Sierra Leone

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SIERRA LEONE

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS SIERRA LEONEANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Sierra Leone

CAPITAL: Freetown

FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of green, white, and blue horizontal stripes.

ANTHEM: Begins "High we exalt thee, realm of the free, Great is the love we have for thee."

MONETARY UNIT: The leone (Le) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of ½, 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 leones. Le1 = $0.00041 (or $1 = Le2,452.91) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is employed.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 27 April; Bank Holiday, August; Christmas, 2425 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitmonday, 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Situated on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone has an area of 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi), extending 338 km (210 mi) ns and 304 km (189 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Sierra Leone is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina. It is bounded on the n and e by Guinea, on these by Liberia, and on the s and w by the Atlantic Ocean, with a total boundary length of 1,360 km (845 mi), of which 402 km (250 mi) is coastline. In addition to the mainland proper, Sierra Leone also includes the offshore Banana and Turtle islands and Sherbro Island, as well as other small islets.

Sierra Leone's capital city, Freetown, is located on the Atlantic Coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

The Sierra Leone Peninsula in the extreme west is mostly mountainous, rising to about 884 m (2,900 ft). The western part of the country, excluding the Peninsula, consists of coastal mangrove swamps. Farther east, a coastal plain extends inland for about 100160 km (60100 mi); many rivers in this area are navigable for short distances. Stretches of wooded hill country lead east and northeast to a plateau region generally ranging in elevation from 300 to 610 m (1,000 to 2,000 ft). There are peaks of over 1,830 m (6,000 ft), reaching a maximum of 1,948 m (6,390 ft) at Loma Mansa (Bintimani) in the Loma Mountains.

CLIMATE

Temperatures and humidity are high, and rainfall is heavy. The mean temperature is about 27°c (81°f) on the coast and almost as high on the eastern plateau. There are two distinct seasons: the dry season, from November to April, and the wet season, over the rest of the year, with the heaviest precipitation in July, August, and September. Rainfall is greatest along the coast, especially in the mountains, where there is more than 580 cm (230 in) annually, but it averages more than 315 cm (125 in) a year in most of the country, with 366 cm (144 in) at Freetown. The relative humidity ranges from an average of 80% during the wet season to about 50% during the dry season.

FLORA AND FAUNA

About 2535% of the land area, mostly in the north, consists of savanna or grasslands; 2025%, mostly in the south-center, is low bush; another 2025%, in the southeast, is secondary forest or high bush; 1020% is swampland; and 35% is primary rain forest.

The emerald cuckoo, which has been described as the most beautiful bird in Africa, is found in Sierra Leone, although it has disappeared from the rest of West Africa. Other species include the Senegal firefinch, common bulbul, little African swift, Didric cuckoo, bronze manakin, cattle egret (or "tickbird"), and many birds that breed in Europe but winter in Sierra Leone. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses are indigenous to the river regions of the coastal plain. As of 2002, there were at least 147 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, and over 2,000 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

Water pollution is a significant problem in Sierra Leone due to mining by-products and sewage. The nation has about 160 cu km of renewable water resource, with 89% of annual withdrawals used for farming and 4% for industrial purposes. Only 75% of the nation's city dwellers and 46% of those living in rural areas have access to improved water sources. The nation's cities have produced an average of about 0.3 million tons of solid waste per year.

Population pressure, leading to an intensification of agriculture, has resulted in soil depletion, while lumbering, cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn farming have decimated the primary forest. By 1985, deforestation had progressed to a total of 23 square miles. Agricultural lands are gradually replacing forestlands due to the need for food by a population that increased by 80% during the period between 1963 and 1990. The forests of the Sierra Leone Peninsula are protected. The Sierra Leone River Estuary is a Ramsar wetland site. As of 2003, only 2.1% of Sierra Leone's total land area was protected. Government agencies with environmental responsibilities include the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Forestry, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Lands and Human Development, Ministry of Energy and Power, and Ministry of Economic Planning and National Development.

