Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa that is bordered by Guinea to the northeast, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. The country covers a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) (SONY PCG-5G2L battery) and is divided into four geographical regions: the Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area; which are subdivided into fourteen districts. The districts have their own directly elected local government known as district council, headed by a council chairman(SONY PCG-5G3L battery).
Freetown, located in the Western Area of the country, is the capital, largest city as well as its economic, commercial and political centre. Bo, located in the Southern Province of the country, is the country's second largest city and the second major economic and commercial centre. The country is a constitutional republic and with an estimated population of 6 million (2011 United Nations estimate) (SONY PCG-F305 battery).
Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, and a major producer of gold. The country has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone is also home to the third largest natural harbour in the world, where shipping from all over the globe berth at Freetown's famous Queen Elizabeth II Quay. Despite this natural wealth, 70% of its people live in poverty. (SONY PCG-5J1L battery)
Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country, though with an influential Christian minority. Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. People are often married across ethnic and religious boundaries. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully. Religious violence is very rare in the country(SONY PCG-5J2L battery).
The population of Sierra Leone comprises about fifteen ethnic groups, each with its own language and costume. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende. Although English is the language of instruction in schools and the official language in government administration, the Krio language(SONY PCG-5K2L battery) (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. The Krio Language unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other.
In 1462, the area that is now Sierra Leone was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra(SONY PCG-5L1L battery), who named it Serra Leoa, meaning "Lioness Mountains". 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 enslaved from (or freed by) the British Empire. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate. (SONY PCG-6S2L battery)
Between 1991 and 2002 the Sierra Leone Civil War devastated the country leaving more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country's infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced in neighbouring countries as refugees; mainly to Guinea, which was home to over 600,000 Sierra Leonean refugees(SONY PCG-6S3L battery).
Fragments of prehistoric pottery from Kamabai Rock Shelter
An 1835 illustration of liberated Africans arriving in Sierra Leone.
The colony of Freetown in 1856
Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years, populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa. The use of iron was introduced to Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by 1000 A.D. agriculture was being practiced by coastal tribes. (SONY PCG-6V1L battery)Sierra Leone's dense tropical rainforest largely protected it from the influence of any pre-colonial African empires and from further Islamic influence of the Mali Empire. The Islamic faith, however, became common in the 18th century.
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). The Italian rendering of this geographic formation is Sierra Leone, which became the country's name(SONY PCG-6W1L battery).
Soon after Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built. The Portuguese were joined by the Dutch and French, all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. 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. (SONY PCG-7111L battery)
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(SONY PCG-71511M battery), 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. (SONY PCG-6W3L battery)
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(SONY PCG-7113L battery). Led by Thomas Peters and British abolitionist John Clarkson, 1196 of the Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia crossed the Atlantic to built 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(SONY PCG-7133L battery). In the 1790s, the Settlers voted for the first time in elections, as did women. 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(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery).
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. (SONY PCG-7Z2L battery)
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(SONY PCG-8Y1L battery). These returned Africans were from many areas of Africa, but principally the west coast. During the 19th century many black Americans, Americo Liberian 'refugees', and particularly West Indians immigrated and settled in Freetown creating a new ethnicity called the Krio.
Bai Bureh, leader of the 1898 rebellion against British rule
Photograph of British West African Campaign troops in Freetown, c. 1914–1916. Published caption: "BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE PREPARING TO EMBARK AT FREETOWN TO ATTACK THE GERMAN CAMEROONS, THE MAIN OBJECT OF THE ATTACK BEING THE PORT OF DUALA. AUXILIARY NATIVE TROOPS WERE FREELY USED IN AFRICAN WARFARE(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery)."
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(SONY PCG-8Z2L battery).
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(SONY PCG-8Z1L battery). Hundreds of British troops and hundreds of Bureh's fighters were killed. Bai Bureh was finally captured on 11 November 1898 and sent into exile in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), 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(SONY PCG-7112L battery). Riots in 1955 and 1956 involved "many tens of thousands" of natives in the protectorate.
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(SONY PCG-6W2L battery). 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 Krio, led by Isaac Wallace-Johnson, opposed the proposals, the main effect of which would have been to diminish their political power(SONY PCG-5K1L battery). It was due to the astute politics of Sir Milton Margai that the educated Protectorate elite was won over to join forces with the paramount chiefs in the face of Krio intransigence. Later, Sir Milton used the same skills to win over opposition leaders and moderate Krio elements for the achievement of independence(SONY PCGA-BP1U battery).
In November 1951, Sir Milton Margai oversaw the drafting of a new constitution, which united the separate Colonial and Protectorate legislatures and—most importantly—provided a framework for decolonization. In 1953, Sierra Leone was granted local ministerial powers, and Sir Milton Margai, was elected Chief Minister of Sierra Leone. (SONY PCGA-BP2E battery) The new constitution ensured Sierra Leone a parliamentary system within the Commonwealth of Nations. In May 1957, Sierra Leone held its first parliamentary election. The 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(SONY PCGA-BP2EA battery).
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. All of the twenty four members of the Sierra Leonean delegation were prominent and well-respected politicians including Sir Milton himself(SONY VGP-BPS3 battery), 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 Ella Koblo Gulama, educationist Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha, professor Kande Bureh, lawyer Sir Banja Tejan-Sie, former Freetown's Mayor Eustace Henry Taylor Cummings educationist Amadu Wurie, and Creole diplomat Hector Reginald Sylvanus Boltman. (SONY VGP-BPS4 battery)
On the conclusion of talks in London, 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(SONY VGP-BPS5 battery); 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. Upon their return to Freetown on 4 May 1960, Stevens was promptly expelled from the People's National Party (PNP) (SONY VGP-BPS8 battery).
Opposition of the SLPP government
On 24 September 1960, outspoken critic of the SLPP government, Siaka Stevens, formed an alliance with several prominent northern politicians including Sorie Ibrahim Koroma, Christian Alusine-Kamara Taylor, Mohammed Bash-Taqui, S.A.T. Koroma, Kawusu Konteh, Allieu Badarr Koroma, S.A. Fofana and Mucktarru Kallay to form their own political party called the All People's Congress (APC) in opposition of the SLPP government(SONY VGP-BPS8A battery). Stevens took advantage of the dissatisfaction with the ruling SLPP among some prominent politicians from the Northern part of Sierra Leone to form the APC; and Stevens used the Northern part of Sierra Leone as his political base.
An Independent nation and Sir Milton Margai Administration
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(SONY VGP-BPL8 battery). 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 arrested in Freetown, along with sixteen others charged with disrupting the independence celebration. (SONY VGP-BPS9 battery) 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(SONY VGP-BPS9/S battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS9A battery).
Sir Albert Administration
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. Kareefa-Smart received little support in Parliament in his attempt to have Margai stripped of the SLPP leadership(SONY VGP-BPS9A/B battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS9/B battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS9A/S battery). Sir Albert was accused of corruption and of a policy of affirmative action in favor of his own Mende ethnic group Although Sir Albert had the full backing of the country's security forces, he called for a free and fair elections.
Three military coups, 1967–1968
The APC, with its leader Siaka Stevens, narrowly won a small majority seats in Parliament over the SLPP in a closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone general election and Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister on 26 April 1967(SONY VGP-BPL9 battery).
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(SONY VGP-BPS10 battery).
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(SONY VGP-BPL10 battery). 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. . (SONY VGP-BPS11 battery)
Stevens' government and 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(SONY VGP-BPL11 battery). Some of these policies by the SLPP and the NRC were said to have left the country in an economically deprived state. Stevens reorganized 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(SONY VGP-BPL12 battery). Roads and hospitals were constructed in the provinces, and Paramount Chiefs and provincial peoples became a prominent force in Freetown.
APC political rally in the northern town of Kabala outside the home of supporters of the rival SLPP in 1968
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(SONY VGP-BPS12 battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS13 battery). 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 non 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, (SONY VGP-BPS13Q battery) 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(SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q battery).
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 counry in opposition of Stevens' government. Several soldiers were arrested for their involvement in the Mutiny, (SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q battery) 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. (SONY VGP-BPS13/B battery)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, 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(SONY VGP-BPS13B/B battery).
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 arm paramilitary force he had created to protect him and to maintain his hold on power . The SSD officers were very loyal to Stevens and were deployed across Sierra Leone to put down any rebelion against Stevens' government(SONY VGP-BPS13A/S battery). 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 constitition made the APC the only legal political party in Sierra Leone. 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(SONY VGP-BPS21A/B battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS21B battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS21 battery).
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(SONY VGP-BPS21/S battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS13AS battery). 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(SONY VGP-BPS13S battery).
Multi-party constitution and Revolutionary United Front rebellion (1991 to 2001)
See also: Sierra Leone Civil War
A school in Koindu destroyed during the Civil War; in total 1,270 primary schools were destroyed in the War.
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(SONY VGP-BPS13B/S battery), 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) (SONY VGP-BPS13B/G battery) 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(SONY VGP-BPS14 battery).
