Sierra Leone is a small country in western Africa with a population of more than 4 million people. Although it has considerable mineral resources, especially diamonds, it is a poor nation. Sierra Leone has been in the news a great deal lately because it has serious problems with a violent civil war that has hurt thousands of people and with refugees from Liberia. Sierra Leone is trying to solve these problems, but this will be difficult. Find out more about Sierra Leone below.
Sierra Leone lies on the Western coast of Africa between Guinea and Liberia. The name Sierra Leone means "Lion Mountains". Guinea is North of it, and Liberia is East. Sierra Leone borders the Atlantic Ocean, and has an area roughly 72,000 square kilometers-- a little smaller than South Carolina or a little larger than West Virginia. It is not the smallest country in Africa, but it is small compared to the size of Africa.
Sierra Leone has many sources of water from rivers. Throughout Sierra Leone, ther are many small mountains. These mountains have rivers flowing down them, that eventully flow to the sea. These rivers provide drinking water and useful transportation routes to the sea and other towns within Sierra Leone. People either travel short distances by foot, bike, or car (if owned). Long distances are usually traveled by boat or plane. Most people in this country don't have enough money to own a car or to buy an airplane ticket, so the majority use boats for long trips.
Sierra Leone has many natural resources that are worth a lot of money and are wanted throughout the world. These resources are minerals, especially diamonds, agricultural products, and fish. Along the coast of Sierra Leone, fisherman go out onto the sea every day to catch many fish. Towards the Eastern part, farmers grow their crops. All throughout Sierra Leone, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold chromite, and diamonds can be found. The diamonds are found in gravel deposits and swamps. Although diamonds are abundant, Sierra Leone is extremely poor.
Some 4.2 million people live in Sierra Leone. Most of the work force works in agriculture. Even though Sierra Leone has very poor soil, and not much good land for farming, the crops that are able to withstand the soil are usually able to live with the weather. Sierra Leone is tropical and extremely humid. The summer is the rainy season. Summer is May through December. Winter is the dry season. That is December through April. The best crops are always grown during the summer.
When Sierra Leone was established, it was a totally different place than it is today. The reason for this was that the British established Sierra Leone, and they were ruling it at the time. Sierra Leone didn't have any international conflict, but they were still very poor. The country of Sierra Leone wanted to be independent. They tried and tried to free their country from British hands. On April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone succeeded. They gained their independence.
Sierra Leone was established as a country for newly freed slaves to come and build houses and start a new life. Since the slaves were very poor, the country never became rich. Now that there are no more freed slaves entering Sierra Leone, children of the other people begin a new life after they have been married. Since the country was created for freed slaves, the capitol was given the name Freetown.
The government of Sierra Leone is not much different from ours in structure. However, they are having some difficulties running their country. The government is a democracy based on a constitution. So is America's. The legal system is based on the British system; America's is too. We have the same 3 branches of governement: executive, judicial, and legislative.
Even though they are trying to do pretty much the same things as our government, Sierra Leone's government is having a hard time controlling some people in their country. Some people might call Sierra Leone "fragile." For the past 8 years a civil war has been going on. There was a military takeover in 1992, and thousands of people have been maimed by a terrorist group that opposes the government. Even children have had hands and arms cut off!
To make matters worse, Liberia, the country right nest to Sierra Leone, is having an internal war. The refugees from Liberia are coming over into Sierra Leone to hide. The people of Sierra Leone don't yet know what the outcome will be of the hiding refugees, but it is adding a burden on Sierra Leone.
The basic needs of the people of Sierra Leone are similar to the needs of people worldwide. These include: food, clothing, and shelter. Most working people work in the agricultural field, growing food for themselves and their country. However, there is not much good land for farming. Since Sierra Leone is on the ocean, fish is plentiful and is the main food source. Even so, Sierra Leone must import food because the food they grow isn't enough to feed everybody. Other objects that are imported by Sierra Leone are: machinery, equipment, fuels, and lubricants.
The clothing that Sierra Leone's people wear is basiclly like the clothing that people in warm parts of America wear. They wear cotton, plain color shirts, and shorts. The only thing that is different about their dress is that almost everyone in Sierra Leone goes around with a little cap on. The houses that are in Sierra Leone are run down and shabby, but they are made of brick and cement.
Sierra Leone is extreemly poor even though they have a good amount of resources to export. They do not export a lot of food products because they are using them to feed their own families. The average income of a working person in Sierra Leone per year, is about $160 to $200.This isn't a lot of money to support a family on. However, things cost less than they do in other places like the United States. Some of the products that are exported are: coffee, cacao, ginger, and kola nuts.
In Sierra Leone the law does not require children to go to school. Forty percent of the children, however, do attend elementary school, and 15% go on to attend high school. There is a University of Sierra Leone, located in Freetown. It is the only university in the country.
Sierra Leone's culture includes a variety of religions and languages. The majority of the people are Muslim. In this case, this is 60% of the people. Thirty percent have indigenous religious beliefs, and the rest (10%) are Christian. There are several major ethnic groups, including the Mende (about 30%), the Temne (also about 30%), and other groups including Creole, make up the rest. Although English is the official language, most people speak one of 3 main languages that correspond to the ethnic groups, namely: Mende, Temne, and Krio.
As you see, Sierra Leone has some difficult problems from the civil war, refugees, and poverty. There may be 10,000 people who have been maimed from the civil war. In order to solve there problems, Sierra Leone still has a long way to go. Although Sierra Leone succeeded in becoming independent, the government has been fragile for many years. Ending the civil war would be the most important step to improving life in Sierra Leone.
Contributed by: Jane Fieldhouse
CIA-- The World Factbook 1999-- Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone in Cyberspace
Sierra Leone Page"