Hunting for food has reduced the stock of wild mammals, and Cutamba Killimi National Park, which has some wildlife species found only in this part of West Africa, is exploited by poachers. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 3 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, 4 species of invertebrate, and 47 species of plants. Threatened species in Sierra Leone include the white-breasted Guinea fowl, Diana monkey, the African sharp-nosed crocodile, and several species of shark.

POPULATION

The population of Sierra Leone in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 5,525,000, which placed it at number 107 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 41% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Contributing to the high growth rate is the low rate of contraception use, at 3.9% of married woman. The projected population for the year 2025 was 8,663,000. The overall population density was 77 per sq km (199 per sq mi), with the Sierra Leone Peninsula the most densely populated region of the country.

The UN estimated that 37% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.59%. The capital city, Freetown, had a population of 921,000 in that year. Other main towns are Koindu, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Sierra Leone. The UN estimated that 7% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.

MIGRATION

Historically, there has been considerable movement over the borders to and from Guinea and Liberia. In the mid-1980s, the number of nonnative Africans was estimated at 30,000. Since the civil war in 1991, hundreds of thousands of refugees have left Sierra Leone. Of these refugees, 250,000 went to Guinea, 120,000 went to Liberia, and 4,000 went to The Gambia. Repatriation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began in February 1997, as 1,400 returned home from Liberia and Mali. By February 1998, UNHCR planned to repatriate 240,000 refugees from Guinea, Liberia, and The Gambia. With the signing of the Lomé peace agreement in 1999, UNHCR planned for the repatriation of the remaining 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees seeking asylum in the subregion, mainly in Guinea and Liberia, but also in Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, and Nigeria. As of 1999, Sierra Leoneans made up UNHCR's largest refugee caseload in Africa. The total number of migrants in the country in 2000 was 47,000, including remaining refugees. In 2004, some 26,271 refugees returned to Guinea and Liberia. However, in that same year there were yet another 65,437 refugees in Sierra Leone, 61,192 from Liberia, and 138 asylum seekers.

In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated zero migrants per 1,000 population. This was a significant drop from -18.7 per 1,000 in 1990. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The African population is composed of some 20 native ethnic groups, constituting 90% of the total population. The two largest are the Mende (about 30% of the population) and Temne (about 30%). Other peoples, making up the remaining 30% of the African populace, include the Bullom, Fulani, Gola, Kissi, Kono, Koranko, Krim, Kru, Limba, Loko, Malinke, Sherbro, Susu, Vai, and Yalunka. Creoles, descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who settled in the Freetown area in the late 18th century, account for the remaining 10% of the total population. Refugees from Liberia's recent civil war also live in Sierra Leone, along with small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians.

LANGUAGES

English is the official language; however, it is used regularly only by the literate minority. The Mende and Temne languages are widely spoken in the south and north, respectively. Krio, the mother tongue of the Creoles, derived largely from English, with words added from various West African languages, is the lingua franca and a first language for about 10% of the population, but is understood by 95%.

RELIGIONS

Reliable data on the exact numbers of practitioners of major religions is not available. However, most sources estimate that the population is 60% Muslim, 30% Christian, and 10% practitioners of traditional indigenous religions. Muslims were traditionally concentrated in the northern part of the country, and Christians in the south. However, an ongoing civil war has prompted relocation by large masses of the population. Reportedly, many syncretic practices exist, with up to 20% of the populace practicing a mixture of either Muslim or Christianity with traditional indigenous religions. Certain Muslim and Christian holidays are recognized as national holidays. The Inter-Religious Council serves an important role in civil society and works to promote the peace process within the country.

TRANSPORTATION

In 1970 there were more than 580 km (360 mi) of railway, but by the end of 1975, following an IBRD recommendation, Sierra Leone had dismantled most of its rail system and replaced it with new roadways; since the mid-1980s, only 84 km (52 mi) of narrow-gauge railway has remained, connecting the closed iron mines at Marampa with the port of Pepel, on the Sierra Leone River. The line remains operable but is in limited use. In 2002, Sierra Leone had about 11,700 km (7,270 mi) of roads, of which some 904 km (562 mi) were paved. In 2003, there were 29,650 registered motor vehicles, including 20,300 automobiles, and 9,350 commercial vehicles.

