Sierra Leone

Introduction Democracy is slowly being reestablished after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one-third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country's stability. The armed forces remained on the sideline during the 2007 presidential election, but still look to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) - a civilian UN mission - to support efforts to consolidate peace. The new government's priorities include furthering development, creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.
History

Early History

Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years, populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa. The use of iron was introduced to Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by AD 1000 agriculture was being practiced by coastal tribes. Sierra Leone's dense tropical rainforest largely protected it from the influence of any precolonial African empires and from further Islamic colonization, which were unable to penetrate through it until the 18th century.

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming shaped formation Serra de Leão (Portuguese for Lion Mountains). Its Italian rendering is Sierra Leone, which became the country's name. Soon after Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built. The Portuguese were joined by the Dutch and French; all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. In 1562 the English joined the trade in slaves when Sir John Hawkins bought 300 slaves.

Slavery

In 1787, a plan was implemented to settle some of London's Black Poor in Sierra Leone in what was called the "Province of Freedom". A number of Black Poor and White women arrived off the coast of Sierra Leone on May 15, 1787, accompanied by some English tradesmen. This was organized by the St. George's Bay Company, composed of British philanthropists who preferred it as a solution to continuing to financially support them in London. Many of the Black poor were African Americans, who had been promised their freedom for joining the British Army during the American Revolution, but also included other African and Asian inhabitants of London.

Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of colonists. Through intervention by Thomas Peters, the Sierra Leone Company was established to relocate another group of former slaves, this time nearly 1,200 Black Nova Scotians, most of whom had escaped slavery in the United States. Given the most barren land in Nova Scotia, many had died from the harsh winters there. They established a settlement at Freetown in 1792 led by Peters. It was joined by other groups of freed slaves and became the first Afro-American haven for ex-slaves.

Though the English abolitionist Granville Sharp originally planned Sierra Leone as a utopian community, the directors of the Sierra Leone Company refused to allow the settlers to take freehold of the land. Knowing how Highland Clearances benefited Scottish landlords but not tenants, the settlers revolted in 1799. The revolt was only put down by the arrival of over 500 Jamaican Maroons, who also arrived via Nova Scotia.

Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans were from many areas of Africa, but principally the west coast. They joined the previous settlers and together became known as Creole or Krio people. Cut off from their homes and traditions, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of inhabitants and built a flourishing trade of flowers and beads on the West African coast. The lingua franca of the colony was Krio, a creole language rooted in 18th century African American English, which quickly spread across the region as a common language of trade and Christian mission. British and American abolitionist movements envisioned Freetown as embodying the possibilities of a post-slave trade Africa.

Colonial era

In the early 20th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone also served as the educational centre of British West Africa. Fourah Bay College, established in 1827, rapidly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. For more than a century, it was the only European-style university in western Sub-Saharan Africa.

During Sierra Leone's colonial history, indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. The most notable was the Hut Tax war of 1898. Its first leader was Bai Bureh, a Temne chief who refused to recognize the British-imposed tax on "huts" (dwellings). The tax was generally regarded by the native chiefs as an attack on their sovereignty. After the British issued a warrant to arrest Bai Bureh alleging that he had refused to pay taxes, he brought fighters from several Temne villages under his command, and from Limba, Loko, Soso, Kissi, and Mandinka villages. Bureh's fighters had the advantage over the vastly more powerful British for several months of the war. Hundreds of British troops and hundreds of Bureh's fighters were killed. Bai Bureh was finally captured on November 11, 1898 and sent into exile in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), while 96 of his 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 disturbances. Riots in 1955 and 1956 involved "many tens of thousands" of natives in the protectorate.

One notable event in 1935 was the granting of a monopoly on mineral mining to the Sierra Leone Selection Trust run by De Beers, which was scheduled to last 99 years.

