Sierra Leone
  • International Futures
News media
  • Awareness Times Newspaper
  • The New People The New People Newspaper
  • Sierra Leone News & Blog Current Sierra Leone News & Blog
  • National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone official site
  • Sierra Leone telecom
  • Sierra Leone Forum
  • Friends of Sierra Leone
  • Schools for Salone non-profit dedicated to rebuilding schools
  • ENCISS civil society and governance
  • The Auradicals Club Student Club in Fourah Bay College
  • Sierra Leone Web
  • Sweet Salone 2008 film on new music in Sierra Leone
  • War Crimes Trials in Sierra Leone
  • Hurrarc – Human Rights Respect Awareness Raising Campaigners – Sierra Leone Ngo
  • Environmental Justice Foundation's report on pirate fishing in Sierra Leone
  • Stories from Lakka Beach Documentary about life in a post-conflict beach resort town (2011)

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