Freetown has one of the finest natural harbors in the world, with an excellent deepwater quay, built in 1953. In 1970, work was completed on an extension that provides the port with berth facilities for six to eight ships and about 24 hectares (60 acres) of storage area. Pepel specializes in the export of iron ore, and Point Sam, the Sherbro River terminal, handles bauxite and rutile. Bonthe and Sulima are other ports. As of 2005, the merchant marine consisted of two petroleum tankers of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 7,435 GRT. Sierra Leone has many rivers, however, some are navigable only over short distances for about three months of the year, during the rainy season. Of the 800 km (497 mi) of waterways, 600 km (373 mi) are navigable year round.

In 2004 there were an estimated 10 airports, however, as of 2005, only one had a paved runway, and there were also two heliports. An international airport at Lungi is connected by ferry to Freetown, across the bay. Extension of the runway was completed in 1968, bringing the airport to top-class international airport standard. It is served by about a dozen international airlines with regular flights to Europe, North and South America, and the rest of West Africa. Domestic service operates from Hastings Airfield, 22 km (14 mi) from Freetown, linking the capital to nearly all the large provincial towns.

The national air carrier, founded in 1961 as Sierra Leone Airways, was reconstituted in 1982 as Sierra Leone Airlines, under the management of Alia-Royal Jordanian Airline, which holds a 20% share. In 2003, about 14,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

Archaeological research indicates that by ad 800 the use of iron had been introduced into what is now Sierra Leone and that by ad 1000 the coastal peoples were practicing agriculture. Beginning perhaps in the 13th century, migrants arrived from the more advanced savanna lands to the north and east.

European contact began in 1462 with the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who gave the mountainous Peninsula the name Sierra Leone ("Lion Mountains"). From the 16th to the early 19th century, the region was raided for slaves for the Atlantic trade, and later in the 19th century, it was ravaged by African war leaders and slavers.

The colony of Sierra Leone was founded by British philanthropists to relieve the horrors of this slave trade. Granville Sharp, a leader in the movement to abolish slavery, planned it as a home for African slaves freed in England. In 1787, he sent out the first settlers to what he called "The Province of Freedom." In the following year, one of the Temne kings and his subordinate chiefs sold and ceded a strip of land on the north shore of the Sierra Leone Peninsula to Capt. John Taylor on behalf of the "free community of settlers, their heirs and successors, lately arrived from England, and under the protection of the British Government." A few years later, they were joined by settlers of African origin from England, Nova Scotia (freed slaves who, as loyalists, had fled the American Revolution), and Jamaica.

The Sierra Leone Company, of which Sharp was a director, was formed in 1791 to administer the settlement. The land did not prove as fertile as described, and the settlement was the victim of attacks by neighboring tribes and by a French squadron. The burden of defense and settlement proved too heavy for the company, and Sierra Leone was transferred to the crown in 1808. The colony received additions of land up to 1861 through various treaties of friendship and cession from the local chiefs.

After 1807, when the British Parliament passed an act making the slave trade illegal, the new colony was used as a base from which the act could be enforced. Beginning in 1808, hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of slaves were freed each year, most of them remaining in Sierra Leone. In 1896, a British protectorate was declared over the hinterland of Sierra Leone, which was separate from the colony. Revolts in 1898 were provoked mainly by attempts to extend British colonial jurisdiction into the protectorate.

A 1924 constitution provided for the election of three members to a Legislative Council on a restricted franchise, and the constitution of 1951 provided for an elected majority, resulting in African rule. In 1957, the Legislative Council was replaced by a House of Representatives, most members of which were elected, and the literacy requirement for voters was dropped. In 1958, Milton Margai became Sierra Leone's first prime minister; in 1960, he led a delegation to London to establish conditions for full independence.

Independence

Sierra Leone became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations on 27 April 1961. Milton Margai continued as prime minister until his death in 1964, when he was succeeded by his half-brother, Albert Margai, who held office until the national elections in March 1967. The outcome of the elections was disputed, but the All-People's Congress (APC) claimed a plurality of the seats in the House of Representatives. Before Siaka Stevens, chairman of the APC, could take office as prime minister, he was ousted in a bloodless coup led by the army chief, Brig. David Lansana. Martial law was declared, and a National Reformation Council remained in control for 13 months, until 18 April 1968, when it was overthrown by the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement, a military group that formed the National Interim Council. On 26 April 1968, Stevens was installed as prime minister of a civilian government. Continuing political unrest prompted the declaration of a state of emergency in 1970 and a ban on the newly created United Democratic Party, an opposition group whose leaders were arrested.