An independent nation

The 1924 Sierra Leone constitution was replaced in November 1951 by a new one which united the formerly separate Colonial and Protectorate legislatures and — most importantly — provided a framework for decolonization. In 1953, an African cabinet was installed (although the expatriate ministers it replaced remained in the legislature as advisers); and Dr. (later Sir) Milton Margai, an ethnic Mende and the leading politician from the Protectorate, was named Chief minister. His title was changed to Prime Minister in 1956. After the completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960, independence came on 27 April 1961, the anniversary of the start of the Hut Tax War of 1898. Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Milton Margai's political party, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), won by large margins in the nation's first general election under universal adult suffrage in May 1962. Upon his death in 1964, his brother, Sir Albert Margai succeeded him as prime minister. Sir Albert was highly criticized during his three-year rule as prime minister. He was accused of corruption and of favouritism toward his own Mende ethnic group. He also tried to establish a one-party state but met fierce resistance from the opposition All People's Congress (APC) and ultimately abandoned the idea. During Albert Margai's administration, The Mende increased their influence both in the civil service and the army. Most of the top military and government positions were held by Mendes, and Mende country (the South-Eastern part of Sierra Leone) received preferential treatment.

In closely contested general elections in March 1967, Sierra Leone Governor General Henry Josiah Lightfoot Boston declared the new prime minister to be Siaka Stevens, candidate of the All People's Congress (APC) and Mayor of Freetown. Hours after taking office, Stevens was ousted in a bloodless coup led by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Armed Forces, on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Stevens was placed under house arrest and martial law was declared. But a group of senior military officers overrode this action by seizing control of the government on March 23, 1968, arresting Lansana and suspending the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) with Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman. In April 1968, the NRC was overthrown by a group of military officers who called themselves the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement (ACRM), led by Brigadier John Amadu Bangura. The ACRM imprisoned senior NRC members, restored the constitution and reinstated Stevens as Prime Minister. Under the APC regimes headed by Stevens, The Limba, Stevens own ethnic group, retained strong influence in the government and civil service. During the 1970s, the other major ethnic group, the Temne joined the Mende in opposition to the APC government. But after Stevens appointed an ethnic Temne, Sorie Ibrahim Koroma as vice-president in 1978, the Temne appeared to have emerged as the second most influential group in the government, after the Limba.

The return to civilian rule led to by-elections beginning in fall 1968 and the appointment of an all-APC cabinet. Calm was not completely restored. In November 1968, Stevens declared a state of emergency after provincial disturbances. In March 1971 the government survived an unsuccessful military coup and in July 1974 it uncovered an alleged military coup plot. The leaders of both plots were tried and executed. The opposition SLPP boycotted the 1973 general election, alleging widespread intimidation and procedural obstruction. In 1977, student demonstrations against the government disrupted Sierra Leone politics.

On April 19, 1971, parliament declared Sierra Leone a Republic. Siaka Stevens, then prime minister, became the nation's first president. Guinean troops requested by Stevens to support his government were in the country from 1971 to 1973. An alleged plot to overthrow president Stevens failed in 1974, its leaders were executed, and in March 1976 he was elected without opposition for a second five-year term as president. In the national parliamentary election of May 1977, the APC won 74 seats and the main opposition, the SLPP won 15. The SLPP, who condemned the election, alleged widespread vote-rigging and voter intimidation. In 1978, parliament approved a new constitution making the country a one-party state. The 1978 referendum made the APC the only legal political party in Sierra Leone.

Siaka Stevens retired in November, 1985 after being President for 14 years, but continued to be chairman of the APC. The APC named a new presidential candidate to succeed Stevens. He was Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, and Stevens' own choice to succeed him. like Stevens, Momoh was also a member of the minority Limba ethnic group. Joseph Saidu Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on November 28, 1985. An inauguration was held in January 1986, and a one party parliamentary elections beween APC members were held in May, 1986.

After an alleged attempt to overthrow President Momoh in March 1987, more than 60 senior government officials were arrested, including Vice-President Francis Minah, who was removed from office, convicted for plotting the coup, and executed by hanging in 1989 along with 5 others.

