Sierra Leone – background

Facts about Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north and Liberia on the south, with the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The name Sierra Leone was adapted from the Portuguese name for the country: Serra Leoa. The literal meaning is "Lioness Mountain." During the 1700s Sierra Leone was an important centre of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The capital Freetown was founded in 1792 by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for Black Britons who had fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate. The Crown Colony and Protectorate joined and gained independence in 1961. From 1991 to 2000, the country suffered greatly under a devastating civil war. To end the civil war, UN and British forces disarmed 17,000 militia and rebels, in the largest UN peacekeeping act of the decade. In May 2000, the situation in the country deteriorated to such an extent that further Nigerian troops were deployed in a 'save Sierra Leone' mission to evacuate foreign nationals and establish order. They stabilized the situation, and the Nigerian troops were the catalyst for a cease fire and ending of the civil war. United Nations peacekeeping forces withdrew at the end of 2005.

  • Full name: Republic of Sierra Leone
  • Population: 5.3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Freetown
  • Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English, Krio (Creole language derived
    from English) and a range of African languages
  • Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs, Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 39 years (men), 42 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Leone = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
  • GNI per capita: US $220 (World Bank, 2006)
  • Internet domain: .sl
  • International dialling code: +232

(1) source: BBC: