Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leonean /lee oh"nee euhn/.
/lee oh"nee, lee ohn"/
an independent republic in W Africa: member of the Commonwealth of Nations; formerly a British colony and protectorate. 4,891,546; 27,925 sq. mi. (72,326 sq. km). Cap.: Freetown.

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Sierra Leone

Introduction Sierra Leone -
Background: Since 1991, civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. After several setbacks, the end to the eleven-year conflict in Sierra Leone may finally be near at hand. With the support of the UN peacekeeping force and contributions from the World Bank and international community, demobilization and disarmament of the RUF and Civil Defense Forces (CDF) combatants has been completed. Reestablishment of government authority throughout the country is slowly proceeding and national elections took place in May 2002. Geography Sierra Leone
Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia
Geographic coordinates: 8 30 N, 11 30 W
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 71,740 sq km water: 120 sq km land: 71,620 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 958 km border countries: Guinea 652 km, Liberia 306 km
Coastline: 402 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 NM contiguous zone: 24 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)
Terrain: coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m
Natural resources: diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite
Land use: arable land: 6.76% permanent crops: 0.78% other: 92.46% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 290 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to February); sandstorms, dust storms Environment - current issues: rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion; civil war depleting natural resources; overfishing Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note: rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa People Sierra Leone -
Population: 5,614,743 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.7% (male 1,230,530; female 1,280,084) 15-64 years: 52.1% (male 1,397,070; female 1,528,986) 65 years and over: 3.2% (male 87,256; female 90,817) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.21% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 44.58 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 18.83 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: by the end of 1999 refugees from Sierra Leone are assumed to be returning (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 0.96 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/ female total population: 0.94 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 144.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 45.96 years female: 49.01 years (2002 est.) male: 43.01 years
Total fertility rate: 5.94 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 2.99% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 68,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 8,200 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Sierra Leonean(s) adjective: Sierra Leonean
Ethnic groups: 20 native African tribes 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole (Krio) 10% (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century), refugees from Liberia's recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians
Religions: Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%
Languages: English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic total population: 31.4% male: 45.4% female: 18.2% (1995 est.) Government Sierra Leone -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone conventional short form: Sierra Leone
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: Freetown Administrative divisions: 3 provinces and 1 area*; Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western*
Independence: 27 April 1961 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 April (1961)
Constitution: 1 October 1991; subsequently amended several times
Legal system: based on English law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Ahmad Tejan KABBAH (since 29 March 1996, reinstated 10 March 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Ahmad Tejan KABBAH (since 29 March 1996, reinstated 10 March 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president with the approval of the House of Representatives; the cabinet is responsible to the president elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 14 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007); note - president's tenure of office is limited to two five-year terms election results: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH reelected president; percent of vote - Ahmad Tejan KABBAH (SLPP) 70.6%, Ernest KOROMA 22.4%
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (124 seats - 112 elected by popular vote, 12 filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate elections; members serve five-year terms) elections: last held 14 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007) election results: percent of vote by party - SLPP 70.06%, APC 22.35%, PLP 3%, others 4.59%; seats by party - SLPP 83, APC 27, PLP 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Appeals Court; High Court Political parties and leaders: All People's Congress or APC [Alhaji Sat KOROMA, interim chairman]; Citizens United for Peace and Progress or CUPP [Alfred Musa CONTEH, interim chairman]; Coalition for Progress Party or CPP [Jeridine WILLIAM-SARHO, interim leader]; Democratic Center Party or DCP [Adu Aiah KOROMA]; Democratic Labor Party or DLP [George E. L. PALMER]; Democratic Party or DP [Henry BALO, acting chairman]; National Alliance Democratic Party or NADP [Mohamed Yahya SILLAH, chairman]; National Democratic Alliance or NDA [Amadu M. B. JALLOH]; National People's Party or NPP [Andrew TURAY]; National Republican Party or NRP [Stephen Sahr MAMBU]; National Unity Movement or NUM [Sam LEIGH, interim chairman]; National Unity Party or NUP [John BENJAMINE, interim leader]; Peace and Liberation Party or PLP [Darlington MORRISON, interim chairman]; People's Democratic Alliance or PDA [Cpl. (Ret.) Abdul Rahman KAMARA, interim chairman]; People's Democratic Party or PDP [Osman KAMARA]; People's National Convention or PNC [Edward John KARGBO]; People's Progressive Party or PPP [Abass Chernok BUNDU, chairman]; Revolutionary United Front Party or RUFP [Foday Saybana SANKOH, chairman]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Andrew Victor LUNGAY]; Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP [Ahmad Tejan KABBAH, chairman]; United National People's Party or UNPP [John KAREFA-SMART in exile, Raymond KAMARA, acting leader]; Young People's Party or YPP [Cornelius DEVEAUS, interim chairman] Political pressure groups and Trade Unions and Student Unions
leaders: International organization ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO,
participation: G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador John Ernest LEIGH FAX: [1] (202) 483-1793 telephone: [1] (202) 939-9261 through 9263 chancery: 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Peter
US: Russell CHAVEAS embassy: Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, Freetown mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [232] (22) 226481 through 226485 FAX: [232] (22) 225471
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue Economy Sierra Leone
Economy - overview: Sierra Leone is an extremely poor African nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. It does have substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources. However, the economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development, following a 10-year civil war. About two-thirds of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. There are plans to reopen bauxite and rutile mines shut down during the conflict. The major source of hard currency consists of the mining of diamonds. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $2.7 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $500 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 43% industry: 27% services: 30% (2000) Population below poverty line: 68% (1989 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 0.5%
percentage share: highest 10%: 43.6% (1989) Distribution of family income - Gini 62.9 (1989)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 15% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 1.369 million (1981 est.) note: only about 65,000 wage earners (1985) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture NA%, industry NA%, services NA%
Unemployment rate: NA%
Budget: revenues: $96 million expenditures: $351 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: mining (diamonds); small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: 245 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 227.85 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs; fish
Exports: $65 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports - commodities: diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
Exports - partners: NZ 33.7%, Belgium 32.6%, US 7.4%, France 5.1% (2000)
Imports: $145 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals
Imports - partners: Czech Republic 26.7%, UK 26.6%, US 5.1%, Netherlands 4.6% (2000)
Debt - external: $1.3 billion (2000) Economic aid - recipient: $103 million (2001 est.)
Currency: leone (SLL)
Currency code: SLL
Exchange rates: leones per US dollar - 2,212.47 (January 2002), 1,985.89 (2001), 2,092.13 (2000), 1,804.20 (1999), 1,563.62 (1998), 981.48 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Sierra Leone - Telephones - main lines in use: 25,000 (2001) Telephones - mobile cellular: 30,000 (2001)
Telephone system: general assessment: marginal telephone and telegraph service domestic: national microwave radio relay trunk system, made unserviceable by military activities, is now operating from Freetown to Bo and Kenema (April 2001) international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 9, shortwave 1 (1999)
Radios: 1.12 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 2 (1999)
Televisions: 53,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .sl Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 20,000 (2001) Transportation Sierra Leone -
Railways: total: 84 km narrow gauge: 84 km 1.067-m gauge note: Sierra Leone has no common carrier railroads; the existing railroad is private and used on a limited basis while the mine at Marampa is closed (2001)
Highways: total: 11,700 km paved: 936 km unpaved: 10,764 km (2002)
Waterways: 800 km (of which 600 km navigable year round)
Ports and harbors: Bonthe, Freetown, Pepel
Airports: 10 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 1 over 3,047 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 9 under 914 m: 2 (2001) 914 to 1,523 m: 7
Heliports: 2 (2001) Military Sierra Leone -
Military branches: Army (RSLAF) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,203,682 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 583,946 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $10.3 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.5% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Sierra Leone - Disputes - international: ongoing conflict in Sierra Leone has engendered refugee movements into neighboring Guinea and Liberia

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officially Republic of Sierra Leone

Country, western Africa.

Area: 27,699 sq mi (71,740 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 4,823,000. Capital: Freetown. The Mende and Temne are the largest of about 18 ethnic groups. Languages: English (official), Krio (derived from English and a variety of African languages). Religions: Islam, traditional beliefs, Christianity. Currency: leone. Sierra Leone has four physical regions: the coastal swamp; the Sierra Leone Peninsula, with thickly wooded mountains that rise from the swamps; the interior plains, consisting of grasslands and rolling wooded country; and the eastern plateau region, encompassing several mountains. More than one-fourth of the country is forest. Wildlife includes chimpanzees, tigers, crocodiles, and many species of birds. The economy is based largely on agriculture and mining; rice, cassava, coffee, cacao, and oil palm are major crops, and diamonds, iron ore, and bauxite are mined. The head of state and government is the president. The earliest inhabitants were probably the Bulom; the Mende and Temne peoples arrived in the 15th century. The coastal region was visited by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and by 1495 there was a Portuguese fort on the site of modern Freetown. European ships visited the coast regularly to trade for slaves and ivory, and the English built trading posts on offshore islands in the 17th century. British abolitionists and philanthropists founded Freetown in 1787 as a private venture for freed and runaway slaves. In 1808 the coastal settlement became a British colony. The region became a British protectorate in 1896. It achieved independence in 1961 and became a republic in 1971. Since independence Sierra Leone has suffered through the instability of a series of military coups. In the 1990s a civil war marked by horrific atrocities further devastated the country.

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▪ 2009

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 5,969,000
Head of state and government:
President Ernest Bai Koroma

      The economic situation in Sierra Leone remained grim in 2008. More than 70% of the country's population lived below the poverty line; the UN ranked the country as the second least developed in the world; and an estimated two-thirds of its youth were unemployed. The country had the world's highest rate of child and maternal mortality: one-quarter of the children died before their fifth birthday, and a woman's risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth was one in eight.

      Nevertheless, there were signs of progress. Despite isolated outbreaks of civil unrest, the political situation achieved sufficient stability for a reduction in the UN peacekeeping presence from 17,000 soldiers to fewer than 300. Orderly local government elections took place on July 5. Altogether 475 councillors were elected in 394 wards, with the ruling All People's Congress making a strong showing. Women's participation increased significantly; the percentage of women councillors rose from 11% to almost 19%. The new ward councils were confronted with the challenge of delivering badly needed services and equitable representation to constituencies still coping with a ruined infrastructure, massive displacement of people, and an entrenched traditional chieftaincy system. They also faced the uphill task of reforming outmoded colonial laws inherited from the British.

