Sierra Leone

Full Name
Republic of Sierra Leone
Origins of name: Sierra Leone's name dates back to 1462, when a Portuguese explorer, Pedro da Cintra gave the long range of mountains of what is now the Freetown Peninsula 'Sierra Lyoa' meaning 'Lion Mountains'

Current Leader
Ernest Bai Koroma

The Bulom people were thought to have been the earliest inhabitants of Sierra Leone, followed by the Mende and Temne peoples in the 15th century and thereafter the Fulani, Creoles (freed slaves) later returned in the late 1700s
Heavily influenced by a blend of native Bantu and western culture
Former British colony
Independent since April 27,1961

Form of Government
Constitutional democracy
Head of State is the executive President
President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term

Government Structure
President, Cabinet, Unicameral parliament

Military Statistics
Manpower fit for military service: 1,454,708 people
Expenditures: 2.3% of GDP per year
Branches: Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF): Army (includes Maritime Wing and Air Wing)

Former Rulers
1961–1964 Milton Margai

1964–1967 Albert Margai

1967 & 1968 - 71 Siaka Probyn Stevens, Prime Minister
1971-1985 Siaka Probyn Stevens, President
1985- 1992 Joseph Saidu Momoh
1992 -1992 Yahya Kanu, military head of government
1992- 1996 Valentine Esegragbo Melvine Strasser, military head of government
1996-1996 Julius Maada Bio, military head of government
1996- 1997 Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
1997 -1998 Johnny Paul Koroma, military head of government
1998- 2007 Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
2007- present Ernest Bai Koroma

Altitude: 23 metres
Population: 802,639 people

Size: 5,997,000 (2011)
Life Expectancy 41.2 years
Gender make-up: Female - 51.61 %, Male - 48.39 %

GDP per capita
$877 (2011)

$823 (2010)

Area: 71,740sqkm
Land Boundaries: Guinea 652km, Liberia 306km

Major 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 descendants of freed slaves)

Religious Portfolio
Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, Indigenous beliefs 30%

National Make-up
African ethnic groups 90%, Creole (Krio) 10%

Natural Resources

Diamonds, Titanium ore, Bauxite, Iron ore, Gold, Chromite

Main exports

Diamonds, Rutile, Cocoa, Coffee, Fish

Land Use
Arable land: 7.95%
Permanent crops: 1.05%
Other: 91%


Dialling Code

Internet Code

Main Airport: Lungi International Airport located 13km north of the city
Main Port: Freetown

Modern issues

Rapid population growth pressuring the environment
Overharvesting of timber leading to deforestation
Expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in soil exhaustion
Civil war depleted natural resources


Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is being tried at the ICC in the Hague for crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone
Democracy is slowly being re-established after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people
The Sierra Leone government has promised to “fully address” issues raised by an Al Jazeera TV investigative series that has implicated a senior government official in corruption and caused a storm within the ruling APC party

The economy was destroyed by the civil war but has experienced modest recovery

Sierra Leone has made some real progressive strides in 2011. An undersea telecommunications table landed in the country, part of a 17,000-kilometre fibre optic line that aims to connect countries along the West African coast to Europe. Mr. Koroma hailed it as a "momentous and great communication transformation" in a country where Internet penetration is currently at a mere six per cent
Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone's principal foreign exchange earner, Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds

Still has high number of refugees and internally displaced persons
Traumatic effects of the civil war still evident on indelible mark of chopped limbs
Human rights violations
Ex-children soldiers are still resented in their communities
Drugs abuse prevalence

Foreign Policy issues

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the UK. It also maintains diplomatic relations with China, Libya, Cuba, and Iran
Sierra Leone had sought closer relations with other West African countries under the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas)
Sierra Leone, along with Liberia and Guinea form the Mano River Union (MRU), primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration between the three countries

The Major Conflicts

Hut Tax War of 1898
Who: Natives vs British
Why: Resistance to British colonialism and their attempt to collect hut tax in Sierra Leone, was led by Temne chief Bai Bureh and Mende chief Momoh Jah
Outcome: British issued a warrant to arrest Bai Bureh, alleging that he had refused to pay taxes, was finally captured on November 11, 1898 and sent into exile in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), while most of his native comrades were hanged by the British. The defeat of the natives in the Hut Tax war ended large scale organised resistance to colonialism. However, resistance continued throughout the colonial period in the form of intermittent rioting and chaotic labour unrests

Sierra Leone series of military coups
When:1967 -1985
Who: All People’s Congress (APC) vs Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF)
Why: Contested elections, diamond control, abuses of power
Outcome: Siaka Stevens remained as Head of State until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned

Sierra Leone Civil War
When: 1991-2002
Who: Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under Foday Sankoh vs Government of Sierra Leone
Why: Control of Sierra Leone's diamond industry
Mass deaths, internally displaced persons, rape, recruitment of child soldiers, among other human rights atrocities, marked this period
Outcome: Foday Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government
Ceasefire was declared to reinvigorate the peace process and agreement signed in Abuja in November 2000

What to see?

The Remains of the Earth works and live stockade at Masakpaidu
Freetown city
Bunce Island
The Ruins of John Newton’s House and the Slave barracoons on Plantain Island
Three Old City Boundary guns
The Gateway to Old Kings Yard

Popular Sports

Sportsmen and Sportswomen
Mohammed Kallon: He became the youngest player ever for the national soccer side Leone Stars. At the age of 16, Kallon, was the youngest player in the 1996 African Nations Cup tournament in South Africa.


Sierra Leone police station turned into snake pit when 400 hissing snakes invaded the station in June 2009

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