On 29 April 1992, a 25-year-old Captain Valentine Strasser led seven junior officers in the Sierra Leone army that included Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Lieutenant Solomon Musa, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma, Captain Julius Maada Bio and Captain Komba Mondeh that launched a military coup, which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea and the young soldiers established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) (SONY VGP-BPL14 battery) with Strasser as its chairman and Head of State of the country. 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(SONY VGP-BPS14/B battery).
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(SONY VGP-BPS14/S battery). 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. (SONY VGP-BPS14B battery) On 5 July 1994 the deputy NPRC leader Lieutenant Solomon Musu was arrested and sent into exile after he was accused of planning a coup to topple Strasser. Strasser replaced Musa as deputy NPRC chairman with Captain Julius Maada Bio, who was instantly promoted by Strasser to Brigadier. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery)
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(SONY VGP-BPS22 battery)
On 16 January 1996 after about four years in power, Strasser was arrested in a coup by his fellow NPRC soldiers, led by his deputy Brigadier Julis Maada Bio. 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 Sierra Leone civil war were his motivations for the coup. (SONY VGP-BPS18 battery)
Return to civilian rule
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 open dialogue with the RUF and invited RUF leader Foday Sankoh for peace negotiation(SONY VGP-BPS22/A battery).
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(SONY VGP-BPS22A battery) 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. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11S battery) 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15T battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15G battery), 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 .
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ4000 battery), 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ460E battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ440N battery). 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".(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L battery)
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z battery). 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11M battery).
Geography and climate
Main article: Geography of Sierra Leone
Satellite image of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, lying mostly between latitudes 7° 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.
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). (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery) 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery).
The centre of the country is a region of lowland plains, containing forests, bush and farmland, 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ210CE battery), 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery), 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.
See also: Wildlife of Sierra Leone
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery), fuelwood consumption and to a lesser extent overgrazing and urbanization.
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. 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). (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery)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. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery)
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.
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. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery), 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.
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. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery)
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, an important surviving fragment of rainforest in Sierra Leone.
Government and politics
Main article: Politics of Sierra Leone
Ernest Bai Koroma, current president of Sierra Leone
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ32 battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery).
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) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M battery). 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 Sierra Leone Supreme Court in the capital Freetown, the highest and most powerful court in the country
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(Sony VAIO VGN-SZ battery).
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(Sony VGN-NR11S/S Battery), 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.
Since independence in 1961, Sierra Leone's politics has been dominated by two major political parties, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), and the ruling All People's Congress (APC), although other minor political parties have also existed but with no significant supports. The next election is scheduled for 17 November 2012. (Sony VGN-NR11M/S Battery)
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(Sony VGN-NR260E/S Battery). 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 Sierra Leone's 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. (Sony VGN-NR11Z/S Battery)
Main article: Foreign relations of Sierra Leone
Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington, D.C.
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(Sony VGN-NR11Z/T Battery) British colonies through membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E battery). 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.
Sierra Leone is also a member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the African Union, the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21Z battery). 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 coordination role, including in the leadup to the 2007 elections.
Provinces and districts
Main articles: Provinces of Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, and Chiefdoms of Sierra Leone
The 12 districts and 2 areas of Sierra Leone(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21J battery)
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11 battery). 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.
Sierra Leone is slowly 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. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11M battery).
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 foreign 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11S battery).
Annual production of Sierra Leone's diamond estimates range between $250–300 million US$. 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E battery). 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21J battery).
Sierra Leone is also known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to diamond conglomerates during the civil war, in order to buy the weapons that fuelled the atrocities of the civil war. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government official
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW41M battery), 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW41M/H battery), 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 realized $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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21M battery), but exports resumed in 2005. 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 EITI candidate country. In January 2012, the government launched the GoSL Online Repository, which makes public all mining licenses and related payments recorded(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21Z battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW32J battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FW17W battery).
Sierra Leone’s currency is the Leone. The central bank of the country is the Bank of Sierra Leone which is located in the capital, Freetown. 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 card use is limited in Sierra Leone, though they may be used at some hotels and restaurants(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31E battery). There are a few internationally linked automated teller machines that accept Visa cards in Freetown operated by ProCredit Bank.
Main article: Demographics of Sierra Leone
A woman in the village of Njama in Kailahun District
Sierra Leone had an estimated 2010 population of 5,245,695 and growth rate of 2.216% a year. 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. As a result of migration to cities the population is becoming more urban with an estimated rate of urbanisation growth of(Sony VAIO VGN-FW139E battery) 2.9% a year. 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.
Although English is the official language, spoken at schools, government administration and the media, Krio (Sony VAIO VGN-FW139E/H battery) (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 and unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31M battery), 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.