       Corruption remained an intractable problem. The country slipped eight places from 2007's placement in Transparency International's annually published Corruption Perception Index, dropping to the unenviable position of 158 (out of 180). To address this, the legislature in May empowered an independent anticorruption commission to investigate corruption cases and develop policy. Pres. Ernest Bai Koroma, who had won the 2007 election on an anticorruption platform, set an example for public officials by becoming the first Sierra Leonean head of state to declare his assets to the new commission. He also suspended Transport Minister Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay in August in connection with a drug investigation in which the minister's brother had been arrested. The investigation, which involved the seizure of some 700 kg (1,540 lb) of cocaine, with an estimated value of $54 million, followed warnings from both the U.S. and the UN of collaboration in Sierra Leone between police and drug traffickers. Meanwhile, the Special Court for Sierra Leone asked the U.K. for help in locating an estimated $650 million believed to have been looted by former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who was being tried at The Hague on charges that included the funding of rebels in Sierra Leone while he was in office.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2008

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 5,866,000
Head of state and government:
Presidents Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and, from September 17, Ernest Bai Koroma

      On Sept. 17, 2007, businessman Ernest Bai Koroma was inaugurated as Sierra Leone's president. The flag bearer of the All People's Congress, he pledged to run the country on sound business principles and to curtail corruption. His election was preceded by widespread violence, especially in Freetown and the southeastern towns of Bo and Kenema, but prompt police action and a two-week postponement of the polls until August 11 defused tension. Seven candidates ran for the presidency in the first electoral round, but only three qualified to stand in the September 8 runoff election. With the least percentage of votes, Charles Margai, leader of the People's Movement for Democratic Change, decided to step down in support of Koroma, who won 54.6% of the vote against incumbent Vice Pres. Solomon Berewa. A hopeful sign was the tough management of the poll by Christiana Thorpe, who dealt firmly with election malpractice and disqualified 8.9% of the votes.

      President Koroma faced a difficult task. Almost six years after the end of a decade-long civil war, an increasingly disillusioned people yearned for the implementation of an effective policy to end poverty in their mineral-rich country, which ranked 176 out of 177 in the United Nations Development Programme index of poor countries. Major priorities for the new regime were to defuse ethnic tensions, stem unemployment, restore electricity, and continue the crackdown on the “blood diamonds” trade that had disrupted international trade and investment.

      Meanwhile, the country made significant strides toward reconciliation with its violent past. In June former Liberian president Charles Taylor went on trial in The Hague for having instigated war crimes in Sierra Leone. In June and August the special war crimes court in Freetown handed down guilty verdicts to a number of militia leaders, including Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa. These latter convictions were controversial, because many civilians viewed these men as heroes for having led the Civil Defense Force against brutal rebel groups such as the Revolutionary United Front during the civil war that ended in 2002. Former defense minister Samuel Hinga Norman, who had also been indicted, died in February in Dakar, Senegal, before going to trial.

      Founded by British abolitionists in 1787, Freetown celebrated the bicentennial of the abolition of the British slave trade by renaming its main streets after key black abolitionists: Thomas Peters, Olaudah Equiano, Sengeh Pieh, and John Ezzidio. The city also began preparations to receive the Amistad (a replica of the slave ship involved in the famed 1839 slave rebellion), which had set sail in June to retrace the original route.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2007

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 5,124,000
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      Sierra Leone welcomed a relatively crisis-free year in 2006. National policy focused on reconciliation, internal security, economic reform, corruption-ending efforts, and stabilization of the diamond industry. Preparations for the 2007 presidential election began in earnest. The incumbent, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was stepping down, and the strongest contender for the presidency was the flag bearer of the governing Sierra Leone People's Party, Vice Pres. Solomon Berewa, who was highly respected for his tough line during the civil war. Other likely contenders were Foreign Minister Momodu Koroma and Kanja Sesay of the National Commission for Social Action. One woman mentioned as a possible nominee was Kadi Sesay, the trade and industry minister, who had emerged as an influential politician in 1995 when she was appointed to lead the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights and guide Sierra Leone back to democratic rule.

      The development partnership with China was strengthened through bilateral agreements for military assistance, agricultural training, and food security. China delivered a large consignment of tractors and other agricultural machinery as part of a plan to boost rice cultivation and research, aquaculture, and mushroom production. Past Chinese–Sierra Leonean schemes had resulted in establishment of the Magbass sugar complex, which made Sierra Leone a sugar-exporting country. During a two-day visit in July, World Bank Pres. Paul Wolfowitz commended Sierra Leone as the most successful postconflict country in Africa. High unemployment and low wages remained serious problems, however. The Sierra Leone Labour Congress called on the government to raise the minimum monthly wage from 40,000 leones (about $13.55), which was inadequate to feed a family.

      The arrest in Nigeria of former Liberian president Charles Taylor late in March was a major milestone in the reconciliation process for both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Taylor was transferred to Sierra Leone in April and charged in the Special Court on 17 counts of crimes against humanity. Fears of ethnic conflict if his trial took place in Freetown caused the tribunal to transfer the venue to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where proceedings were set to begin in April 2007. Meanwhile, the Special Court faced grave problems as it moved forward with the trials of nine indicted war criminals. Some prosecutions were politically unpopular, particularly that of Samuel Hinga Norman, whom many Sierra Leoneans regarded as a hero for having rallied Sierra Leone's traditional hunting societies to repulse the rebels. The defense attorneys sharply disagreed among themselves, and neither they nor the prosecutors were confident that the judges would be able to maintain order. Unlike the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, no defendant here would receive judicial immunity.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2006

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 5,018,000
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      By 2005 Sierra Leone's recovery from the status of a failed state had become an important test case in African development. Ranked by the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) human development index as the world's poorest country, Sierra Leone faced enormous difficulties in rebuilding socioeconomic and political infrastructures. The restoration of civil authority over all areas of the country depended on the reintegration of former combatants and displaced citizens and the restructuring of the security forces. Throughout the year public discourse focused on the impact of the civil war as a result of the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the trial in the Special Court of members of the former military government on charges of crimes against humanity. On March 1 a National Victims Commemoration Conference provided a forum for citizens to discuss their experiences and views about justice. The government joined in the international campaign to extradite former Liberian head of state Charles Taylor to Sierra Leone for trial.

      The government prioritized policies for economic revitalization, but progress was slow. In the capital, Freetown, reconstruction of public buildings and roads made good headway. In January the government quickly reached an agreement with workers about wages, conditions of service, and fuel prices after the trade unions launched the first major strike since the end of civil conflict in 2002. In February the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper formulated grassroots projects to improve conditions for the poor, estimated to make up 70% of the population. The government thereafter obtained approval for full debt relief from the Group of Eight as well as substantial new loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

      Reflecting confidence in the country's future, company representatives announced plans to revive operations in bauxite and rutile mines closed during the civil war. Diamond mining also recovered rapidly. The designation of “conflict” or “blood” diamonds was removed because greater transparency in the system had channeled gemstone exports through legitimate channels, which thus met the requirements of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme established in 2003. Still, diamond smuggling remained a serious problem.

      On June 30 the Security Council announced that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) would pull out its peacekeeping force of 17,500 troops by the end of the year and replace it with an Integrated United Nations Office to coordinate the work of international agencies, oversee long-term development, and consolidate peace.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2005

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 5,168,000
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      During most of 2004 Sierra Leone, with the help of the UN, was preoccupied with the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) war-crimes tribunal. A number of cases were heard involving the leading members of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the government's Civil Defence Force (CDF)—those most responsible for the atrocities that had been committed on civilians during the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002 after having claimed more than 50,000 lives and left 500,000 others directly affected by violence. In mid-March the tribunal faced a crisis when its president, Geoffrey Robertson, was asked to step down because of alleged bias. Prior to his appointment to the tribunal, Robertson, a British human rights lawyer, had written a book that severely criticized the atrocities committed by the RUF. He ultimately retained a position on the court after agreeing to not hear the cases of RUF detainees. After the court officially began hearings on June 3, some of the most shocking cases of brutality were heard during the trial of Sam Hinga Norman, whose government forces were accused of hacking off the limbs, ears, and lips of civilians as well as practicing widespread forced conscription of children, who were used either as soldiers or as sex slaves. These horrendous methods became the signature of the RUF, but they were also widely used by government forces. Some of the most notorious of those indicted had not stood before the court. Two of the accused were dead; Foday Sankoh, leader of the RUF, died in custody in 2003, and RUF commander Sam Bockarie was killed in Liberia in May 2003. Johnny Paul Koroma, who had led the military junta in 1997, was in hiding, and former Liberian president Charles Taylor, accused of backing the RUF, had sought asylum in Nigeria. The SCSL ruled in May 2004, however, that Taylor was not immune from standing trial.

      In May the tribunal decided that for the first time under international law, cases involving forced marriages of women and girls would be tried as crimes against humanity. Widespread kidnapping and rape were common during the war. The human rights panel, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, mandated under the 1999 peace accords, was approved by Parliament in May. A UN helicopter carrying 24 people, including peacekeepers, crashed into a hillside in June, killing all aboard.