In 1971, after an abortive military coup which was suppressed with aid from Guinea, a new constitution was adopted. The country was declared a republic on 19 April 1971. Two days later, Siaka Stevens, then prime minister, became the nation's first president. National elections were held in May 1973, and the APC won a nearly unanimous victory following the decision of the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party to withdraw its candidates because of alleged electoral irregularities. An alleged plot to overthrow Stevens failed in 1974, and in March 1976, he was elected without opposition for a second five-year term as president. In 1978, a new constitution was adopted, making the country a one-party state.

An economic slowdown, coupled with revelations of government corruption, led to a general strike in September 1981, called by the Sierra Leone Labour Congress; some labor leaders and other government critics were temporarily detained under emergency regulations, but the government met a key demand of the strikers by moving to reduce the prices of basic commodities. Violence and irregularities marked the parliamentary elections held in 1982, which were limited to the APC.

Stevens did not run for reelection as president in 1985, yielding power to his handpicked successor, Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, the armed forces commander, whose nomination by the APC was ratified in his unopposed election in October 1985. Parliamentary elections were held in May 1986. Following an alleged attempt to assassinate Momoh in March 1987, over 60 persons were arrested, including First Vice President Francis Minah, who was removed from office. An extensive reshuffling of the cabinet followed. Further reports of alleged coup attempts followed.

In April 1991, Sierra Leone was invaded from Liberia by forces commanded by Liberian rebel, Charles Taylor. Domestic support within Sierra Leone mounted and by 29 April 1992, Momoh was overthrown in a military coup. Momoh fled to Guinea. A National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) was created but, shortly afterward, on 2 May, the head of the five-member junta, Lt. Col. Yahya, was arrested by his colleagues and replaced by 29-year-old Capt. Valentine Strasser, who was formally designated head of state.

The Strasser government soon began ruling by a series of decrees and public notices limiting political freedoms. The NPRC dissolved parliament and political parties. Strasser talked of returning Sierra Leone to multiparty democracy, but his main goal was to end the fighting in the southeast where the forces of the National Patriot Front of Liberia (NPFL) and Sierra Leone dissidents were engaging a weakly-committed Sierra Leone armed force. Forces from the ECOWAS Monitoring Group sought to create a buffer along the boundary between the two countries. A rebellion led by Foday Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) simmered throughout 1993, although it seemed to falter as the Liberian rebels across the border lost ground. Facing a military stalemate, in November 1993 Strasser announced a unilateral cease-fire, an amnesty for rebels, and issued a timetable for a transition to democracy.

Through 1992 and 1993, Strasser used the security situation to consolidate his power. In December 1992, the government executed 26 alleged coup plotters from the Momoh government. In mid-1993, Strasser arrested his vice president, Capt. Solomon Musa. Policy was formulated and implemented by the NPRC, which established a Supreme Council of State comprising NPRC members, military officers and one civilian.

In 1996, Deputy Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Brio ousted Strasser and provided him safe conduct out of the country. Presidential and parliamentary elections took place in February 1996, but were opposed violently by rebel forces resulting in 27 deaths. Neither candidate, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (United Peoples Party) or Dr. John Karefa-Smart, received a majority of the vote and a runoff election was held on 15 March 1996. Kabbah won the election with 59.4% of the vote.

In May 1997, Maj. Johnny Paul Koromah of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) overthrew Kabbah. Clashes between the rebels and Nigerian troops followed, forcing 12,000 Freetown residents to flee the capital. With ECOMOG's support, President Kabbah returned from exile on 10 March 1998. However, rebel forces remained firmly in control of the north, the Kono diamond field, and areas along the Liberian border.

