Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone (sēĕrˈə lēōˈnē, lēōnˈ; sērˈə lēōn), officially Republic of Sierra Leone, republic (2015 est. pop. 5,879,000), 27,699 sq mi (71,740 sq km), W Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Guinea in the north and east, and by Liberia in the south. Freetown is the capital.


Sierra Leone's 350-mi (560-km) Atlantic coastline is made up of a belt (average width 30 mi/50 km) of low-lying mangrove swamps, except for the mountainous Sierra Leone Peninsula (on which Freetown is situated). The coastline is broken by numerous estuaries and has some wide, sandy beaches. Behind the coastal belt is a wooded plateau (average elevation: 1,000 ft/300 m). The eastern half of the country is mostly mountainous and includes Bintimane Peak, Sierra Leone's loftiest point (6,390 ft/1,948 m), located near the Guinea border. Several rivers, including the Great Scarcies (which makes up a section of the boundary with Guinea) and the Mano (which forms part of the border with Liberia), flow through the country to the Atlantic. The headwaters of the Niger River are situated in the mountains of the northeast. In addition to the capital, other cities include Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.


The two main ethnic groups are the Mende, who speak a Mande language and live in the central and southern parts of the country, and the Temne, who speak a W Atlantic language and live in the north. There are also Creoles or Krios, descendants of freed slaves from North America, the West Indies, and other parts of W Africa. The population also contains small numbers of South Asians and Lebanese, who play a major role in the nation's commerce. English is the country's official language and Krio, a mixture of several African languages and English, is the lingua franca. About 60% of the population is Muslim, 30% follows traditional religious beliefs, and 10% is Christian.


Sierra Leone's economy is predominantly agricultural, with about half of its workers engaged in subsistence farming. The principal food crops are rice, cassava, corn, millet, and peanuts. The leading cash crops, most of which are exported, are coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, and palm oil. Poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats are raised. The fishing industry is also important.

The country has an important mining industry, which is largely controlled by foreign companies. The main minerals extracted are diamonds (the country's major source of hard currency), iron ore, gold, bauxite, and rutile (titanium ore). However, the mining industry, like other areas of the economy, was severely affected by civil strife. Since 2009 a number of offshore oil discoveries have been made. The country's few manufactures include refined petroleum and basic consumer goods. There is commercial ship repairing. Sierra Leone has limited rail and highway networks, which mostly serve the central and western parts of the country. Freetown has excellent port facilities; smaller ports are located at Bonthe (on Sherbro Island) and Pepel (near Freetown).

The cost of Sierra Leone's imports is considerably higher than its earnings from exports. The principal imports are foodstuffs, machinery, transportation equipment, fuels, and chemicals; the chief exports are diamonds and other minerals, cocoa, coffee, and fish. Diamond smuggling has been a problem since the 1960s, and during the civil war much of the diamond-mining area fell into the hands of rebel groups. Sierra Leone's leading trade partners are Belgium, Germany, the United States, and Côte d'Ivoire.


Sierra Leone is governed under the constitution of 1991 as amended. The executive branch is headed by the president, who is both head of state and head of government. The president is popularly elected for a five-year term and may serve for two terms The unicameral Parliament has 144 members; 132 are popularly elected and 12 are paramount chiefs who are chosen in separate elections. All members serve five-year terms. Administratively, Sierra Leone is divided into 4 provinces and the Western Area, which is the site of the capital.


Early History

The Temne were living along the northern coast of present-day Sierra Leone when the first Portuguese navigators reached the region in 1460. The Portuguese landed on the Sierra Leone Peninsula, naming it Serra Lyoa [lion mountains] after the mountains located there. Beginning c.1500, European traders stopped regularly on the peninsula, exchanging cloth and metal goods for ivory, timber, and small numbers of slaves. Beginning in the mid-16th cent. Mande-speaking people migrated into Sierra Leone from present-day Liberia, and they eventually established the states of Bullom, Loko, Boure, and Sherbro. In the early 17th cent. British traders became increasingly active along the Sierra Leone coast. In the early 18th cent. Fulani and Mande-speaking persons from the Fouta Djallon region of present-day Guinea converted numerous Temne of N Sierra Leone to Islam. Sierra Leone was a minor source of slaves for the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th cent.