Mary F.E. Ebeling

▪ 2004

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 4,971,000
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      In 2003 survivors of Sierra Leone's horrific and devastating 1991–2002 civil war embarked on a particular kind of healing process involving intensive fact-finding and public disclosure of information. In January, Human Rights Watch released a 75-page report exploring the widespread instances of girls and women being raped by rebels, government troops, and international peacekeeping forces. In March police began arresting high-profile war-crimes suspects to be put on trial before a UN-sponsored war-crimes tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Three of the most notorious figures set to appear in court died before their cases could be heard. Foday Sankoh, the founding leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), died on July 29 of complications from an earlier stroke. Sankoh was set to stand trial for having ordered the RUF to terrorize Sierra Leoneans through dismemberments, killings, and rape. Later in the year Sam Bockarie, another infamous former RUF leader, turned up dead in Liberia, apparently killed by Liberian Pres. Charles Taylor's forces in May. Johnny Paul Koroma, former leader of an RUF-allied military junta that seized power in 1997, was reported to have suffered a similar fate in June, but the questions of his status or whereabouts remained unanswered at the end of 2003. Both Bockarie and Koroma had been allied with Taylor in the past, and the SCSL warned Taylor not to offer them safe haven. In early June the SCSL indicted Taylor himself for war crimes and crimes against humanity and accused him of supporting Sankoh and the RUF in order to get a share of Sierra Leone's considerable diamond wealth. His indictment was actually drawn up on March 7 along with a host of others; it was kept secret, however, until he arrived in Ghana for peace talks aimed at ending Liberia's civil war. The Ghanaians frustrated the SCSL and incurred the rancour of the UN by allowing Taylor to return to Liberia instead of detaining him. In August, Taylor entered into exile in Nigeria, formally out of reach of the SCSL.

      In April, Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began holding public hearings. Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah appeared before the TRC in August. He claimed to have had no say over the controversial activities of the militias supporting his government during the 10-year civil war. Sam Hinga Norman, the man who had been more directly in charge of Kabbah's Civil Defense Forces, was indicted by the SCSL for war crimes and crimes against humanity. British Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked that Kabbah should have been indicted as well.

Andrew Eisenberg

▪ 2003

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 4,823,000
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      An official end to the civil war that had plagued the country since 1991 was declared on Jan. 5, 2002, with a symbolic weapons-burning ceremony in Freetown. More than 45,000 rebels belonging to the Revolutionary United Front turned in their weapons. With the declaration of peace, the United Nations Security Council lifted the ban on the trade in rough diamonds from Sierra Leone.

      In April the opposition Revolutionary United Front Party nominated Pallo Bangura, the party's secretary-general, as its candidate for the May 14 presidential elections. The ruling Sierra Leone's People Party nominated incumbent Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. International observers declared the campaign and election free and fair. Kabbah won nearly 71% of the vote, and his party won 83 of the 112 parliamentary seats up for election. A new electoral system was devised for the latter elections. Each of the country's 12 administrative districts was set up as an electoral district with eight seats and two supplementary districts were established in the Western Area (to account for the dense population there) and awarded eight seats each.

      In early July riots broke out in Freetown between youth gangs and Nigerian businessmen. Several people were killed, and businesses were looted. Calm was quickly restored by the armed forces. In general, however, throughout 2002 the security situation improved, and the nation began a slow recovery from its long civil war. Areas near the Liberian border remained unstable as a result of numerous border incursions by Liberian armed forces and rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. Sierra Leone also had to cope with tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into the country from Liberia, overwhelming relief agencies working in camps and destabilizing border areas. In August, in reply to a request by President Kabbah, who claimed that the war in Liberia was destabilizing the region, the United Nations sent 17,000 peacekeepers to Sierra Leone. In light of the continuation of the Liberian war and the ongoing influx of refugees into Sierra Leone, the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone was eventually extended to early 2003. The peacekeeping mission would gradually be downsized before the security apparatus was handed over to government forces. Lack of progress in resolving the Liberian conflict had delayed the downsizing of the peacekeeping force.

      A Truth and Reconciliation Committee was established on July 5, with public hearings scheduled to begin in October. Both victims and perpetrators were to be involved. Lack of sufficient funding delayed the hearings until late November, but the government remained committed to the commission. On December 2 eight judges who were to constitute a United Nations special tribunal on the civil war were sworn in. The court was expected to begin work in 2003.

Andrew F. Clark

▪ 2002

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 5,427,000 (including about 185,000 Sierra Leonean refugees temporarily residing in Guinea and other West African countries)
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      Throughout 2001 the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) attempted to implement a compromise peace based on the Lomé agreement. UNAMSIL had occasional success disarming Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and the Civil Defense Force (CDF), a pro-government militia. During May some RUF and CDF fighters surrendered their weapons to the UN in Kambia and Port Loko, and other RUF forces disarmed in October. In March UNAMSIL forces occupied Lunsar, their first deployment into an area where the RUF had taken 500 UN troops hostage in 2000. In August UNAMSIL began deployment in the diamond-rich Kono district, an RUF stronghold. By year's end over 45,000 fighters had been disarmed.

      The U.K. government ended its training program for Sierra Leone's army in September but pledged to continue assisting with the reintegration of former rebels into the army. In May the army had occupied formerly RUF-held areas around Kambia, north of Freetown.

      Despite ongoing efforts, violence continued in parts of the country. In April RUF and CDF forces clashed near Tonga, a diamond-producing area in the east. In May the two groups agreed to a cease-fire, but this was broken within a week by fighting in the eastern town of Jagbwema. During July serious violence flared between the RUF and the CDF in the northern and eastern parts of the country. In one incident 22 civilians were reported killed when the RUF attacked the town of Henekuma.

      Aid organizations continued efforts to remedy the damage caused by years of war. Humanitarian groups, including the Save the Children Fund, helped to secure the release of child soldiers and aid their reintegration into society. Donors announced a number of measures to help rebuild the country. In March the European Union pledged €11 million (about $10 million) in humanitarian aid, and the African Development Fund provided $13 million for economic recovery. The U.S. government pledged $14.5 million to support the reintegration of society.

      In March, Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah replaced five cabinet members, including the foreign and finance ministers. Citing the ongoing disarmament process, the National Electoral Commission announced that presidential voting slated for December would be postponed until May 2002. Despite a shortfall in funs, the UN proceeded with plans for the establishment of a tribunal for those accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone's civil war.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 2001

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 5,233,000 (including about 400,000 Sierra Leonean refugees temporarily residing in Guinea and other West African countries)
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      Late in 1999 United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Sierra Leone to monitor the implementation of the Lomé agreement. That arrangement, brokered by the UN and the Organization of African Unity, was widely criticized for granting amnesty to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels accused of war crimes. Moreover, it brought RUF leader Foday Sankoh into the government as director of a commission on minerals and national reconstruction and thereby gave legal sanction to his control of the country's diamond production. The Lomé agreement was soon in tatters. RUF forces continued their brutal attacks on civilians, although their leader agreed to peace.

      RUF fighters refused to disarm as required by the Lomé agreement. Several times they fired on UN forces enforcing the disarmament provision. The RUF continued to control diamond-producing areas. (See Sidebar: Diamonds: Fuel for Conflict .) Throughout May RUF fighters captured more than 500 UN troops. At the beginning of May, government troops and the RUF battled outside Freetown. On May 8 the first contingent of a planned 800 British troops arrived to evacuate foreign nationals. That same day protesters converged on the Freetown house of Foday Sankoh, calling on him to stop the violence. Sankoh's guards fired on the crowd, killing 19 and injuring many more. Starting on May 10 UN forces, Sierra Leone's army, and militias loyal to the government defended Freetown and pushed RUF forces away from the capital. British troops were widely credited with having helped save Freetown. On May 17 pro-government forces captured Sankoh, and the government announced its intention to try him. By the end of the month, the army and pro-government militias had advanced on rebel strongholds and captured the strategic town of Lunsar. Liberian Pres. Charles Taylor, a longtime ally of Sankoh, intervened to help secure the release of some UN hostages, while others were rescued in a series of military operations.

      In mid-June most British troops withdrew, although a small force remained to train Sierra Leone's army. On August 25 a renegade rebel group, the West Side Boys, captured 12 British soldiers. Britain sent more troops to the region, including the elite Parachute Regiment, which was able to rescue some of the British hostages in a dawn raid on the rebel base. The British government pledged to continue providing training and technical advice to the army.

      Late in 2000 Sierra Leone's future prospects remained unclear. The RUF continued to be operative under the leadership of Gen. Issa Sesay. Other heavily armed militias also held power in the country. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the UN force be increased to 20,500, and in October the UN agreed to establish a war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone. In December an offshoot of the RUF said that a precondition of “restarting” the Lomé agreement would be the release of all its political prisoners.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 2000

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 4,717,000 (including more than 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees temporarily residing in Guinea and other West African countries)
Head of state and government:
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      On Jan. 6, 1999, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) captured Freetown, forcing about 150,000 civilians to flee. ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group) troops, who supported Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, retook the town after days of bloody street fighting and artillery bombardment that killed an estimated 3,000–5,000 people. Humanitarian groups reported that RUF forces targeted civilians in a campaign of terror that included summary executions, amputation of limbs, and rape. The rebels vowed to fight until their leader, Corp. Foday Sankoh, was released by his ECOMOG captors.

      Wanting to return its ECOMOG soldiers home, Nigeria pressured President Kabbah to release Sankoh if the rebels agreed to join peace talks. In April talks mediated by the UN and the Organization of African Unity began in Lomé, Togo. On May 18 both sides agreed to a cease-fire, which held despite significant violations. In December UN peacekeepers reported rapidly deteriorating security in some parts of the country. Relief agencies used the break in fighting to deliver humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands threatened by disease and starvation. Throughout June mediators wrestled with the details of power-sharing arrangements that would accompany a settlement. On July 7 the parties finally signed a peace agreement that included four Cabinet posts for the RUF and the vice presidency for Sankoh. Some international human rights groups criticized the agreement for granting amnesty to former combatants suspected of crimes against humanity.

      The fragile peace was threatened in August when forces aligned with the country's former military government (the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, or AFRC), who fought alongside the RUF, captured some 30 hostages. The captives included aid workers, ECOMOG troops, journalists, and UN military observers. AFRC fighters resented being left out of the power-sharing arrangements outlined in the peace accord. The hostages were eventually released with the intervention of former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma. In a later episode AFRC fighters captured several RUF leaders. Both incidents revealed divisions among the rebels and raised the spectre of renewed fighting. In September the government appealed for UN peacekeeping forces to replace Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops, who had begun to withdraw.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 1999

      Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 4,577,000 (including more than 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees temporarily residing in Guinea and Liberia)

      Capital: Freetown

      Head of state and government: Presidents Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma and, from March 20, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

      As 1998 began in Sierra Leone, the army battled militia forces loyal to ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in Bo, the country's second largest city. To aid the militia, ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group) tripled the number of its troops in the country. This multinational force, composed largely of Nigerian soldiers, pledged to remove the military government and return Kabbah to power. Pro-Kabbah forces made significant gains in the diamond-rich eastern part of the country. Following aerial bombardments in mid-February, ECOMOG forces captured Freetown and forced Lieut. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma to flee along with other leaders of the military junta. On March 10 Kabbah returned to the capital, and 10 days later he named a new government. The UN lifted an oil embargo that had been enacted in response to the coup, and ECOMOG forces loosened their blockade of the country. Although Kabbah's government and ECOMOG troops controlled the capital, rebels loyal to the ousted military government continued to fight in the east and south of the country. Throughout the year ECOMOG battled the rebels, with the city of Bo changing hands several times. Fighting late broke out in the north, and at the year's end the rebels were threatening Freetown.

      The ongoing fighting exacerbated an already critical humanitarian situation. More than 180,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea were threatened with starvation, and additional refugees fled the country as rebel activity intensified. The fighting, combined with blockades, contributed to widespread hunger and disease in rebel-controlled areas. According to the UN World Food Programme, half a million people inside the country were threatened with starvation.

      In a step toward reconstruction, the UN organized a conference in July in Freetown to plan rebuilding efforts. The government continued to call on the international community for humanitarian assistance. President Kabbah also appealed for help in disarming rebel militias and reintegrating their members into society.


▪ 1998

      Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 4,424,000

      Capital: Freetown

      Head of state and government: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah until May 25 and, from June 17, Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma

      On May 25, 1997, junior army officers and enlisted men staged a coup and overthrew Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who fled the country. The coup began with the storming of the capital's top security prison and release of 600 captives, many of them dissident soldiers. Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma declared himself head of state and announced the abolition of the constitution and a ban on political parties.

      There was immediate international condemnation of the coup, and Nigeria said it would lead a regional military force to restore Kabbah. Nigeria then dispatched troops to Freetown while naval vessels stood offshore; an additional 1,500 troops from neighbouring Guinea joined the Nigerians. In June there was widespread lawlessness throughout Sierra Leone; this was made worse by the failure of Nigeria to overthrow the coup. As many as 300,000 people had left Sierra Leone by mid-June.

      Meanwhile, on June 1, Koroma announced the formation of a 20-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), including Foday Sankoh (the former leader of the Revolutionary United Front, which had been opposed to the government) as deputy chairman. The AFRC rejected British, Ghanaian, and Nigerian efforts at mediation. The Nigerians—acting for ECOMOG, the peacekeeping forces of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—occupied the Freetown international airport and seaport, and early in June Nigerian naval vessels bombarded Freetown; by June 4 there were some 4,600 ECOMOG troops in Freetown, but they failed to restore the ousted president, and a stalemate ensued. On June 17 Koroma was sworn in as Sierra Leone's president.

      While lawlessness and clashes between Koroma and Kabbah supporters continued through June and July, the Commonwealth of Nations demanded the unconditional reinstatement of Kabbah. Talks to end the crisis were held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, during August, but these collapsed when Koroma demanded that he stay in power for four years. ECOWAS applied sanctions to Sierra Leone to force it to return to democratic legitimacy, and most aid agencies pulled out of the country.

      Fighting continued into the autumn. Finally, in Conakry, Guinea, in late October, the foreign ministers of Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria prevailed upon the military government of Sierra Leone to agree to restore Kabbah to the presidency in April 1998. Koroma would receive immunity from prosecution for his role in the May coup.


      This article updates Sierra Leone, histroy of (Sierra Leone).

▪ 1997

      A republic of West Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 4,617,000. Cap.: Freetown. Monetary unit: leone, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 870 leones to U.S. $1 (1,371 leones = £1 sterling). Chairmen of the Supreme Council of State in 1996, Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser and, from January 16 to March 29, Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio; president from March 29, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

      On Jan. 16, 1996, a bloodless coup by army officers brought an end to Valentine Strasser's leadership; he was replaced by Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio, a former close associate of Strasser and vice-chairman of the Supreme Council of State. Strasser was allowed to leave the country for the U.K.

      Despite the coup, elections for a return to civilian rule (which had been deferred from Dec. 5, 1995, to February 26-27) were held as planned. The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won 36% of the vote in a 60% turnout of voters. The leading presidential candidate was Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP, although he obtained only 35.8% of the votes. Kabbah became president after a second round of voting, and on March 29 tens of thousands celebrated the return to civilian rule when Bio handed over power.

      In the new National Assembly of 68 elected seats, the SLPP had 27. Six members of the armed forces attempted to mount a coup on September 8, but it was foiled. Some 20 military leaders, including Strasser and Bio, were retired by President Kabbah. Rebels in the Revolutionary United Front attacked several villages in October, killing at least 17 people. In November Kabbah signed a peace agreement with the RUF. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This article updates Sierra Leone, histroy of (Sierra Leone).

▪ 1996

      A republic of West Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 4,509,000. Cap.: Freetown. Monetary unit: leone, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 756 leones to U.S. $1 (1,195 leones = £1 sterling). Chairman of the Supreme Council of State in 1995, Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser; vice chairman (and head of government), Lieut. Julius Maada Bio.

      After a year of fighting and uncertainty, the possibility of a return to civilian rule appeared nearer by late 1995 than at any previous time. In January there was widespread fighting throughout most of the country outside Freetown, and thousands of people fled their homes to become refugees, many moving into neighbouring Guinea. The violence was attributed to the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), although there was both argument and uncertainty as to why the outbreak had occurred. The government of Capt. Valentine Strasser claimed that the RUF was a pawn of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which was trying to undermine the Sierra Leone government because it had supported intervention in the Liberian civil war. In February government forces recaptured the Sierra Rutile titanium mine from the rebels; the mine earned more than 50% of the country's foreign exchange and was its largest employer.

      On April 27 Captain Strasser lifted the ban on political parties and promised to relinquish power to a democratically elected president in January 1996. He also sought a settlement with the RUF. Rebel raids continued through September, and in mid-December the RUF attacked a village just 65 km (38 mi) from the capital, Freetown. Despite the expansion of the army to about 13,000 and the expenditure of 75% of budget revenue on the war, the government appeared unable to contain the RUF. By the deadline of August 14, a total of 17 political parties had registered for the elections, which were originally scheduled for late 1995 but were put off until 1996. An attempted officers' coup on October 3 was put down by the government, and seven officers were arrested. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Sierra Leone, histroy of (Sierra Leone).

▪ 1995

      A republic of West Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 4,616,000. Cap.: Freetown. Monetary unit: leone, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 585.55 leones to U.S. $1 (931.32 leones = £1 sterling). Chairman of the Supreme Council of State in 1994, Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser; vice chairman (and head of government), Lieut. Julius Maada Bio.

      In January 1994 the government claimed a series of successes against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel movement that had been mounting attacks from bases in Liberia since 1991. Government forces recaptured rebel-held centres near Pujehun in southern Sierra Leone on January 11. Later in the month, however, it was reported that 100 civilians had been killed when the RUF razed several villages near Bo. On June 30 a rebel attack on the village of Telu led to the deaths of 58 civilians and 2 soldiers. The government launched a series of attacks on RUF positions near the diamond-mining centre of Kenema in August. In November the government called for a negotiated end to the fighting.

      In December 1993 the government announced a schedule for the return to democracy and civilian rule, to take place by the end of 1995. The process was to begin with the creation of a National Electoral Commission that would oversee the registration of voters and defining of electoral boundaries. Work on a new constitution began in June 1994, and the finished document was to be put to a public referendum in May 1995. Presidential elections were to be held in November 1995 and general elections in December. In July Sierra Leone took part with Guinea and Liberia in talks on reactivating the largely defunct Mano River Union. The secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, visited Sierra Leone during the year to discuss development problems and democracy.

      Four Asian men from Britain were released in November as their trial on charges of treason began in Freetown. Accused of plotting to overthrow the government, the men had been held for more than a year. There were many baffling questions about the men and their activities, none of which was answered. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Sierra Leone, histroy of (Sierra Leone).

▪ 1994

      A republic of West Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 4,491,000. Cap.: Freetown. Monetary unit: leone, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 546.01 leones to U.S. $1 (827.20 leones = £1 sterling). President in 1993, chairman of the Supreme Council of State, and head of state, Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser; vice chairman (and head of government), Lieut. Solomon Anthony James Musa and, from July 5, Lieut. Julius Maada Bio.

      In January 1993 Britain canceled £ 4 million in aid to Sierra Leone to protest the execution of 26 alleged coup plotters on Dec. 30, 1992. Britain maintained that they had been summarily executed without a fair trial. On July 5, Pres. Valentine Strasser dismissed Lieut. Solomon Anthony James Musa as vice chairman and head of government. He was replaced by Lieut. Julius Maada Bio, who was also a member of the Supreme Council of State. Musa sought refuge in the Nigerian embassy in Freetown and was later granted asylum in Britain. Though he had helped Strasser stage the April 1992 coup, he had been criticized for repressive measures and for harbouring ambitions to become head of state. Another group of four more men was detained on October 14 as alleged mercenaries planning a coup.

      The 1993-94 budget increased to 485 billion leones from 395 billion leones in 1992-93. Most of the budget increase was earmarked for health and education. The government planned to sell the majority state-owned National Diamond Mining Co. to private interests. Plans were also announced to curb illegal diamond mining, which, if successful, would generate substantial additional revenue. The government, which had promised to return the country to civilian rule within a year, set a new target date of 1996.

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Sierra Leone, histroy of (Sierra Leone).

* * *

Sierra Leone, flag of   country of western Africa. The country owes its name to the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra, the first European to sight and map Freetown harbour. The original Portuguese name, Serra Lyoa (“Lion Mountains”), referred to the range of hills that surrounds the harbour. The capital, Freetown, commands one of the world's largest natural harbours.

      Although most of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, Sierra Leone is also a mining centre. Its land yields diamonds, gold, bauxite, and rutile (titanium dioxide). Internal conflict crippled the country from the late 1980s onward, culminating in a brutal civil war that took place from 1991 to 2002. Since the end of the war, the government of Sierra Leone has undergone the arduous task of rebuilding the country's physical and social infrastructure while fostering reconciliation.