Multi-party constitution and RUF rebellion

In October 1990, president Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by Parliament; becomming effective on October 1, 1991. But there was great suspicion that Momoh was not serious, and APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power.

Civil war broke out, mainly due to government corruption and mismanagement of diamond resources. Besides the internal ripeness, the brutal civil war going on in neighbouring Liberia played an undeniable role for the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor - then leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia -reportedly helped form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the command of former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Sankoh. In return, Taylor received diamonds from Sierra Leone. The RUF, led by Sankoh and backed by Taylor, launched its first attack in villages in Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone from Liberia on March 23, 1991. The government of Sierra Leone, overwhelmed by a crumbling economy and corruption, was unable to put up significant resistance. Within a month of entering Sierra Leone from Liberia, the RUF controlled much of the Eastern Province. Forced recruitment of child soldiers was also an early feature of the rebel strategy.

On April 29, 1992, a group of six young soldiers in the Sierra Leonean army, apparently frustrated by the government's failure to deal with rebels, launched a military coup which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea. They were second lieutenant Solomon A.J. Musa, Colonel Tom Nyuma, Brigadier-General, Julius Maada Bio, Colonel Yahya Kanu, Captain Samuel Komba Kambo, Lieutenant Colonel Komba Mondeh and were led by a 25 year old captain Valentine Strasser. The soldiers established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) with Yahya Kanu as its chairman. But Kanu was assassinated by fellow NPRC members, who accused him of trying to negotiate with the toppled APC administration. On May 4, 1992, 25 year old Valentine Strasser took over as chairman of the NPRC and Head of State of Sierra Leone. S.A.J Musa, one of the leaders of the coup and a close friend of Strasser took over as Vice-Chairman of the NPRC. Many Sierra Leoneans nationwide rushed into the streets to celebrate the NPRC's takeover from the 23 year dictatorial APC regime, which they perceived as corrupt. The NPRC junta immediately suspended the 1991 Constitution, declared a state of emergency, limited freedom of speech, and freedom of the press and enacted a rule-by-decree policy. The army and police officers were granted unlimited powers of administrative detention without charge or trial, and challenges against such detentions in court were precluded.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh-led APC government in repelling the RUF. More and more of the country fell to RUF fighters, and by 1995 they held much of the diamond-rich Eastern Province and were at the edge of Freetown. In response, the NPRC hired several hundred mercenaries from the private firm Executive Outcomes. Within a month they had driven RUF fighters back to enclaves along Sierra Leone’s borders. During this time corruption had erupted within senior NPRC members. On July 5, Strasser dismissed his childhood friend Musa as deputy charman of the NPRC and appointed Julius Maada Bio to succeed him. Some senior NPRC members, including Bio, Nyuma and Mondeh, were unhappy with Strasser's handling of the peace process. In January 1996, after nearly four years in power, Strasser was ousted in a coup by fellow NPRC members led by his deputy Maada Bio. Bio reinstated the Constitution and called for general elections. In the second round of presidential elections in early 1996, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, candidate of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) defeated John Karefa-Smart of the United National People's Party (UNPP) and a member of the minority Sherbro ethnic group. Bio fulfilled promises of a return to civilian rule, and handed power to Kabbah, who was from the Mende-dominated Kailahun District in the south-east of Sierra Leone and a member of the minority Mandingo ethnic group. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's SLPP party also won majority of the seats in Parliament.

In 1996, Major General Johnny Paul Koroma was allegedly involved in an attempt to overthrow the government of president Kabbah. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned at Freetown's Pademba Road Prison. But some top rank Army officers were unhappy with this decision, and on May 25, 1997, a group of soldiers who called themselves the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) overthrew Kabbah. The AFRC released Koroma from prison and installed him as their chairman and Head of State of the country. Koroma suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations, shut down all private radio stations in the country and invited the RUF to join his government. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigeria-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of president Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. Hundreds of civilians who had been accused of helping the AFRC government were illegally detained. Courts-martial were held for soldiers accused of assisting the AFRC government. 24 of these were found guilty and were executed without appeal in October 1998. On January 6, 1999, AFRC made another unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government, causing many deaths and much destruction of property in and around Freetown.

