print Print
send Send to friends
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the northeast, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and has a population estimated at 6,294,774 as of July 2008 The country has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Freetown is the capital, seat of government, and largest city. Bo is the second largest city. Other major cities in the country with a population over 100,000 are Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni. The country is home to Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, established in 1827.

Early inhabitants of Sierra Leone included the Sherbro, Temne and Limba peoples, and later the Mende, who knew the country as Romarong, and the Kono who settled in the East of the country. In 1462, it was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who gave it its name Serra de Leão, meaning 'Lion Mountains'. Sierra Leone became an important centre of the transatlantic slave trade, until 1787 when Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for formerly enslaved African American and West Indians. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate; in 1961, the two combined and gained independence. Over two decades of government neglect of the interior followed by the spilling over of the Liberian conflict into its borders eventually led to the Sierra Leone Civil War, which began in 1991 and was resolved in 2000 after the United Nations led by Nigeria defeated the rebel forces and restored the civilian government elected in 1998 to Freetown. Since then, almost 72,500 former combatants have been disarmedand the country has reestablished a functioning democracy. The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up in 2002 to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 1996.

Sierra Leone is the lowest ranked country on the Human Development Index and seventh lowest on the Human Poverty Index, suffering from endemic corruption and suppression of the press.

  Geography and climate

Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, between the 7th and 10th parallels north of the equator. Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country has a total area of 71,740 square kilometers (27,699 square miles), divided into a land area of 71,620 square kilometers and water of 120 square kilometers. There are country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone is an interior region of large plateaus interspersed with high mountains, where Mount Bintumani reaches 1,948 meters (6,390 ft) the highest point in the country. The upper part of the drainage basin of the Moa River is located in the south of the region. In the central part of the country is region of lowland plains, containing forests, bush and farmland, that occupy about 43% of Sierra Leone's land area. Starting in the west, Sierra Leone has some 400 kilometres (250 miles) of coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. This is followed by low-lying mangrove swamps, rain-forested plains and farmland. The national capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbor, the world's third largest natural harbour. This prime location historically made Sierra Leone the centre of trade and colonial administration in the region.

The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert and the night-time temperature can be as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F). The average temperature is 26 °C (78.8 °F) and varies from around 26 °C (80 °F) to 36 °C (90 °F) during the year.

 Environment

Logging, mining, slash and burn, and deforestation for alternative land use - such as cattle grazing - have dramatically decreased forested land in Sierra Leone since the 1980s.

Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system due to a brutal civil war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. Deforestation rates have increased 7.3% since the end of the civil war. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants, 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.

In June 2005, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Bird Life International agreed to support a conservation-sustainable development project in the Gola Forest in southeastern Sierra Leone, the most important surviving fragment of rain forest in Sierra Leone.

 Politics

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

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

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

 Foreign relations

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the former colonizer United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with China, Libya, Iran, United States and Cuba. Former President Siaka Stevens' government had sought closer relations with other West African countries under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The present government is continuing this effort.

Sierra Leone is a member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The government maintains 16 embassies and high commissioners across the world including in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, China, Iran, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, United Nations, and the United States.

 Provinces and districts

The Republic of Sierra Leone is composed of three provinces: the Northern Province, Southern province and the Eastern province and one other region called the Western Area. The provinces are further divided into 12 districts, and the districts are further divided into chiefdoms, except for the Western Area.

 

District

Capital

Area km²

Province

Population (2004 census)

Population (2008 estimates)

Bombali District

Makeni

7,985

Northern Province

408,390

420,561

Koinadugu District

Kabala

12,121

265,758

 

Port Loko District

Port Loko

5,719

453,746

477,978

Tonkolili District

Magburaka

7,003

347,197

365,465

Kambia District

Kambia

3,108

270,462

295,090

Kenema District

Kenema

6,053

Eastern Province

497,948

515,461

Kono District

Koidu Town

5,641

335,401

 

Kailahun District

Kailahun

3,859

358,190

382,829

Bo District

Bo

5,473.6

Southern Province

463,668

515,945

Moyamba District

Moyamba

6,902

260,910

 

Pujehun District

Pujehun

4,105

228,392

262,073

Bonthe District

Bonthe

3,468

129,947

 

 

Districts

Capital

Area km²

Region

Population (2004 census)

Western Area Urban District

Freetown

82

Western Area

772,873

Western Area Rural District

Freetown

475

Western Area

174,249

 Major cities

City

2004 census

Current population estimate

Freetown

772,873

1,070,200

Bo

149,957

269,000

Kenema

128,402

158,496

Koidu Town

80,025

111,800

Makeni

82,840

105,900

 Economy

Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas. In 2001, Sierra Leone attracted US$4 million in foreign direct investment.

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is perhaps best known for its blood diamonds that are mined and sold for high prices. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of the formal economy was destroyed in the country’s civil war. Since the end of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Much of the recovery will depend on the success of the government's efforts to limit corruption by officials, which many feel was the chief cause for the civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

Mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export. Annual production of Sierra Leone's diamond estimates range between $250-300 million U.S dollar. Some of that is smuggled, where it is possibly used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. But formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil war. Efforts to improve the management of exports have had some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings.

 Currency

Sierra Leone’s currency is the Leone. The central bank of the country is the Bank of Sierra Leone which is located in the capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone operates a floating exchange rate system, and foreign currencies can be exchanged at any of the commercial banks, recognised foreign exchange bureaux and most hotels.