 Sierra Leone is bordered on the north and east by Guinea, on the south by Liberia, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

      The country can be divided into four distinct physical regions: the coastal swamp, the Sierra Leone Peninsula, the interior plains, and the interior plateau and mountain region. The coastal swamp region extends along the Atlantic for about 200 miles (320 km). It is a flat, low-lying, and frequently flooded plain that is between 5 and 25 miles (8 and 40 km) wide and is composed mainly of sands and clays. Its numerous creeks and estuaries contain mangrove swamps. Sandbars, generally separated by silting lagoons, sometimes form the actual coast. The Sierra Leone Peninsula, which is the site of Freetown, is a region of thickly wooded mountains that run parallel to the sea for about 25 miles (40 km). The Peninsula Mountains rise from the coastal swamps and reach some 2,900 feet (880 metres) at Picket Hill.

      Inland from the coastal plain is the interior plains region. In the north it comprises featureless seasonal swamps known as “Bolilands” (boli being a Temne word for those lands that are flooded in the rainy season and dry and hard in the dry season and on which only grass can grow). In the south the plains comprise rolling wooded country where isolated hills rise abruptly to more than 1,000 feet (300 metres). The interior contains a variety of landforms ranging from savanna-covered low plains to rocky scarp and hill country. The interior plateau and mountain region, encompassing roughly the eastern half of the country, is composed mainly of granite with a thick laterite (iron-bearing) crust; to the west it is bounded by a narrow outcrop of mineral-bearing metamorphic rocks known as the Kambui Schists. Rising above the plateau are a number of mountain masses; in the northeast the Loma Mountains are crowned by Mount Loma Mansa (Mount Bintimani) at 6,391 feet (1,948 metres), and the Tingi Mountains rise to 6,080 feet (1,853 metres) at Sankanbiriwa Peak. Numerous narrow inland valley swamps associated with the river systems occur in this region.

      The country's drainage pattern is dense. Numerous rivers rise in the well-watered Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea and flow in a general northeast-to-southwest direction across Sierra Leone. Their middle courses are interrupted by rapids that restrict navigability to only a short distance inland. River levels show considerable seasonal fluctuations.

      The drainage system has nine major rivers and a series of minor coastal creeks and tidal streams. From north to south the principal rivers are the Great Scarcies (Great Scarcies River) (also called the Kolenté), Little Scarcies, Rokel (Rokel River) (also called the Seli; known in its lower course where it meets the Atlantic as the Sierra Leone River), Gbangbaia, Jong, Sewa (Sewa River), Waanje, Moa, and Mano (Mano River). The Great Scarcies, Moa, and Meli (one of the Moa's tributaries) form portions of the border with Guinea, while the Mano forms much of the country's frontier with Liberia. The river basins range in size from 5,460 square miles (14,140 square km) for the Sewa to less than 385 square miles (1,000 square km) for the smaller basins.

      In most areas the dominant soils are of the weathered and leached lateritic type. Red to yellow-brown in colour, they contain oxides of iron and aluminum and are acid. Kaolin (china) clays are important in some areas; when cultivated, they are light, readily workable, and free-draining, with productivity that depends largely on the nutrients provided by the vegetation previously cleared and burned. In the coastal plains, lateritic soils that have developed on sandy deposits are agriculturally poor, but those derived from basic igneous rocks are somewhat better. Swamp soils occur over large areas on the coastal plains where drainage is a problem. In coastal and estuarine areas where mangrove is the natural vegetation, productive soils can be acquired by clearance, but careful water control is sometimes needed to prevent toxicity. At the foot of the main escarpment, on the Sula Mountain plateau, and elsewhere an iron-rich laterite crust forms a surface that is intractable for agricultural production.

      The climate is tropical and is characterized by the alternation of rainy and dry seasons. Conditions are generally hot and humid. Mean monthly temperatures range from the upper 70s F (mid-20s C) to the low 80s F (upper 20s C) in low-lying coastal areas; inland they may range from the low to mid-70s F (low 20s C) to the low 80s F. In the northeast, where extremes of temperature are greater, mean daily minimums fall to the mid-50s F (low to mid-10s C) in January, and mean daily maximums rise to the low 90s F (low 30s C) in March. During the rainy season, from May to October, humid air masses from the Atlantic dominate. The sky is cloudy, the winds are southwesterly, sunshine is minimal, and rain falls almost daily, especially during July and August. Precipitation is greater on the coast than inland; the Peninsula Mountains receive more than 200 inches (5,000 mm) annually, while the northeast receives about 80 inches (2,000 mm) a year.

      The dry season, from November to April, is characterized by the harmattan, a hot, dry wind that blows from the Sahara. The rainy season tends to have cooler daily maximum temperatures than the dry season by about 10 °F (6 °C). The relative humidity, however, may be as high as 90 percent for considerable periods, particularly during the wettest months, from July to September.

Plant and animal life
      The distribution of plants and animals has been influenced by such factors as relief and soil types and, perhaps more important, by farming methods and civil strife. Remnants of the extensive original forest cover survive in the Gola Forest Reserves, in the southeastern hill country near the Liberian border. Secondary forest is now dominant; valuable timber species including African mahogany and African teak, once common in the original forests, are now rare. The secondary forest consists of other tree species such as the fire-resistant palm tree, a valuable source of palm oil and kernels.

      The prevalence of savanna vegetation increases to the north as precipitation decreases. The savannas owe their present extent and character largely to the erosion produced by farming, grazing, and the use of fire. There are some small areas of climax savanna—a closed area of broad-leaved, low-growing trees and tall tussocky grasses. Other savannas are derived from forest and are characterized by fire-resistant savanna trees with tall grasses. Tracts of tallgrass savanna also occur. Remnants of mangrove swamps constitute the main coastal vegetation community, especially in the saline tidal areas of river estuaries. Piassava, a kind of raffia palm, is common in the swampy grasslands of the south.

      Unrestricted hunting during Sierra Leone's civil war (1991–2002) adversely affected much of the country's wildlife. Large game animals, such as elephants, leopards, lions, hyenas, and buffalo, are rarely seen outside of national parks or reserves. Chimpanzees and various species of monkeys are common in the forest zones, while other animals, such as antelope and bushpigs, are more generally distributed. There is a wide variety of insects, including the malaria-carrying mosquito and the tsetse fly. Hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and manatees occupy the rivers, including such rare species as the pygmy hippopotamus and the dwarf crocodile. The coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers, such as the Sierra Leone and the Sherbro, contain a wide variety of fish and shellfish, such as tuna, barracuda, bonga (shad), snapper, herring, mackerel, and lobster. Sierra Leone's rich birdlife, which emerged relatively unscathed from the years of conflict, includes emerald cuckoos, owls, little African swift, vultures, and many other species. Several parks, sanctuaries, and reserves have been established to protect Sierra Leone's wildlife, including Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary and the Gola Forest Reserves in the south and Outamba-Kilimi National Park in the north. Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, located near Freetown, was established to rescue and rehabilitate abandoned or orphaned chimpanzees.

People (Sierra Leone)

Ethnic groups
      There are about 18 ethnic groups that exhibit similar cultural features, such as secret societies, chieftaincy, patrilineal descent, and farming methods. The Mende, found in the east and south, and the Temne, found in the centre and northwest, form the two largest groups. Other major groups include the Limba, Kuranko, Susu, Yalunka, and Loko in the north; the Kono and Kisi in the east; and the Sherbro in the southwest. Minor groups include the coastal Bullom, Vai, and Krim and the Fulani and Malinke, who are immigrants from Guinea concentrated in the north and east. The Creoles—descendants of liberated blacks who colonized the coast from the late 18th to the mid-19th century—are found mainly in and around Freetown. Throughout the 19th century, blacks from the United States and West Indies also settled in Sierra Leone. Ethnic complexity is further enhanced by the presence of Lebanese and Indian traders in urban centres.

      Krio, a language derived from English and a variety of African languages, is the mother tongue of the Creoles and the country's lingua franca. Among the Niger-Congo (Niger-Congo languages) languages, the Mande (Mande languages) group is the largest and includes Mende, Kuranko, Kono, Yalunka, Susu, and Vai. The Mel group consists of Temne, Krim, Kisi, Bullom, Sherbro, and Limba. English, the official language, is used in administration, education, and commerce. Arabic is used among Lebanese traders and adherents of Islam. School texts, information bulletins, and collections of folktales are produced in indigenous languages such as Mende and Temne.

      The Vai script has the distinction of being one of the few indigenous scripts in Africa. Some of the local languages are written in European script, and a few, especially in the Muslim areas in the north, have been transcribed into Arabic.

 About two-thirds of the population are Muslims (Islāmic world), while about one-fourth are Christians. Less than one-sixth of the population practice a variety of traditional religions; however, this number does not include the many Sierra Leoneans who practice traditional religions in tandem with their professed Muslim or Christian faiths. Other religions—including Bahāʾī, Hinduism, and Judaism—are practiced by small percentages of the population.

Settlement patterns
      Villages of about 35 buildings and 200 inhabitants dominate the rural landscape. Modernization is slowly altering the traditional pattern of rural settlement; the old circular village form, with a tight cluster of houses, is rapidly yielding to the linear village along a road or the regular gridiron pattern with adequate spacing between houses. Although disrupted by the country's civil war, economic activity in these villages centres largely around rice farming. The extended family provides farm labour for both rice farming and cash crop production. Fishing is becoming increasingly important. The raising and herding of cattle is largely confined to the north. The small shopkeeper is typical of the villages, as are the tailor and carpenter. Traditional crafts, such as metalworking, cloth dyeing and weaving, and woodworking, are rapidly disappearing with the increased importation of cheap manufactured goods.

      Except for Freetown, the development of large towns occurred only after World War II. A prominent feature of the towns is the daily market, which contains petty traders, the majority of whom are women. Bo, in the southeast, was an early administrative and educational centre. Other important towns include Kenema, east of Bo, which has grown as a result of diamond mining, and Makeni, a major commercial centre, in the north. Mining of diamonds has also been important to Koidu (Koidu–New Sembehun), Sefadu, Yengema, and Jaiama in the east. Port Loko, Kabala, Bonthe, Moyamba, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujehun, and Magburaka are administrative centres with retail trading and produce marketing. Many towns were damaged or destroyed in the civil war.

