OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Sierra Leone
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Democracy
AREA: 71,740 Sq Km (27,699 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 5,227,800
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Sierra Leone is located in the southwestern
part of West Africa. It is bound by Guinea to the north
and northeast, Liberia to the southeast and the Atlantic
Ocean to the south and southwest. The country is divided
into four topographical regions. (1.) Interior plateaux
and mountains which rise in the east and northeast to form
the Tingi Hills and Loma Mountains. The plateaux and mountains
account for nearly 50% of the land area. (2.) The interior
low plains which are rolling lowlands of swampy grasslands
known as Bolilands. (3.) The coastal swamp lands which are
located on a plain and consist of numerous peninsulas and
estuaries. (4.) The Sierra Leone Peninsula which is a mountainous
area with a strip of flat land at the foothill of the mountains.
The territory also consists of a number of offshore islands,
of which the largest is Sherbro. The country is drained
by nine rivers, the Rokel, Gbangbar, Jong, Sewa, Waanje,
Great Scarcies, Little Scarcies, Moa and Mano. Major Cities
(pop. est.); Freetown 470,000, Bo 26,000, Kenema 13,000,
Makeni 12,000 (1985). Land Use; forested 29%, pastures 31%,
agricultural-cultivated 7%, other 33% (1993).
CLIMATE: Sierra Leone has a tropical climate with a wet season
from May to October and a dry season from November to April. Average annual
precipitation varies from 5,080 mm (200 inches) along the coast and decreases
inland towards the north to 2,160 mm (86 inches). The prevailing winds
are the SW Monsoon during the wet season and the northeastern Harmattan
which is a dust laden wind from the Sahara Desert during the dry season.
Average temperature ranges in Freetown are from 21 degrees Celsius (73
degrees Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) all year.
PEOPLE: The population consists of 18 ethnic groups, of which
the Mende account for 35% of the population, the Temne for 32% and the
Limba for 8.4%. Ethnic alien groups include the Lebanese, Indians, French,
Germans and Swiss.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 59.4 persons per sq km
(153.8 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 32.2% urban, 67.8% rural
(1990). Sex Distribution; 49.1% male, 50.9% female (1990). Life Expectancy
at Birth; 39.4 years male, 42.6 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 41%
under 15, 26% 15 to 29, 17% 30 to 44, 10% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 1% 75
and over (1985). Birth Rate; 48.2 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 23.4 per
1,000 (1990). Increase Rate; 24.8 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate;
154.0 per 1,000 live births (1990).
RELIGIONS: Around 52% of the population follow local native tribal
beliefs while 40% are Sunni Muslims, 5% are Protestant and 2% are Roman
LANGUAGES: The official language is English, although it is only
used for government, commerce and media purposes. The principal native
languages are Krio which is a form of pidgin English mixed with African
words as well as Mende, Temne and other local languages.
EDUCATION: Aged 5 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
81.3%, primary 12.1%, secondary 5.9%, higher 0.7% (1974). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over 478,300 or 20.7% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1951 Sierra Leone was granted
internal self-government and on Apr. 27, 1961 Sierra Leone gained complete
independence within the Commonwealth from Britain with Milton Margai as
the country's first Prime Minister. In Apr. 1964 Prime Minister Margai
died and his half brother, Albert succeeded him. After elections in Mar.
1967 the army overthrew the government and established a National Reformation
Council (NRC) which was in turn overthrown in Apr. 1968 and Siaka Stevens,
who won the Mar. 1967 elections, was reinstated as Prime Minister. In Mar.
1971 Brig. John Bangura unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the government
and in Apr. 1971 Sierra Leone became a republic with Stevens as President.
In 1977 there were widespread riots over deteriorating economic conditions
and in June 1978 a referendum resulted in the establishment of a single-party
system of government in an attempt to quell the ethnic factions. In Aug.