Credit card use is limited in Sierra Leone, though they may be used at some hotels and restaurants. Visitors should check in advance with local managements. Sierra Leone does not have internationally linked automated teller machines (ATM).

 Demographics

Sierra Leone's population is 6,294,774. Freetown, with an estimated population of 1,070,200, is the capital, largest city and the hub of the economy, commercial, educational and cultural centre of the country. Bo is the second city. Other cities with a population over 100,000 are Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni.

Although English is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, Krio (language derived from English and several African languages and native to the Sierra Leone Krio people) is used as lingua franca in virtually all parts of the country. The Krio language is spoken by 95% of the country's population and unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other.

 Ethnic groups

The population of Sierra Leone comprises 16 ethnic groups, each with its own language and costume. The two largest are the Mende and Temne, each comprises 30% of the population (about 1,888,432 members each). The Mende predominate in the South-Eastern Provinces; the Temne likewise predominate in the Northern Province. The third largest are the Limba, who represent about 9% of the population (about 566,529 members). Like their close ally the Temne, the Limba live mostly in the Northern Province. The fourth largest are the Kono, they make up about 8% (about 503,581 members) and are primarily found in Kono District, where they form the largest ethnic group. The fifth largest are the Mandingo, they make up 7% (about 465,813 members) and they predominate in Kabala, the capital and largest city of Koinadugu District; they also form the largest ethnic group in Yengema, the second largest town in Kono District.

In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly wood carving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. But the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.

 Religion

Sierra Leone Religion

religion

   

percent

 

Muslim

  

60%

Christian

  

30%

African indigenous religion

  

10%

 

Muslim comprised 60% of Sierra Leone's population, Christianity at 30%, and African indigenous religion at 10%.

The Sierra Leone constitution provides freedom of religion and the government generally protects this right and does not tolerate its abuse.

 Media

Media in Sierra Leone began with the introduction of the first printing press in Africa at the start of the nineteenth century. A strong journalistic tradition developed with the creation of a number of newspapers. In the 1860s, the country became a journalist hub for Africa, with professionals travelling to the country from across the continent. At the end of the nineteenth century, the industry went into decline, and when radio was introduced in the 1930s, it became the primary communication media in the country. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) was created by the government in 1934 making it the earliest English language radio broadcaster service in West Africa. The service began broadcasting television in 1963, with coverage extended to all the districts in the country in 1978.

  Education

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

The country has two universities, the University of Sierra Leone, founded as Fourah Bay College in 1827, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827, and Njala University, primarily located in Bo District, which was established as a the Njala Agricultural Experimental Station in 1910 and became a university in 2005. Teacher training colleges and religious seminaries are found in many parts of the country.

 Transportation

There are a number of systems of transport in Sierra Leone, which has a road, air and water infrastructure, including a network of highways and several airports.

 Air

There are ten regional airports in Sierra Leone, and one international airport. The Lungi International Airport located in the coastal town of Lungi in Northern Sierra Leone is the primary airport for domestic and international travel to or from Sierra Leone. Passengers cross the river to Aberdeen Heliports in Freetown by hovercraft, ferry or a helicopter. Helicopters are also available from the airport to other major cities in the country. The airport has paved runways longer than 3,047m. The other airports have unpaved runways, and seven have runways 914 to 1,523 metres long; the remaining two have shorter runways.

 Water

Sierra Leone has the third largest natural harbour in the world, where international shipping berth at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay in Government Wharf in central Freetown. There are 800 km of waterways in Sierra Leone, of which 600 km are navigable year-round. Major port cities are Bonthe, Freetown, Sherbro Island and Pepel.

 Highways

There are 11,700 kilometres of highways in Sierra Leone, of which 936 km are paved. Sierra Leone highways are linked to Conakry, Guinea, and Monrovia, Liberia.
 

 Sports

 Football

Football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport in Sierra Leone. The national football team, popularly known as the Leone Stars, represents the country in international competitions. It has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup but participated in the 1994 and 1996 African Cup of Nations. The country's national television network, The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) broadcasts the live match, along with several radio stations throughout the country.

The Sierra Leone National Premier League is the top football league, controlled by the Sierra Leone Football Association. The two biggest and most successful football clubs are East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool, but Kallon F.C. has enjoyed contemporary success. Kallon F.C. won the Premier League and the Sierra Leonean FA Cup in 2006, and eliminated 2006 Nigerian Premier League Champions Ocean Boys FC in the 2007 CAF Champions League first qualifying round, but later lost to ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast in the second qualifying round for the group stage.

The Sierra Leone U-17 football team, nicknamed the Sierra Stars, finished as runner-up at the 2003 African U-17 Championship in Swaziland, but came in last place in their group at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland.

 Cricket

The Sierra Leone cricket team represents Sierra Leone in international cricket competitions, and is among the best in West Africa. It became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2002.[1] It made its international debut at the 2004 African Affiliates Championship, where it finished last of eight teams. But at the equivalent tournament in 2006, Division Three of the African region of the World Cricket League, it finished as runner-up to Mozambique, and just missed a promotion to Division Two.

 Basketball

The Sierra Leone national basketball team represents Sierra Leone in international men's basketball competitions and is controlled by the Sierra Leone Basketball Federation. The squad is mostly home-based, with a few foreign players.