Following the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) attempts were made to resettle freed slaves who had sided with Great Britain in Africa. In 1787, 400 persons (including 330 blacks and 70 white prostitutes) arrived at the Sierra Leone Peninsula, bought land from local Temne leaders, and established the Province of Freedom near present-day Freetown. The settlement did not fare well, and most of the inhabitants died of disease in the first year. A renewed attempt at settlement was made in 1792, when about 1,100 freed slaves under the leadership of the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson landed on the peninsula and founded Freetown. They were joined by about 500 free blacks from Jamaica in 1800. The new colony was controlled by the Sierra Leone Company, which forcefully held off the Temne while the settlers supported themselves by farming.

In 1807, Great Britain outlawed the slave trade, and in early 1808 the British government took over Freetown from the financially troubled company, using it as a naval base for antislavery patrols. Between 1808 and 1864 approximately 50,000 liberated slaves settled at Freetown. Protestant missionaries were active there, and in 1827 they founded Fourah Bay College (now part of the Univ. of Sierra Leone), where Africans were educated. Most of the freedmen and their descendants, known as Creoles or Krios, were Christians. They became active as missionaries, traders, and civil servants along the Sierra Leone coast and on Sherbro Island as well as in other regions of coastal W Africa, especially among the Yoruba of present-day SW Nigeria.

The Colonial Era

During the periods 1821 to 1827, 1843 to 1850, and 1866 to 1874, British holdings on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) were placed under the governor of Sierra Leone. In 1863 an advisory legislative council was established in Sierra Leone. The British were reluctant to assume added responsibility by increasing the size of the colony, but in 1896 the interior was proclaimed a British protectorate, mainly in order to forestall French ambitions in the region, and the Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone was established.

The protectorate was ruled “indirectly” (i.e., through the rulers of the numerous small states, rather than by creating an entirely new administrative structure) and a hut tax was imposed in 1898 to pay for administrative costs. The Africans protested the tax in a war (1898) led in the north by Bai Bureh and in the south by the Poro secret society; the British quickly emerged victorious and there were no further major armed protests. Under the British, little economic development was undertaken in the protectorate until the 1950s, although a railroad was built and the production for export of palm products and peanuts was encouraged.

After World War II, Africans were given more political responsibility, and educational opportunities were enlarged. In the economic sphere, mining (especially of diamonds and iron ore) increased greatly. The Creoles of the colony, who had been largely excluded from higher government posts in favor of the British, sought a larger voice in the affairs of Sierra Leone. A constitution adopted in 1951 gave additional power to Africans. However, the Creoles were a small minority in the combined colony and protectorate, and in the elections of 1951 the protectorate-based Sierra Leone Peoples party (SLPP), led by Dr. Milton Margai (a Mende), emerged victorious.

An Independent Nation

On Apr. 27, 1961, Sierra Leone became independent, with Margai as prime minister. He died in 1964 and was succeeded by his brother, Albert M. Margai. Following the 1967 general elections, Siaka Stevens of the All Peoples Congress party (APC), a Temne-based party, was appointed prime minister by the governor-general (a Sierra Leonian who represented the British monarch). However, a military coup led by Brig. David Lansana in support of Margai ousted Stevens a few minutes after he took the oath of office.

The Lansana government itself was soon toppled and replaced by a National Reformation Council (NRC) headed by Col. Andrew Juxom-Smith. In 1968, an army revolt overthrew the NRC and returned the nation to parliamentary government, with Stevens as prime minister. The following years were marked by considerable unrest, caused by ethnic and army disaffection with the central government. After an attempted coup in 1971, parliament declared Sierra Leone to be a republic, with Stevens as president. Guinean troops requested by Stevens to support his government were in the country from 1971 to 1973. Stevens's APC swept the 1973 parliamentary elections, creating a de facto one-party state; a 1978 referendum made the APC the only legal party. Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh succeeded Stevens as president in 1986.

In 1991 a referendum was passed, providing for a new constitution and multiparty democracy. However, in 1992, Momoh was overthrown in a military coup. Capt. Valentine Strasser soon became president, but he was ousted in Jan., 1996, and replaced by Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio. Promises of a return to civilian rule were fulfilled by Maada Bio, who handed power over to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, of the Sierra Leone People's party, after the conclusion of elections in early 1996. Kabbah's government reached a cease-fire in the war with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which had launched its first attacks in 1991; rebel terror attacks continued, however, aided by Liberia.