      Private capital dominates mining concerns, commerce, and banking. European, Lebanese, and Indian interests are predominant, and participation by Sierra Leoneans is limited. Various inefficient parastatals were privatized in the 1980s and '90s.

      There were growing economic difficulties in the 1980s, including a heavy external debt burden, escalating costs of food and fuel imports, and erratic mineral-export production. Substantial devaluations of the national currency, the leone, also occurred, and a series of economic stabilization programs supported by the International Monetary Fund were initiated to address these problems. Foreign investment, which centred on the mineral sector, declined drastically after the start of the civil war in 1991. Bauxite and rutile mines, the producers of most of the export earnings, closed in 1995. By the time the war ended in 2002, much of the formal economy had been destroyed, and the government was faced with the arduous task of rebuilding the country's economic infrastructure.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
       shifting agriculture, a system of cultivation that employs plot rotation in an effort to preserve soil fertility, is the technique largely practiced in Sierra Leone. More than three-fifths of the population engage in agricultural production, primarily for the domestic market but some also for export. Rice, the main food crop, is widely cultivated on swampland and upland farms. Swamp rice cultivation is concentrated in the lower reaches of river basins, of which the Scarcies is the most important. Efforts are being made to reduce upland rice farming, with its attendant soil erosion, in favour of swampland farming, with its superior yields. Other food crops include millet, peanuts (groundnuts), cassava (manioc), sweet potatoes, and oil palms. Vegetable gardening is important around the major urban centres, where markets are available to farmers. The major cash crops are palm kernels, cocoa, coffee, piassava, and ginger, and production is carried out entirely by small-scale farmers. In the 1970s the government attempted to improve agricultural productivity by creating development projects funded by the World Bank. Various other multilateral and bilateral aid projects along similar lines followed in the 1980s with varying success. Agricultural production declined drastically during the civil war.

      Forest covers more than one-third of the country, the most important area of which is the Gola Forest Reserves, a tract of primary tropical rainforest near the Liberian border. Timber is produced for the domestic and export markets and includes Guarea cedrata, a cedar-scented, pink, mahogany-type wood, and the Lophira alata variety procera.

      Sierra Leone's many waterways are the home of many varieties of fish, such as bonga (a type of shad), butterfish, snapper, and sole. The coastal waters contain such shellfish as shrimp, lobster, and oysters. The country should be an ideal place for commercial fishing, but illegal activity by foreign fisheries and the years of civil war severely affected this sector. After the end of the civil war, the sector began to show gradual improvement.

Resources and power
      Mineral resources are fairly well distributed and include diamonds, chromite, and reserves of rutile (titanium dioxide) that are among the world's largest. There are iron ore reserves, but these are no longer commercially mined. Other minerals include bauxite, columbite (a black mineral of iron, manganese, and niobium), gold, and platinum, largely in the southern plateau region.

 Mining employs a large segment of the population and provides a significant contribution to the national economy. Diamonds (diamond) are mined by a few private companies and by vast numbers of private prospectors. The National Diamond Mining Company (Diminco) also mined diamonds until 1995. Mining methods range from mechanical grab lines with washing and separator plants to crude hand digging and panning. Many diamonds are found in river gravels, especially along the Sewa-Bafi river system. Official exports of diamonds have declined dramatically since the 1960s due to extensive smuggling and the depletion of reserves. Foreign investment beginning in the mid-1990s helped develop the deep-mining of diamonds, which was officially suspended after 1999 and then slowly reinstated after the war's end in 2002. Internal instability left much of the diamond region in the hands of rebel forces throughout the 1990s and early 21st century, thereby providing them with a lucrative source of funding for their rebellion. The trading of these so-called “blood” or “conflict” diamonds—a problem not only in Sierra Leone but also in other African countries—became a source of worldwide controversy. (See map—> illustrating the diamonds-for-weapons trade that had taken place in Africa by the end of the 20th century.) The United Nations Security Council (United Nations) passed a resolution in July 2000 that banned the import of uncertified rough diamonds from Sierra Leone; the embargo was lifted in June 2003.

      The privately owned Sierra Leone Development Company mined iron ore at Marampa from 1933 to 1975. In 1981 the government reopened the mine at Marampa under the management of an Austrian company but soon encountered financial difficulties and suspended operations in 1985. The Sierra Leone Ore and Metal Company (Sieromco) began open-cast bauxite mining at Mokanji Hills in 1964; the ore was shipped to Europe for reduction and refining into aluminum. Due to the dangers of operating in the midst of the civil war and to damage sustained during the early years of the conflict, the company ceased operations at the mine in 1995 and abandoned it in 1996. Rutile, found in the southwest, was exploited beginning in the mid-1960s by Sherbro Minerals Ltd. Production. After the company's demise in the early 1970s, prospecting activities boomed under the Bethlehem Steel and Nord Resources corporations. Rutile mining was an important part of the country's economy before mining activities were disrupted by rebel fighting in 1995, when bauxite mining also ceased; the mining of both minerals had resumed by 2006.

      Electricity is generated primarily by thermal plants, which are supplemented by a few small hydroelectric installations, such as the Dodo hydroelectric power plant in the southeast. The hydroelectric power potential of Sierra Leone's deeply incised river valleys is appreciable. Construction of the Bumbuna hydroelectric power plant on the Rokel (Seli) River, which began in the 1980s, was interrupted by the civil war and did not resume until after the fighting had ended.

      Industrialization is restricted largely to import substitution. Manufacturing is concentrated in Freetown, and production is mainly of consumer goods, such as cigarettes, sugar, alcoholic beverages, soap, footwear, textiles, mineral fuels, and lubricants. Although factories are small and generally employ fewer than 1,000 workers each, their role in economic diversification is important. Farther inland, industries are focused on the processing of agricultural and forest produce, such as rice, timber, and palm oil. Traditional industries, such as fish curing and leatherwork, continue.

Finance, trade, and labour
      The Bank of Sierra Leone is the country's central bank; it issues currency (the leone), maintains external reserves, and acts as banker and financial adviser to the government. The National Development Bank is charged with providing finances to investors within the country. The Sierra Leone Commercial Bank provides credit and technical assistance to farmers. Private commercial banks also exist in the country.

      Foreign trade has expanded substantially since independence, although its character still reflects the colonial nature of the economy. An excessive reliance is placed upon a few primary products, most of which go to Belgium, the United States, and The Netherlands. Minerals and agricultural products account for the bulk of exports. Imports, however, have become more diversified; they include machinery, vehicles, fuel, and food products.

      Government revenue is derived from direct and indirect taxes. In addition to import and export taxes, the government can also rely on company, excise, income, and mining taxes for revenue. The government's revenue from trade has been undermined by the growth of smuggling of diamonds and agricultural produce.

      A government railway was completed in 1908 as a means of opening the country to commerce and ensuring effective British occupancy. By 1975, however, the railway had been phased out, leaving only a short rail line that linked the iron ore mine at Marampa with the port at Pepel.

      A road network, originally developed as a feeder system to the railway, has become the principal transport carrier. The network is dominated by a series of highways radiating from Freetown to inland urban centres. The government launched a long-term program in the late 1980s to modernize the road system to meet the needs of rapidly expanding traffic, but by the end of the 20th century the roads were in serious disrepair. Reconstruction of the road network was a priority in the years after the end of the civil war.

      Inland waterways carry a considerable volume of mineral ores, piassava, and food products. Launches and sailing boats are important, especially on the southern route to Bonthe and the northern route to the Great and Little Scarcies. Freetown is the country's principal port. Its facilities handle all imports and agricultural exports. Specialized ports include Niti, which handles all bauxite and rutile exports, and Bonthe, which exports agricultural products.

      The international airport of Lungi is situated on the north bank of the Sierra Leone River opposite Freetown. It can accommodate commercial jets and a large annual volume of traffic. Domestic air transport is limited.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      The constitution of 1971 made Sierra Leone a republic within the Commonwealth. Adoption of the constitution of 1978 created a one-party republic based on the All People's Congress; the head of state, or executive president, was elected by delegates of the All People's Congress, and there was a parliament. Mounting political pressures and violence resulted in the adoption of a new constitution in 1991 that established a multiparty system. However, a violent military coup d'état in April 1992 installed a National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) and a new head of state. The NPRC subsequently named a cabinet and ordered the dissolution of the House of Representatives and the suspension of the new constitution and all political activity. The NPRC was reconstituted as the Supreme Council of State, and the cabinet was replaced by a council of secretaries in July, establishing stringent military rule. After democratic elections were held in 1996, the 1991 constitution was amended and restored, and the country returned to a multiparty system with an executive presidency and a parliament. The constitution was suspended again after a coup in 1997 but was reinstated the following year.

Local government
      The country is divided into four administrative units—the Western Area, which was the former crown colony of Sierra Leone, and three provinces (Northern, Eastern, and Southern provinces), which were the former protectorate. The Western Area includes the capital, Freetown. Northern Province is divided into five districts, Southern Province into four, and Eastern Province into three.

      The districts are subdivided into chiefdoms, which are controlled by paramount chiefs and chiefdom councillors. The chiefdoms are further divided into sections and villages. The chiefs are hereditary rulers whose local powers have been largely superseded by those of officials of the central and local government. Their influence remains important, however, particularly in matters of traditional culture and justice.

      In addition, there are district councils, which in some cases override the chiefdom administrations. The councils deal largely with local matters and are under the indirect control of the central government. Town councils, headed by a mayor, also have been established in the larger provincial towns of Bo, Kenema, Makeni, and Bonthe.

      The laws of Sierra Leone follow the pattern of British law. Until 1971 the framework of the courts was equally similar, and the final court of appeal was the Privy Council in London. Since the adoption of a republican constitution, however, the highest court is the Supreme Court, headed by a chief justice.

      There are local courts that take account of indigenous laws and customs, magistrates' courts that administer English-based code, a High Court of Justice, and a Court of Appeal. There are presiding officers in the local, magistrates', and juvenile courts. The attorney general is also the minister of justice.