1981 the government declared a State of Emergency to prevent a general
strike and in May 1982 during elections around 50 people were killed. In
Aug. 1985 Pres. Stevens retired and Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh was elected
President. In Jan. 1987 more demonstrations and protests took place and
in Mar. 1987 there was an unsuccessful coup attempt. Subsequently, 14 conspirators
were arrested, of which 4 were sentenced to death in Oct. 1987 including
the former Vice President, Francis Minah. During 1990 there were calls
for a return to a multiparty political system, although these were dismissed
by Pres. Momoh. In late 1990 several thousand Liberian refugees fleeing
the civil war there, entered the country further straining the deteriorating
economy. In 1991 border fighting erupted between government forces and
Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) as Taylor launched
an offensive in an attempt to win control of Sierra Leone's southern diamond
producing region. On March 28, 1991 Pres. Momoh announced he would support
multiparty politics. By April 1991 the government had sent some 2,000 troops
to the region and called on the Nigeria and Guinea who committed troops
to assist in putting down the rebellion. In May 1991 fierce fighting had
resulted in the death of some 5,000 civilians and refugees. In Aug. 1991
a referendum approved the return of a multiparty political system and a
transitional government was formed in Sept. 1991. On April 30, 1992 a coup
by 30 mutinous soldiers led by Capt. Valentine Strasser forced Pres. Momoh
into exile. Following the coup Strasser established a National Provisional
Ruling Council (NPRC) and demanded back pay and improved conditions. On
May 1, 1992 Strasser was appointed chairman of the NPRC and on May 4, 1992
he dissolved the House of Representatives and appointed a Cabinet of 19
including 6 civilians. On July 14, 1992 Strasser announced that the NPRC
would become the Supreme Council of State and the Cabinet would become
the Council of Secretaries of State. On Dec. 30, 1992 the government executed
26 alleged coup plotters. Also in 1992 the new government announced it
would honor Sierra Leone's obligations to the OAS and OCOWAS including
its involvement in a peacekeeping force in Liberia. In Jan. 1993 Britain
canceled a £ 4 million aid package in protest to the Dec. 1992 executions
claiming the alleged coup plotters had not been given a fair trial. On
July 5, 1993 Pres. Strasser dismissed Lieut. Solomon Anthony James Musa
as head of government and appointed Lieut. Julius Maada Bio to succeed
him. On Oct. 14, 1993 a further 4 men were arrested as alleged mercenaries
plotting a coup. Also in 1993 the government announced plans to privatise
the state-owned National Diamond Mining Co. and to curtail illegal diamond
mining in an attempt to raise further revenues.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Leone (Le) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $625,500,000 (1993). Public
Debt; USD $909,000,000 (1994). Imports; Le 84,030,200,000 (1995). Exports;
Le 45,216,100,000 (1995). Tourism Receipts; USD $18,000,000 (1993). Balance
of Trade; Le -9,511,000,000 (1994). Economically Active Population; 1,532,000
or 35.9% of total population (1991). Unemployed; 9.0% (1986).
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are the UK,
Japan, Germany, Nigeria, China and the Netherlands.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bauxite, Cassava, Cocoa, Coffee, Fish, Diamonds,
Ground Nuts, Iron Ore, Palm Nuts, Rice, Timber.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry, Mining.
MAIN EXPORTS: Bauxite, Cocoa, Coffee, Diamonds, Iron Ore, Palm Kernels.
TRANSPORT: Railroads; None, passenger-km N/A., cargo ton-km N/A.
Roads; length 7,500 km (4,660 mi) (1989). Vehicles; cars 29,012 (1989),
trucks and buses 10,173 (1989). Merchant Marine; vessels 56 (1990), deadweight
tonnage 14,717 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km 109,903,000 (68,291,000
passenger-mi) (1985), cargo ton-km 2,044,000 (1,400,000 short ton-mi) (1990).
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 1 with a total circulation
of 10,000 (1993). Radio; receivers 1,000,000 (1994). Television; receivers
25,000 (1994). Telephones; units 14,500 (1993).
MILITARY: 6,200 (1995) total active duty personnel with 96.8
army, 3.2% navy and 0.0% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 2.2% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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