Kabbah was overthrown in May, 1997, by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a military junta headed by Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma. The junta soon invited the RUF to participate in a new government. The United Nations imposed sanctions against the military government in Oct., 1997, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent in forces led by Nigeria. The rebels were subdued in Feb., 1998, and President Kabbah was returned to office in March.

Fighting continued, however, in many parts of the country, with reports of widespread atrocities. Over 6,000 people were killed in fighting in the Freetown area in Jan., 1999, alone. In March, Nigeria announced it would withdraw its forces by May. A peace accord was signed in July between President Kabbah and Foday Sankoh of the RUF. The agreement granted the rebels seats in a new government and all forces a general amnesty from prosecution. The government had largely ceased functioning effectively, however, and at least half of its territory remained under rebel control.

In October, the United Nations agreed to send peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. The first of the 6,000-member force began arriving in December, and the Security Council voted in Feb., 2000, to increase the UN force to 11,000 (and subsequently to 13,000). In May, when nearly all Nigerian forces had left and UN forces were attempting to disarm the RUF in E Sierra Leone, Sankoh's forces clashed with the UN troops, and some 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage as the peace accord effectively collapsed.

An 800-member British force entered the country to secure W Freetown and evacuate Europeans; some also acted in support of the forces (including Koroma's AFRC group) fighting the RUF. After Sankoh was captured in Freetown, the hostages were gradually released by the RUF, but clashes between the UN forces and the RUF continued, and in July the West Side Boys (part of the AFRC) clashed with the peacekeepers. In the same month the UN Security Council placed a ban on the sale of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone in an attempt to undermine the funding of the RUF. In late August, Issa Sesay became head of the RUF; also, British troops training the Sierra Leone army were taken hostage by the West Side Boys, but were freed by a British raid in September.

General elections scheduled for early 2001 were postponed in Feb., 2001, due to the insecurity caused by the civil war. In May, 2001, sanctions were imposed on Liberia because of its support for the rebels, and UN peacekeepers began to make headway in disarming the various factions. Although disarmament of rebel and progovernment militias proceeded slowly and fighting continued to occur, by Jan., 2002, most of the estimated 45,000 fighters had surrendered their weapons. In a ceremony that month, government and rebel leaders declared the civil war to have ended; an estimated 50,000 persons died in the conflict. Subsequently, a tribunal established (2002–9) by Sierra Leone and the United Nations tried and convicted Issa Sesay and two other surviving leaders of the RUF of war crimes.

Elections were finally held in May, 2002. President Kabbah was reelected, and his Sierra Leone People's party won a majority of the parliamentary seats. In June, 2003, the UN ban on the sale of Sierra Leone diamonds expired and was not renewed. The UN disarmament and rehabilitation program for Sierra Leone's fighters was completed in Feb., 2004, by which time more 70,000 former combatants had been helped.

UN forces returned primary responsibility for security in the area around the capital to Sierra Leone's police and armed forces in Sept., 2004; it was the last part of the country to be turned over. Some UN peacekeepers remained to assist the Sierra Leone government until the end of 2005; the last UN peacekeeping office in the country closed in Mar., 2014. Parliamentary elections in Aug., 2007, gave a majority of the seats to opposition All People's Congress (APC), and after a runoff, Ernest Bai Koroma, of the APC, was elected president. The UN Security Council lifted its remaining sanctions on the country, including the arms embargo, in Sept., 2010. Koroma was reelected in Nov., 2012, and the APC again won a legislative majority. Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana went into hiding and sought political asylum in Mar., 2015, after he was dismissed from the APC and feared for his safety; he was then dismissed from the vice presidency. In 2013–15 an Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone killed some 11,300 people; nearly 4,000 died in Sierra Leone before the spread of the disease was controlled. Julius Maada Bio, the candidate of the Sierra Leone People's party and a former general who had briefly ruled after the coup in 1996, was elected president in Apr., 2018, after a runoff in which he received almost 52% of the vote. The APC, however, won a majority of the elected legislative seats in March. In office, Bio launched a significant anticorruption investigation that ensnared a number of high-ranking officials from the previous government.


See R. G. Saylor, The Economic System of Sierra Leone (1967); J. Cartwright, Politics in Sierra Leone, 1947–67 (1970); A. B. Sibthorpe, The History of Sierra Leone (4th ed. 1971); C. P. Foray, Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone (1977); G. O. Roberts, The Anguish of Third World Independence: The Sierra Leone Experience (1982).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sierra Leone


an independent republic in West Africa and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Sierra Leone is bounded on the north and northeast by the Republic of Guinea, on the southeast by Liberia, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Area, 72,300 sq km. Population, 3 million (1974 census). The capital is the city of Freetown. Administratively, the country is divided into three provinces—Eastern, Northern, and Southern—with Freetown and its suburbs forming what is known as the Western Area.

Government structure. Sierra Leone is a republic. According to the constitution approved by a referendum held June 5–12, 1978, the country is headed by a president elected for a seven-year term. Legislative power is vested in the House of Representatives. Of the 104 house members, 85 are elected by popular vote, 12 are chosen by assemblies of tribal chiefs, and seven are appointed by the president. Executive power is exercised by the president and the government.

Natural features. Sierra Leone is situated on the Atlantic Ocean, and the coastal region is predominantly sandy, low-lying, and flat; the northern coast is cut by estuaries, which penetrate far inland. Southeast of Sherbro Island, the coast forms a straight line, along which a lagoon extends.

Most of the country is situated in the Leone-Liberian Upland (Bintimani Peak, 1,948 m); in the north, there are spurs of the Fonta Djallon Highlands. The western and southern parts of Sierra Leone form a low alluvial plain that slopes gently down to the Atlantic Ocean; monadnocks rise above the plain to a height of 400–500 m. Deposits of iron ore are associated with the Precambrian schists that make up the Leone-Liberian Upland, and deposits of titanium ores are associated with intrusions of basic rock. There are also significant deposits of diamonds. Bauxite deposits have been explored in the western part of the country.

The climate of Sierra Leone is equatorial, with the rainy season extending from May to September and the dry season from October to May. Along the coast, the average temperature of the coldest month (August) is 24°C, while that of the hottest month (April) is 27°C; the mountains receive more than 4,000 mm of precipitation per year. In the interior, average monthly temperatures are somewhat lower, and annual precipitation is 2,000–2,500 mm. The country has an extensive network of rivers, which have high discharges. Rapids are common, however, and the rivers are navigable only in their lower courses. The main rivers are the Kaba, Rokel, Jong, Sewa, and Moa.

The soils of Sierra Leone are mainly of the red-yellow ferrallitic type; along the coast are swamp and alluvial soils and saline soils under mangrove vegetation. Evergreen and deciduous-evergreen equatorial rain forests now cover only 5 percent of the country’s territory, mainly on the eastern slopes of the mountain ranges and in the southern part of the country. The northern part of the country has tall-grass savanna, while in the south and southeast there are thickets of secondary shrubs. Even though many animal species have been extirpated, great variety remains in the country’s fauna. There are monkeys, antelopes, and leopards, and in the rain forest there are still dwarf species of, for example, elephant, buffalo, and hippopotamus. Bird and insect species, among them the tsetse fly, are especially numerous. Freshwater fish include the Nile perch and the tarpon.


Population. The population of Sierra Leone is divided into two main ethnic groups: peoples speaking West Atlantic languages (the Temne, Bullom, Limba, Kissi, and Fulani peoples) and those speaking languages of the Mande group (the Mende, Vai, and Kono peoples). The largest ethnic groups are the Mende and Temne. More than one-half the population is Muslim; 25 percent is Christian (mainly Protestant); and the rest of the population adheres to traditional local beliefs. The official language is English, and the country follows the Gregorian calendar.

The annual population growth during the period 1963–74 averaged 1.6 percent. The economically active population numbers 1.054 million (1970), 72.8 percent of whom are employed in agriculture. The average population density is approximately 40 persons per sq km (1974), with the western region of the country being the most densely populated. Approximately 17 percent of the population is urban. The country’s largest cities are Freetown (population, 274,000 [1974], Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.