Health and welfare
      Before the civil war, most health and welfare services were provided by the central government. There were also a few hospitals belonging to religious societies, mining companies, and doctors. Every district in the interior had at least one hospital. The major hospitals with specialist facilities were in Freetown and Bo. However, the destruction wrought by the civil war left the health care system in shambles, with acute shortages of medical equipment and supplies, medication, and trained medical personnel plaguing the country even years after the end of the conflict. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone ranks among the lowest in the world.

      The Ministry of Health and Sanitation handles programs for the control and eradication of malaria and other infectious or endemic diseases. In other areas sanitation is under the control of district health authorities and town councils. The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat of Sierra Leone was established in 2002. The organization's responsibilities include increasing awareness of the disease and of methods of prevention, promoting research, and allocating resources for treatment.

      Housing types vary greatly in the interior districts, depending on the availability of materials. Roofs can be made of grass in the savanna region or of bamboo in the forest areas. Walls may be circular or rectangular, constructed of dried mud bricks, palm fronds, or, more generally, lattice pole work filled with mud and coated with clay or chalk. There is usually a veranda attached to the dwelling. Houses with corrugated zinc roofs and cement walls can be found in most villages and towns along the roads. In the larger cities of Freetown and Bonthe, some houses that remain from colonial times were built of wood or laterite stone in a Brazilian or Victorian style and roofed with slate.

      Education in Sierra Leone is offered in private and government-sponsored schools; it is not compulsory. There are primary schools for children from age 5 to 12, secondary schools that offer a seven-year program, technical institutes, and several vocational schools, trade centres, and teacher-training colleges. The University of Sierra Leone consists of Fourah Bay College (founded in 1827), Njala University College (1964), and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (1987). Sierra Leone's literacy rate is lower than the average in western Africa and is among the lowest in the world.

Cultural life

Social customs
      The Poro society for men and the Sande society for girls play an educational role in village culture; initiation into these societies is a rite of passage. Holidays observed in the country include the Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter and the Muslim festivals of Īd al-Fiṭrʿ (which marks the end of Ramadan (Ramaḍān)), Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ (which marks the culmination of the hajj), and the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (see mawlid). Independence Day is celebrated on April 27, the anniversary of Sierra Leone's becoming an independent state within the Commonwealth.

The arts
      The most outstanding feature of the country's cultural life is its dancing. The internationally known Sierra Leone National Dance Troupe first won widespread acclaim at the 1964–65 New York World's Fair and continues to perform in the 21st century. The different communities of the country have their own styles of costume and dance. In addition, certain closed societies, such as the Wunde, the Sande (Bundu), and the Gola, have characteristic ceremonial dances. A wide range of agility, gracefulness, and rhythm is displayed; in addition, there are elements of symbolism in most of the dances. Drums, wooden xylophones (called balaphones), and various stringed instruments provide the musical background.

      The carving of various wooden masks in human and animal figures for the dances is especially advanced in the southern region. The Sande mask worn on the head of the chief dancer during the ceremony that welcomes the reappearance of female initiates from their period of seclusion is perhaps the best-known carved figure in Sierra Leonean art. It is a black symmetrically stylized head of an African woman with an elaborately plaited pyramidal coiffure adorned with various figures and with a facial expression of grave dignity and beauty. The iconography is of great significance and meaning.

      Ivory figures are characteristic of the Sherbro, Bullom, and Temne peoples of the coastal and northern regions. Fine examples of these figures, which were bought or commissioned by Portuguese traders during the 16th century, are still extant. There are also steatite human figures, sometimes distorted, called nomoli—or, in wooden form, pomtan (singular, pombo)—that certainly date earlier than the 16th century and were used probably for ancestor worship or fertility rites. At present they are used for ceremonies to ensure abundance of crops. Containers or rattles are carved from gourds and are decorated with intricate geometric patterns that are burned into them.

      The weaving of cloth, typically blue, brown, white, or a combination of these colours, is carried out in the southern and eastern regions by the Mende and the Kono. Thread spun from the cotton bush Gossypium is used in weaving. This handwoven cloth is an important item of barter and wealth and is used in many ceremonies and rituals. The cloth is made into coats for men or is worn as a wraparound lower-body garment by women and is also used as a bedspread. In the north, among the Temne, imported cotton or satin is tie-dyed in beautiful patterns with indigo, the red juice of the kola nut, or imported dyes. In the west, baskets are made with dyed raffia, and patterned slippers are fashioned from dyed wool.

      There is an active school of modern artists who were trained in Europe and the United States and whose paintings have been exhibited locally and abroad. Olayinka Burney Nicol, Hassan Bangura, John Vandi, Koso Thomas, and Gladys Metzger are among the best-known artists of Sierra Leone. There are also local artisans who have not been formally trained but who produce a diverse array of art.

      There has been a literary tradition in Freetown since the 19th century. One of the most prolific writers was James Africanus Beale Horton, who wrote books and pamphlets on politics, science, and medicine while serving as a medical officer in the British army between 1857 and 1871. A.B.C. Sibthorpe, lauded as the first Sierra Leonean historian of Sierra Leone, wrote one of the earliest accounts of his country's history in 1868. There are also 19th-century works on exploration by Sierra Leoneans Samuel Adjai Crowther (Crowther, Samuel), an Anglican bishop, and John Christopher Taylor, another clergyman.

      Sierra Leone is represented in most anthologies of African- and English-language poetry and short stories. In addition, the novels and short stories of Sarif Easmon, William Conton, and Eldred Jones give a vivid picture of modern life in the country. One of the 20th century's most prominent writers was Thomas Decker, who published several works in Krio and translated English-language works, including Shakespeare, into Krio. More-recent works by Syl Cheney Coker and Lemuel Johnson have contributed to Sierra Leone's literary tradition. Sierra Leone also has representation in the world of theatre with playwrights Dele Charley and Yulisa Amadu (“Pat”) Maddy.

Cultural institutions
      The Sierra Leone National Museum in Freetown contains historical, ethnographic, and archaeological collections. Other museums include the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, also in Freetown. Bunce Island, a national historic site, was once home to a British slave castle that operated from the 1670s until 1808; tours of the island are conducted among the ruins of the old dormitories, factory house, prison, and watchtowers. Fourah Bay College and Njala University College both have libraries; the former houses the public archives.

Sports and recreation
      Sierra Leoneans are avid football (soccer) fans, and prior to the civil war the country boasted dozens of amateur and semiprofessional squads that vied for national honours. Baseball and basketball are also popular, and several Sierra Leone-born athletes play professionally outside the country. Intramural competition in all these sports was brought to a standstill during the civil war. In 1996 the national football squad reached the final rounds of the African Nations Cup (African Cup of Nations) after barely avoiding forfeiture because of a lack of travel funds. In 1999 the team had to surrender its play-off spot in the 2000 African Nations Cup because it could not safely travel to neighbouring Guinea to play in a qualifying match. After the end of the civil war, efforts were made to reestablish the national football program in the country.

Davidson S.H.W. Nicol Shekou M. Sesay Ed.

      This discussion focuses on Sierra Leone from the 15th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see western Africa, history of.

Early history
      Archaeological findings show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited for thousands of years. Traditional historiography has customarily presented it as peopled by successive waves of invaders, but the language pattern suggests that the coastal Bulom (Sherbro), Temne, and Limba have been in continuous settled occupation for a long time, with subsequent sporadic immigration from inland by Mande-speaking peoples, including Vai, Loko, and Mende. They organized themselves in small political units—independent kingdoms or chiefdoms—whose rulers' powers were checked by councils. Secret societies, notably the Poro society, also exercised political power, as well as instructing initiates in the customs of the country.

      Muslim traders brought Islam, which became firmly established in the north and subsequently spread through the rest of the country.

      Portuguese voyagers gave the name Serra Lyoa (“Lion Mountains”), later corrupted to Sierra Leone, to the mountainous peninsula at the mouth of the Rokel (Seli) River where, from the 15th century onward, European traders congregated near the site of present-day Freetown under the protection of African rulers, who welcomed them for the commercial opportunities they provided—namely, the exchange of imported manufactured goods for ivory and slaves to be employed across the Atlantic.

      A group of freed slaves arrived in Sierra Leone from England in 1787 to form a settlement. It failed but was revived by the Sierra Leone Company, a commercial company sponsored by English opponents of the slave trade. Black settlers who had liberated themselves from American slavery were brought over from Nova Scotia and built a new settlement, named Freetown. In 1800 “Maroons,” free blacks from Jamaica, were also brought in. These settlers were English-speaking, and many were literate and Christian.

      After the British (British Empire) Parliament made the slave trade illegal in 1807, the British government took over the settlement (Jan. 1, 1808) as a naval base against the slave trade and as a centre to which slaves, captured in transit across the Atlantic, could be brought and freed. Between 1807 and 1864, when the last slave ship case was adjudicated in the Freetown courts, the British navy brought in more than 50,000 “recaptives,” also known as “liberated Africans.” Drawn from all over western Africa, these heterogeneous people lacked any common language or culture. The government therefore introduced a deliberate policy of turning them into a homogeneous Christian community. Protestant missionaries, along with the black pastors of Freetown churches, worked with such success that within a generation the policy was virtually fulfilled. The (Anglican) Church Missionary Society founded an institution to train teachers and missionaries, Fourah Bay College, which was affiliated to the University of Durham in England in 1876. The society also opened boys' and girls' secondary schools.

      The recaptives and their children, known as Creoles (today usually rendered Krios), prospered as traders, and some entered the professions, qualifying in Britain as doctors and lawyers. Thus, they formed an educated West African elite. Notable examples include James Africanus Beale Horton, who qualified as a doctor and served as an officer in the British army and published books on medical and political subjects, and Sir Samuel Lewis, a distinguished barrister. Many Creoles sought employment opportunities in other parts of West Africa. At their suggestion, Anglican missions were founded in what is now Nigeria, where one of them, Samuel Adjai Crowther (Crowther, Samuel), became a bishop.

Colony and protectorate
      During the 19th century the area around the coastal settlements was drawn increasingly into the British economic sphere. There was a market in Britain for shipbuilding timber, and most of the accessible forest trees in the coastal country were felled, altering the environment irrevocably. There was also a European market for vegetable oils, and unprocessed palm produce and peanuts were supplied in return for imported manufactures. Rulers fought for control of the trading centres and built up larger territories for themselves.