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 UN Security Council voted in February 2000 to increase the force to 11,000, and later to 13,000. But in May, when nearly all Nigerian forces had left and UN forces were trying to disarm the RUF in eastern Sierra Leone, Sankoh's forces clashed with the UN troops, and some 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage as the peace accord effectively collapsed. The hostage crisis resulted in more fighting between the RUF and the government.

Between 1991 and 2001, about 50,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone's civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes, and many became refugees in Guinea and Liberia. In 2001, UN forces moved into rebel-held areas and began to disarm rebel soldiers. By January 2002, the war was declared over. In May, Kabbah was reelected president. By 2004, the disarmament process was complete. Also in 2004, a UN-backed war crimes court began holding trials of senior leaders from both sides of the war. In December 2005, UN peacekeeping forces pulled out of Sierra Leone.

In August 2007, Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections. However, no presidential candidate won a majority of votes. A runoff election was held in September, and Ernest Bai Koroma was elected president.

Geography 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
land: 71,620 sq km
water: 120 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
continental shelf: 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: 7.95%
permanent crops: 1.05%
other: 91% (2005)
Irrigated land: 300 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 160 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.38 cu km/yr (5%/3%/92%)
per capita: 69 cu m/yr (2000)
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 depleted natural resources; overfishing
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, 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
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.

To be elected president, a candidate must gain at least 55% of the vote. If no candidate gets 55%, there is to be a second-round runoff between the top two candidates. Presidential candidates must be Sierra Leonean citizens by birth; must be at least 40 years old; must be able to speak, read and write the English language; must be a member of a political party and must not have any past felony criminal conviction. The current president of Sierra Leone is Ernest Bai Koroma, who was sworn in on September 17, 2007, shortly after being declared the winner of a tense run-off election over the incumbent Vice president, Solomon Berewa of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).

Next to the president is the Vice president, who is the second-highest ranking government official in the executive branch of the Sierra Leone Government. As designated by the Sierra Leone Constitution, the vice president is to become the new president of Sierra Leone upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president by parliament and to assume the Presidency temporarily while the president is abroad, or otherwise temporarily unable to fulfill his or her duties. The vice president is elected jointly with the president as his or her running mate. Sierra Leone's current vice president is Samuel Sam-Sumana, sworn in on September 17, 2007.

The Parliament of Sierra Leone is unicameral, with 124 seats. Each of the country's fourteen districts is represented in parliament. 112 members are elected concurrently with the presidential elections; the other 12 seats are filled by paramount chiefs from each of the country's 12 administrative districts.

The current parliament in the August 2007 Parliamentary elections is made up of three political parties with the following representations; the All People's Congress (APC) 59 seats, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) 43 seats, and the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) 10 seats. The most recent parliamentary elections were held on August 11, 2007. The All People's Congress (APC), won 59 of 112 parliamentary seats; the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won 43; and the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) won 10. To be qualified as Member of Parliament, the person must be a citizen of Sierra Leone, must be at least 21 years old, must be able to speak, read and write the English language with a degree of proficiency to enable him to actively take part in proceedings in Parliament; and must not have any criminal conviction .

Since independence in 1961, Sierra Leone's politics has been dominated by two major political parties, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), and the ruling All People's Congress (APC), although other minor political parties have also existed but with no significant supports.