Historical survey. The earliest settlements in what is now Sierra Leone date from the Paleolithic period. Feudal relations emerged around the 15th century; family and tribal relations played an important role, and slavery was preserved in the case of domestic servants. In 1462 the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Cintra landed on the coast and named the land Serra Lyoa (Lion Mountain). The British first entered Sierra Leone in the mid-16th century, and in 1808 the coastal region was made a British colony. The British colonizers subdued the interior regions either by outright conquest or by treaties, with terms favorable to themselves, with chiefs of local tribes. In 1896 the interior regions adjoining the colony were proclaimed a British protectorate. The protectorate was governed on the principles of indirect rule through tribal chiefs, whose cooperation served to support British control.

At the end of the 19th century, the British began exploiting the country’s natural wealth, exporting, among other products, peanuts, palm oil, and valuable types of wood. The end of the 19th century also saw a popular uprising against British domination (seeBAI BUREH UPRISING). Exploitation of the country’s minerals began in the early 1930’s; foreign, primarily British, capital was used, especially after the discovery of diamond deposits. Forced labor was common, mainly in building railroads and highways; the tax burden forced the peasants to increase production of export crops at the expense of crops needed for domestic consumption.

The development of capitalist relations in Sierra Leone during and after World War II increased the size of the working class (railroad workers, port workers, miners) and nonproduction workers; a national bourgeoisie emerged. The first trade unions were formed in the early 1940’s, and a number of political parties and other groups came into being at the beginning of the 1950’s. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which included members of the feudal and tribal elite, nascent national bourgeoisie, civil service, and intelligentsia, was founded in 1951 with the physician Milton Margai as leader. The party advocated broader participation by Africans in organs of government and called for a number of reforms; later, it came out in favor of independence, albeit with the preservation of close ties with Great Britain.

In the mid-1950’s, there were mass demonstrations by workers and peasants demanding better working conditions. In February 1955 there was a strike by office and industrial workers in Freetown. From November 1955 to March 1956 large-scale peasant disturbances, involving more than 100,000 people, gripped most of the regions of the protectorate. British authorities were forced to make concessions. Parliamentary elections were held in May 1957, and a government was formed with Margai as chief minister. In August 1958, Margai assumed the post of premier, a post established by agreement with the British government. At the conference in London in April 1960 on the constitutional structure of Sierra Leone, the British government agreed to grant the country independence within the Commonwealth. An agreement on mutual defense was also concluded between Great Britain and Sierra Leone at that time. On Apr. 27, 1961, Sierra Leone was declared an independent state within the British Commonwealth.

The first national government was headed by Margai, who was succeeded after his death in 1964 by A. Margai, his brother. In September 1961, Sierra Leone was admitted to the United Nations. In 1961 the first constitution of an independent Sierra Leone was promulgated. The SLPP was victorious in the 1962 parliamentary elections; approximately 22 percent of the votes went to the All People’s Congress (APC), a party formed in 1960 by a group of political figures headed by the trade union activist S. P. Stevens. The APC opposed the agreement on mutual defense concluded with Great Britain; it also sought to dislodge foreign companies from monopolistic positions in the country’s economy. The parliamentary elections of Mar. 17, 1967, brought victory to the APC. However, on March 23 of that year, reactionary forces staged a military coup, and power passed to the National Reformation Council (NRC), a group comprising officers of the army and police force and headed by Lieutenant Colonel A. Juxon-Smith. The activities of political parties were banned, and the constitution was suspended. After a new coup d’etat on Apr. 18, 1968, power was shifted to the Anti-corruption Revolutionary Movement, a group made up of junior army officers. The NRC was disbanded, and the constitution was restored.

In June 1968, a coalition government was formed under Stevens, and in April 1969, Stevens formed a one-party government. The domestic policy of the APC included africanization of the state apparatus, review of agreements with foreign mining companies and the creation of companies owned partly by the state, and the development of a diverse economy. With regard to foreign policy, the party advocated nonalignment and the development of friendly relations with all countries. It opposed apartheid and racial discrimination and favored liberation of peoples still under colonial domination. The APC government implemented a series of measures intended to increase the role of the state in the economy. These measures aroused the opposition of imperialist forces and of domestic reactionaries, as seen in the attempted coup of Mar. 23, 1971. The Republic of Guinea, acting in accordance with a 1971 treaty on mutual defense, assisted Sierra Leone in defeating the reactionary forces.

On Apr. 19, 1971, parliament declared Sierra Leone a republic, and S. P. Stevens became the first president.