      The colonial government made treaties of friendship with neighbouring rulers and gradually acquired jurisdiction over the coastline. At the period of the European partition of Africa, frontiers were delimited with the neighbouring French and Liberian governments, and a British protectorate was proclaimed in 1896 over the area within the frontier lines, though the original colony retained its status. To raise revenue to pay for administration of the protectorate, a hut tax was imposed. The ruling chiefs, who had not been consulted about the protectorate, objected, and a revolt broke out in 1898 under Bai Bureh. It was suppressed by the end of the year. There were no further large-scale armed risings against the British.

      In the protectorate the chiefs ruled under the supervision of British district commissioners. Innovation was discouraged, and little was done to extend education. In the colony many Creoles had held senior official posts in the 19th century and looked forward to governing themselves ultimately. After the protectorate was assumed, however, they were gradually removed from office, and the colony and protectorate were governed by British administrators.

      After World War II the British government gave in to nationalist demands in Sierra Leone, as elsewhere in West Africa. Democratic institutions were hurriedly constituted. The small Creole minority hoped to entrench their rights politically, but the 1951 constitution gave control to the majority. The government elected under it was led by Milton (later Sir Milton) Margai (Margai, Sir Milton) of the Sierra Leone People's Party, a predominantly protectorate party.

      During the 1950s, parliamentary institutions on the British pattern were introduced in stages. The last stage was reached on April 27, 1961, when Sierra Leone became an independent state within the Commonwealth.

      The first years of independence were prosperous. Mineral resources (iron ore and diamonds) brought in substantial revenue, much of which was used for development, particularly education. Njala University College was founded in the early 1960s and amalgamated in 1967 with Fourah Bay College as the University of Sierra Leone.

      Sir Milton Margai died in 1964 and was succeeded by his brother, Sir Albert Margai. The opposition All-Peoples' Congress (APC), led by Siaka Stevens (Stevens, Siaka), won the 1967 general election. But the army intervened and set up a military government, the National Reformation Council, under Lieut. Col. Andrew Juxon-Smith. After a year the privates and noncommissioned officers mutinied, imprisoned their officers, and restored parliamentary rule under Stevens and the APC.

      The subsequent years were stormy, the government regularly imposing states of emergency and executing its political opponents. In 1971 Sierra Leone became a republic, with Stevens as executive president. Meanwhile, the economy deteriorated; the supply of iron ore was exhausted, and most of the diamonds were smuggled, thus depriving the government of revenue. Stevens's style of government encouraged his supporters to enrich themselves at public expense. Public dissatisfaction grew, led by student protests. Stevens's answer was to introduce one-party rule in 1978. In 1985 Stevens retired, having chosen the head of the army, Joseph Saidu Momoh, as his successor. Widespread corruption continued, and the economy further deteriorated.

Christopher Fyfe

      The difficulties in the country were compounded in March 1991 when conflict in neighbouring Liberia spilled over the border into Sierra Leone. Momoh responded by deploying troops to the border region to repel the incursion of Liberian rebels known as the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor (Taylor, Charles Ghankay). Sierra Leone's army came under attack not only from the NPFL but also from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by former Sierra Leone army corporal Foday Sankoh, who was collaborating with the Liberian rebels; this was the beginning of what would be a long and brutal civil war.

      In April 1992 Momoh was deposed in a coup led by Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser, who cited the poor conditions endured by the troops engaged in fighting the rebels as one of the reasons for ousting Momoh. A National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) was established with Strasser as the head of state. During Strasser's administration the civil war escalated, with the RUF increasing the amount of territory under its control, including lucrative diamond mines—the source of the “blood” or “conflict” diamonds used to fund its activities. There were disturbing reports of atrocities committed against the civilian population not only by rebel forces but also by some government troops. Civilians were subject to horrific acts of mutilation, including having their limbs, ears, and lips cut off. Incidents of rape and forced labour were widespread, and many civilians were used as unwilling human shields or held in captivity and subjected to repeated acts of sexual violence by the combatants. Forced conscription was pervasive and made many civilians, including children, unwilling participants in the conflict.

      Strasser was ousted in another military coup in January 1996 after it was feared that he would not transfer power to a civilian government, as originally promised. Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio briefly assumed control of the government with the pledge that elections would soon be held. The RUF, however, requested that elections be postponed until it could reach a peace agreement with the government; this request was rebuffed, and the RUF intensified its violent campaign. Nonetheless, elections were still held: Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People's Party won the presidential election and took office on March 29, 1996. A peace agreement between Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh, known as the Abidjan Agreement, was reached later that year in November, but it was not successfully implemented.

      In May 1997 the country experienced yet another coup as Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma seized power. Koroma, who attributed the previous government's failure to implement the Abidjan Agreement as the reason for the coup, formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which included members of the RUF, to rule the country; President Kabbah was sent into exile. The AFRC met with increasing resistance on all fronts: domestically, its troops were engaged in battle with militia forces loyal to Kabbah's government; internationally, the Commonwealth suspended Sierra Leone, and the United Nations Security Council (United Nations) imposed sanctions on the country.

      The AFRC was overthrown in February 1998 by Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troops, who intervened with the support of the international community. President Kabbah's government was restored in March, but ECOMOG and government troops continued to battle rebel forces until July 1999, when another peace accord—the Lomé Agreement—was signed. The Lomé Agreement proposed a power-sharing plan that included Sankoh and other rebels in the government and required the RUF and the AFRC forces to surrender their weapons.

      The newfound peace was soon threatened by divisions among the rebels. In August, forces aligned with the AFRC—resentful of their exclusion from the power-sharing arrangements defined in the peace accord—took several hostages, including ECOMOG troops, UN military observers, aid workers, and journalists. Although these hostages were eventually released, the AFRC fighters continued with abductions and later captured several RUF leaders. Meanwhile, it became clear that, although Sankoh had agreed to the terms of the peace accord, RUF rebels had no intention of complying, as they continued their brutal attacks on civilians and refused to surrender their weapons; they also attacked and abducted UN Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) peacekeeping (United Nations Peacekeeping Forces) troops, who had entered the country in November 1999.

      With Sankoh doing little to rein in the rebels, a fierce battle around Freetown erupted in May 2000, during which Sankoh was captured by government forces, and the RUF was driven away from the capital by the Sierra Leonean army, with the help of British troops and progovernment militias. After Sankoh's capture, the RUF continued to operate under Gen. Issa Sesay; other heavily armed militias also held power in the country.

      Throughout 2001 UNAMSIL worked to implement a compromise based on the Lomé Agreement, and it had success with disarming many RUF rebels and the progovernment militia. The RUF also released some territory that had been under its control, and UN peacekeeping troops began securing more of the country. Gradually, peace began to seem more obtainable.

      An official end to the civil war was declared on Jan. 5, 2002. By that time, it was estimated that at least 50,000 people had died, with hundreds of thousands more affected by the violence and some 2,000,000 people displaced by the conflict.

Post-civil war
 The first post-civil war elections were held in May 2002, with Kabbah winning reelection with a majority of the vote. Kabbah's administration focused on fostering reconciliation, maintaining internal security, and promoting economic recovery and reform. To that end, both a Truth and Reconciliation Committee and a UN-sponsored war-crimes tribunal (the Special Court for Sierra Leone) were established that summer, and UN peacekeeping troops remained in the country until December 2005. Economic recovery in the postwar years was somewhat aided by significant debt relief and the reopening of bauxite and rutile mines. Still, in the years after the war, Sierra Leone was consistently rated as one of the world's poorest countries.

      In June 2007 the Special Court for Sierra Leone began trying former Liberian rebel and president Charles Taylor, who in 2003 had been indicted for his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war and charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity; due to security concerns, his trial was conducted at The Hague. Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections later that summer; Ernest Bai Koroma of the opposition party All People's Congress was elected president, and his party was successful in winning a majority of parliamentary seats. Koroma's administration tackled the ongoing issues of rebuilding the economy, eliminating corruption, and improving the quality of life in the country.


Additional Reading
D.R.G. Gwynne-Jones et al., A New Geography of Sierra Leone (1978), is an introduction; as is John I. Clarke (ed.), Sierra Leone in Maps, 2nd ed. (1969). Some accounts of the most populous communities are Kenneth Little, The Mende of Sierra Leone, rev. ed. (1967); Michael Jackson, The Kuranko (1977); W.T. Harris and Harry Sawyerr, The Springs of Mende Belief and Conduct (1968); and R.H. Finnegan, Survey of the Limba People of Northern Sierra Leone (1965). Akintola Wyse, The Krio of Sierra Leone (1989), contains an account of the Krio of the western area.Analysis of the political and economic situation in Sierra Leone is found in Alfred Zack-Williams, Tributors, Supporters, and Merchant Capital: Mining and Underdevelopment in Sierra Leone (1995); Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth & Resources in Sierra Leone (1996); William Reno, Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone (1995); and Earl Conteh-Morgan and Mac Dixon-Fyle, Sierra Leone at the End of the Twentieth Century: History, Politics, and Society (1999).Christopher Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone (1962), is a major historical work; it is complemented by C. Magbaily Fyle, The History of Sierra Leone (1981). Other historical studies include C. Magbaily Fyle, Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone (2006); Adam Jones, From Slave to Palm Kernels: A History of the Galinhas Country (West Africa), 1730–1890 (1983); D.A. Turay and Arthur Abraham, The Sierra Leone Army: A Century of History (1987); and Murray Last and Paul Richards (eds.), Sierra Leone, 1787–1987: Two Centuries of Intellectual Life (1987). More recent works on the early period of the colony's settlement include Joe A.D. Alie, A New History of Sierra Leone (1990); Stephen J. Braidwood, Black Poor and White Philanthropists: London's Blacks and the Foundations of the Sierra Leone Settlement, 1786–1791 (1994); and Mary Louise Clifford, From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists After the American Revolution (1999). The impact of the country's civil war is discussed in Mariane C. Ferme, The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone (2001); and Lansana Gberie, A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (2005).Davidson S.H.W. Nicol Christopher Fyfe Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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