The judicial power of Sierra Leone is vested in the judiciary, headed by the Chief Justice and comprising the Sierra Leone Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country and its ruling therefore cannot be appealed; High Court of Justice; the Court of Appeal; the magistrate courts; and traditional courts in rural villages. The president appoints and parliament approves Justices for the three courts. The Judiciary have jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters throughout the country. The current Sierra Leone's Chief Justice is Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh, who was appointed by President Ernest Bai Koroma and took office on January 25, 2008 upon his confirmation by parliament. She is the first woman in the history of Sierra Leone to hold such position

People Population: 6,294,774 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.6% (male 1,377,981/female 1,429,993)
15-64 years: 52.2% (male 1,573,990/female 1,708,840)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 94,359/female 109,611) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 17.5 years
male: 17.2 years
female: 17.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.282% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 45.08 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 22.26 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: refugees currently in surrounding countries are slowly returning (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 156.48 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 173.59 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 138.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 40.93 years
male: 38.64 years
female: 43.28 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.95 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 7% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 170,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 11,000 (2001 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and yellow fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
aerosolized dust or soil contact disease: Lassa fever (2008)
Nationality: noun: Sierra Leonean(s)
adjective: Sierra Leonean
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
Religions: Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs 30%
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: 35.1%
male: 46.9%
female: 24.4% (2004 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 7 years
male: 8 years
female: 6 years (2001)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2005)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
conventional short form: Sierra Leone
local long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
local short form: Sierra Leone
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: name: Freetown
geographic coordinates: 8 30 N, 13 15 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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 Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007)
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 (eligible for a second term); election last held 11 August 2007 and 8 September 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: second round results; percent of vote - Ernest Bai KOROMA 54.6%, Solomon BEREWA 45.4%
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (124 seats; 112 members elected by popular vote, 12 filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate elections; to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 11 August 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - APC 59, SLPP 43, PMDC 10
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Appeals Court; High Court
Political parties and leaders: All People's Congress or APC [Ernest Bai KOROMA]; Peace and Liberation Party or PLP [Darlington MORRISON]; People's Movement for Democratic Change or PMDC [Charles MARGAI]; Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP [Solomon BEREWA]; numerous others
Political pressure groups and leaders: other: student unions; trade unions
International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, AU, C, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIT, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Bockari Kortu STEVENS
chancery: 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-9261 through 9263
FAX: [1] (202) 483-1793
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Thomas N. HULL
embassy: Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, Freetown
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [232] (22) 515 000 or [232] (76) 515 000
FAX: [232] (22) 225471
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue
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.

Print media is not widely read in Sierra Leone, especially outside Freetown, partially due to the low levels of literacy in the country. In 2007 there were 15 daily newspapers in the country, as well as those published weekly. Among newspaper readership, young people are likely to read newspapers weekly and older people daily. The majority of newspapers are privately-run and are often critical of the government. The standard of print journalism tends to be low due to lack of training, and people trust the information published in newspapers less than that found on the radio.

Isata Mahoi shown editing radio programmes in Talking Drum studio Freetown, she is also an actress in Sierra Leone radio soap opera Atunda Ayenda

Radio is the most-popular and most-trusted media in Sierra Leone, with 85% of people having access to a radio and 72% of people in the country listening to the radio daily. These levels do vary between areas of the country, with the Western Area having the highest levels and Kailahun the lowest. Stations mainly consist of local commercial stations with a limited broadcast range, combined with a few stations with national coverage. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) runs one of the most popular stations in the country, broadcasting programs in a range of languages. Content includes news of UN activities and human rights information, as well as music and news. The UN missions will withdraw in 2008 and the UN Radio's future is uncertain. There is also a government station run by the SBLS that transmits on FM and short-wave. FM relays of BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale and Voice of America are also broadcast.

Outside the capital Freetown television is not watched by a great many people. There are two national, free terrestrial television stations in Sierra Leone, one run by the government SBLS and the other a private station, ABC Television-Africa (ABC). In 2007, a pay-per-view service was also introduced by GTV as part of a pan-African television service. Internet access in Sierra Leone has been sparse but is on the increase, especially since the introduction of wireless services across the country. There are nine Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating in the country. Freetown has a city wide wireless network and Internet cafes and other businesses offering internet access. Problems experienced with access to the Internet include an intermittent electricity supply and a slow connection speed in the country outside Freetown.