Diplomatic relations with the USSR were established on Jan. 18, 1962. The two countries have concluded agreements on trade (1965) and on cultural and scientific cooperation (1965).

Political parties, trade unions, and other organizations. The All People’s Congress, founded in 1960, is the ruling party, and the Sierra Leone People’s Party, founded in 1951, is the opposition party. The Sierra Leone Labor Congress, founded in 1966, unites 17 branch trade unions and is part of the International Federation of Trade Unions; the congress supports the APC. The Labor Congress, an autonomous trade union center, comprises four branch trade unions. There is also the Women’s Organization of the APC, the APC Youth League (founded 1970–71), and the Sierra Leone-USSR Friendship Society, founded in 1971.

Economic geography. Although Sierra Leone is an agricultural country, this sector is less developed than the mining industry. In the 1974 gross national product, agriculture accounted for 28.7 percent of output, mining 15.7 percent, manufacturing and power generation 10.3 percent, construction 5 percent, transportation 9.2 percent, trade 16.4 percent, and other industries 14.7 percent. The main branches of the economy are oriented toward export, with production for export constituting 29 percent of the 1974 gross national product. The economy is dominated by British capital. After independence was achieved in 1961, measures were taken to diversify the economy, limit foreign capital, and increase the economic role of the state. State planning was introduced. In 1974 a plan was adopted for the period 1974/75–1978/79; this plan envisaged total capital investments of 623 million leones, of which 45 percent was to come from the state.

In 1974 the per capita gross national product was US$164.

AGRICULTURE. Communal ownership of land predominates, with private ownership only in the vicinity of the capital. Agricultural production comes mainly from small peasant farms. There are 3.6 million hectares (ha) under cultivation, with another 2.2 million ha of meadows and pastures. Most of the land is used for food crops. Crops raised for local consumption include rice (370,000 ha, 530,000 tons harvested in 1974), cassava (25,000 ha, 83,000 tons), maize, millet, sorghum, and sweet potatoes. Crops grown for export include oil palms (55,000 tons of palm kernels harvested in 1974), coffee, cacao, ginger, citrus fruits, peanuts, and kola nuts.

Because of the tsetse fly, animal husbandry, practiced mainly in the northern part of the country, is not well developed. In 1974 there were 280,000 head of cattle, 64,000 sheep, 168,000 goats, and 34,000 swine. There is also poultry husbandry and commercial fishing (51,000 tons of fish in 1973).

INDUSTRY. In 1974, the output of the mining industry in Sierra Leone included 1.7 million carats of diamonds (near Kenema), 2 million tons of iron ore (mainly from the region near Marampa), and 683,000 tons of bauxite (from the Mokanji Hills). A manufacturing industry has developed since the country’s independence. Most developed is the food-processing industry; there are also factories and plants for light industry and woodworking. Other enterprises include an oil refinery (500,000 tons of petroleum products per year, petroleum imported), a plant for cutting and polishing diamonds, an automobile tire plant, and repair shops for automotive vehicles. Almost all the industrial enterprises are located in or around the capital. In 1974, Sierra Leone generated 230 million kilowatt-hours of electric energy; the country’s only hydroelectric power plant (2,400-kilowatt capacity) is located south of Freetown.

TRANSPORTATION. Automotive vehicles provide most of the country’s transportation. As of 1973 there were more than 8,000 km of roads in the country, and in 1972 there were 42,700 motor vehicles. Railroads link Freetown with Bo and Pepel with Marampa. There is also maritime and river transport. Freetown is the country’s main port, handling 3 million tons of freight in 1973. There is an international airport at Lungi.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1974, exports were valued at 122.2 million leones, and imports at 188.8 million leones. Of the export total, diamonds account for 60.6 percent, iron ore 10.1 percent, palm kernels 6.3 percent, cacao 6 percent, bauxite 3.4 percent, and coffee 2.3 percent. Of the imports, industrial goods constitute 33.2 percent, foodstuffs 22.1 percent, machinery and equipment 20.4 percent, fuel 11.4 percent, and chemical products 6.3 percent. Sierra Leone’s chief trading partners are Great Britain (60 percent of exports and 23 percent of imports in 1974), the Netherlands, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the United States. The monetary unit is the leone; 0.9883 leone = US$1.00 (December 1975).


Armed forces. Sierra Leone has a land force, as well as several patrol boats, airplanes, and helicopters. The president also holds the posts of commander in chief and minister of defense.

Health and social welfare. In 1968, according to United Nations data, the birth rate in Sierra Leone was 39.6 per thousand, and the death rate 17.5 per thousand; infant mortality was 136.3 per thousand live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate and are the leading cause of death. The most common diseases are malaria, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, leprosy, onchocerciasis and other helminthiases, and childhood diseases.

As of 1970, there were 36 hospitals, with 2,500 beds (less than one bed per 1,000 population), including 21 state-run hospitals, with 1,700 beds. As of 1968, the system of outpatient care included, in addition to hospital clinics, 27 public health centers, 35 dispensaries, 44 medical stations, and 27 maternity and pediatric centers. In 1970 there were 149 doctors (one doctor per 17,100 population), 12 dentists, seven pharmacists, and more than 2,500 other medical workers. Sierra Leone’s doctors are trained abroad; other medical workers are trained at one of seven special schools. In 1972, health care accounted for 6.3 percent of the government budget.

Veterinary services. The favorable natural conditions for insect carriers of disease (including the tsetse fly) and the many wild animals and bodies of water in the country all aid in spreading naturally originating transmissible helminthic diseases in agricultural animals. In view of the absence of a veterinary network in the country (only ten veterinarians in 1974), reported cases of disease do not reflect actual incidence. In 1974 two new breeding grounds for peripneumonia affecting cattle were discovered, as were two breeding grounds for anthrax, five for rabies, one for pasteurellosis affecting poultry, and two for pasteurellosis affecting swine. These poor health conditions result in heavy losses and low productivity in agricultural animals. Programs are under way to combat cattle plague, peripneumonia, and brucellosis, and veterinary research is conducted with the aid of European countries.


Education and scientific institutions. At the beginning of the 1970’s, 85 percent of the population was illiterate. Although there is compulsory education for children six to 14 years of age, only about 40 percent of the children in this age group are in school. Children enter school at the age of five, and primary school has a seven-year program. Secondary schools also have seven-year programs (five plus two). Classes are conducted in English. During the 1971–72 academic year, there were approximately 171,600 pupils in primary schools and 35,500 students in secondary schools. For vocational and technical education, there are schools offering courses of between two and five years; the teachers in these schools are trained at teachers colleges, which have three-year programs. Students enter a teachers college after completing the seven-year program of a secondary school. During the 1971–72 academic year, there were 1,210 students in higher vocational schools and 1,214 in teachers colleges.

The country’s center for higher education is the University of Sierra Leone. Located in Freetown, the university was founded in 1967 with the union of two colleges. There are also technical institutes in Kenema and Freetown. The Fourah Bay College Library is the country’s largest (93,000 volumes). The Sierra Leone National Museum is located in Freetown.

Scientific research is coordinated by the university, which also has a botanical garden and meteorological station. Scholarly work is done by the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography (founded 1966), the Institute of African Studies at Fourah Bay College, the Sierra Leone Society (founded 1918, research in art, literature, history), and other learned societies. Within the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources there is a forestry station (at Kenema), an animal husbandry station (Musaia), and a veterinary research laboratory (Makeni). There is also a geological service, founded in 1918.

Press, radio, and television. As of 1975, the country’s newspapers included the semiweekly We Yone (founded 1963; circulation, 8,000), organ of the ruling All People’s Congress; the Daily Mail (founded 1931; circulation, 20,000), a daily government newspaper; and the Nation (founded 1971; circulation, 20,000), also a government daily.

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service, a division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has been making radio broadcasts since 1934 in English, French, and the four local languages—Mende, Temne, Limba, and Krio. Television broadcasts began in 1963.

Literature. English has been the literary language of Sierra Leone. The country’s folk songs, legends, traditions, and tales have often influenced modern writers. The 1950’s and 1960’s witnessed the development of drama and of the novella, novel, and modern verse. M. Sinah published the humorous story “The Sergeant Who Rejoiced in His Youth,” and C. N. Fyle, who wrote the words for the national anthem, published a story about the unemployed called “Stray Lad.” Other literary works include D. Chartey’s story “Far From Home” and G. Bart-Williams’ (born 1938) radio plays and story “The Bedsitter.” R. Cole’s autobiographical novel Kossoh Town Boy (1960) reflects the life of the average urban dwellers of Freetown. G. Crispin’s verse collection Precious Gems Unearthed by an African draws on traditional folk poetry. Other well-known authors are D. Nicol (pen name Abioseh Nicol, born 1924) and W. Conton. Nicol’s stories are distinguished by their psychological depth; his story “The Devil at Yolahun Bridge” depicts the conflict between the European and African intelligentsia during the colonial period. Con-ton’s antiracist novel The African (1960) poses questions that concern all of Africa. The name of R. S. Easmon is linked with the birth of dramaturgy in the country. At the center of his comedies Dear Parent and Ogre and New Patriots, both written in the 1960’s, and the novel The Burnt-out Marriage (1967) are the relations between the Creole bourgeoisie of Freetown and other social strata and ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. P. Maddy’s novel No Past, No Present, No Future (1973) deals with the influence of Western bourgeois civilization and morals on the intelligentsia of Sierra Leone. The poetry of S. Cheney-Coker (born 1944; verse collection Concerto for an Exile, 1973) is permeated with national pride and compassion for all oppressed people.


Architecture and art. The predominant type of dwelling is a round hut of clay or thatch having a conical straw roof and decorated with bright murals. Characteristic types of medieval and modern folk art include soapstone statuettes, wooden masks, ivory utensils decorated with human and animal figures, decorative fabrics (mainly batik), ceramic articles for everyday use with black designs, and wooden combs. In the 1960’s, a national school of easel painting formed, including such artists as the sculptor P. M. Karemo and the painters O. Burney Nicol and C. Laber.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sierra Leone

Official name: Republic of Sierra Leone

Capital city: Freetown

Internet country code: .sl

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia

Total area: 29,925 sq. mi. (71,740 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)

Nationality: noun: Sierra Leonean(s); adjective: Sierra Leonean

Population: 6,144,562 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: 20 African ethnic groups 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

Languages spoken: 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%), and several other indigenous languages

Religions: Muslim 60%, Christian and indigenous religions 40%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayApr 27
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Sierra Leone

a republic in W Africa, on the Atlantic: became a British colony in 1808 and gained independence (within the Commonwealth) in 1961; declared a republic in 1971; became a one-party state in 1978; multiparty democracy restored in 1991 but military rule was imposed following a coup in 1992, which led to civil unrest; consists of coastal swamps rising to a plateau in the east. Official language: English. Religion: Muslim majority and animist. Currency: leone. Capital: Freetown. Pop.: 5 169 000 (2004 est.). Area: 71 740 sq. km (27 699 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
By leveraging the Dole's expertise and brand, combined with Itochu's global food value chain, the project is expected to bring significant development impact, including job creation and industry expansion, in Sierra Leone.
We are the leading telecommunications and data operator in Sierra Leone and we intend to sustain and enrich this leadership position with the support of the OPIC funding".
The deletion we noted in Sierra Leone 2017, which is absent in previously isolated MPXVs from Africa, might be a molecular signature and further evaluation is needed to determine whether it plays a role in viral replication and pathogenicity.
Rafiah Ibrahim, head of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, says: "Ericsson and Orange have a longstanding partnership and today we continue our successful journey by bringing 4G to Sierra Leone. Our Ericsson Radio System will enable our partner Orange to continue delivering a superior end-user experience for both existing and future subscribers."
This has however been recorded to be a challenge in developing countries like Sierra Leone according to Dr.
"The decision by Fifa to suspend the west African nation forced Caf to cancel the match between Ghana and Sierra Leone last Wednesday and the return leg which was set for Sunday.
Reacting to the same, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the cancellation of the airport project did not indicate a rift between Sierra Leone and China.
Third, Sierra Leone recently concluded a National Civil Registration process in June 2017 that was geared toward ensuring that all citizens in Sierra Leone, including foreign nationals, were included.
I am incredibly humbled and blown away by all the love I have received in Sierra Leone, she said.
He affirmed friendship and solidarity of government and people of Sudan with Sierra Leone president and people.
Koroma also expressed his sincere thanks to His Highness the Emir for the humanitarian, medical and relief assistance provided by the State of Qatar when Sierra Leone was hit by flooding and the outbreak of Ebola epidemic.

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