The Sierra Leone constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and freedom of the press; however, the government maintains strong control of media, and at times restricts these rights in practice. Some subjects are seen as taboo by society and members of the political elite; imprisonment and violence have been used by the political establishment against journalists. Under legislation enacted in 1980, all newspapers must register with the Ministry of Information and pay sizable registration fees. The Criminal Libel Law, including Seditious Libel Law of 1965, is used to control what is published in the media. In 2006, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah committed to reforming the laws governing the press and media to create a freer system for journalists to work in, but in 2007, Sierra Leone was ranked as having the 121st least-free press in the world, with the press less-free, in comparison to other countries, than in 2006.

Economy Economy - overview: Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Nearly half 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. Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. The IMF has completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped stabilize economic growth and reduce inflation. A recent increase in political stability has led to a revival of economic activity such as the rehabilitation of bauxite and rutile mining.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $3.991 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $1.664 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $600 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 49%
industry: 31%
services: 21% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 1.369 million (1981 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: 70.2% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 0.5%
highest 10%: 43.6% (1989)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 62.9 (1989)
Budget: revenues: $96 million
expenditures: $351 million (2000 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.7% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate: NA (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 25% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $184.6 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $177.7 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $162.9 million (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products: rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs; fish
Industries: diamond mining; small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining, small commercial ship repair
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 245 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - consumption: 227.9 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil - production: 0.7008 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 8,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 431.1 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 8,864 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$63 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $216 million f.o.b. (2006)
Exports - commodities: diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
Exports - partners: Belgium 49.5%, US 20.6%, Netherlands 4.6%, Canada 4% (2007)
Imports: $560 million f.o.b. (2006)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals
Imports - partners: Cote d'Ivoire 9.5%, China 9.5%, US 9%, Brazil 7%, UK 5.8%, Netherlands 4.8%, India 4.4% (2007)
Economic aid - recipient: $343.4 million (2005 est.)
Debt - external: $1.61 billion (2003 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): leone (SLL)
Currency code: SLL
Exchange rates: leones (SLL) per US dollar - NA (2007), 2,961.7 (2006), 2,889.6 (2005), 2,701.3 (2004), 2,347.9 (2003)
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 24,000 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 776,000 (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: marginal telephone service
domestic: the national microwave radio relay trunk system connects Freetown to Bo and Kenema; mobile-cellular service is growing rapidly from a small base
international: country code - 232; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 9, shortwave 1 (2001)
Radios: 1.12 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 2 (1999)
Televisions: 53,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .sl
Internet hosts: 8 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2001)
Internet users: 13,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 10 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 2 (2007)
Heliports: 2 (2007)
Roadways: total: 11,300 km
paved: 904 km
unpaved: 10,396 km (2002)
Waterways: 800 km (600 km year round) (2005)
Merchant marine: total: 182
by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 143, carrier 2, chemical tanker 3, container 6, liquefied gas 2, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 10, roll on/roll off 3, specialized tanker 2
foreign-owned: 95 (Belgium 1, China 15, Egypt 3, Greece 1, Hong Kong 1, Lebanon 1, Nigeria 1, Panama 1, Romania 3, Russia 11, Syria 18, Taiwan 1, Turkey 15, Ukraine 10, UAE 8, UK 2, US 1, Yemen 2) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Freetown, Pepel, Sherbro Islands
Military Military branches: Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF): Army (includes Navy (Maritime Wing), Air Wing) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 17 years 6 months of age for voluntary military service (younger with parental consent); no conscription (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 1,315,561 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 671,418 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 70,068
female: 73,930 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 2.3% of GDP (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: as domestic fighting among disparate ethnic groups, rebel groups, warlords, and youth gangs in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone gradually abate, the number of refugees in border areas has begun to slowly dwindle; UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has maintained over 4,000 peacekeepers in Sierra Leone since 1999; Sierra Leone considers excessive Guinea's definition of the flood plain limits to define the left bank boundary of the Makona and Moa rivers and protests Guinea's continued occupation of these lands including the hamlet of Yenga occupied since 1998
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 27,311 (Liberia) (2007)