A violent rebel offensive in January 1999 led by the AFRC and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forced the evacuation of diplomatic and foreign aid personnel from Freetown. As many as 5,000 residents were killed, 150,000 dislocated, and 20% of Freetown was destroyed. Rebels amputated the hands and feet of thousands of civilians "to send a message" to the government. Human rights reports documented unspeakable abuses on all sides. The attack was repelled, but rebels gained control of two-thirds of the country.

In March 1999, President Kabbah was forced to grant temporary amnesty to Corporal Foday Sankoh of the RUF. Sankoh received four ministerial positions and three deputies, bringing the rebel presence in government to seven. Peace talks resumed, and a cease-fire was signed in May. In July, Jesse Jackson and ECOWAS chairman, Gnassingbe Eyadema, were present at the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord. In December 1999, ECOMOG forces began their withdrawal to be replaced by 11,000 UN observer troops (UNAMSIL), which eventually reached a troop strength of 17,000.

Disgruntled over the distribution of ministries in the unity government, the RUF resumed war in early May 2000, captured 500 UN personnel, and advanced to within 25 miles of the capital. However, on 17 May, Foday Sankoh was captured and eventually died in government custody in July 1993. Liberian President Charles Taylor, a supporter of the RUF, helped obtain the release of some of the peacekeepers, but insisted that Sankoh be part of the solution to the war. By June 2000, the rebels offered to trade their remaining captives for Sankoh's release, but the trade never materialized. Instead UNAMSIL routed the RUF and other armed groups, and concluded a peace agreement, which became fully effective January 2002. President Kabbah and his party won overwhelming victories at the presidential and parliamentary polls that followed on 14 May 2002.

Kabbah proceeded with restructuring and downsizing the army and security forces, and began to prosecute war criminals under a UN Special Court. In October 2002, Kabbah established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to accelerate emotional healing. The TRC's mandate expired in April 2004. By February 2003, some 1,400 people had provided testimony containing information about 3,000 victims who had suffered more than 4,000 violations, including 1,000 deaths and 200 cases of rape and sexual abuse. Militarily, nearly 50,000 combatants were demobilized and disarmed of some 15,000 weapons. Koroma, who escaped from the police in a failed coup attempt in 2003, had not been heard from and was presumed dead. In May 2003, authorities in Liberia produced the corpse of Col. Mosquito, the RUF bush commander.

UNAMSIL completed the first phase of its downsizing in late 2002 and in early May 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the remaining troops except for a small rapid reaction force would be phased out by end of 2005. In local elections on 22 May 2004the first such elections in over 30 yearsthe strong showing of the main opposition party APC sent a general message of discontent to the SLPP.

In June 2004, the first UN Special Court of War Crimes began its first trial of leaders of the pro-government militias, the Civil Defense Force (the Kamajors), and the RUF. In March 2005, trials for the AFRC defendants began. By early 2006, 13 people had been indicted (three posthumouslyFoday Sankoh, Sam 'Mosquito' Bockarie, and Johnny Paul Koroma). Charles Taylor, who also faced charges under the Court, was exiled in Nigeria. The Nigerian government said that it would consider an extradition request from a democratically elected government of Liberia, but newly-elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had not made extradition a priority of her new government.

GOVERNMENT

A new constitution came into force on 1 October 1991, replacing the June 1978 constitution and subsequent modifications. However, it was suspended by the military junta after the 29 April 1992 coup. Shortly thereafter, the parliament and political parties were dissolved and the NPRC ruled by decree through a Supreme Council of State (SCS) and a Council of State Secretaries (CSS-Cabinet). In November 1993 they announced a timetable leading to multiparty democracy and general elections in 1996. The constitution was suspended after the military coup in May 1997, but came into force again following the reinstatement of the Kabbah government in March 1998. A government of national unity formed in October 1999 as part of the Lomé Accords, but was short-lived.

In February 2002, a district block (proportional) representation system for the election of MPs came into force, replacing the first-past-the-post constituency system, which would be reinstated for the 2007 elections. As of 2005, the unicameral parliament had 124 seats112 elected by popular vote and 12 filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate polls; members serve five-year terms. President Kabbah had indicated that he would step down after completing his current five-year term.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Party politics in Sierra Leone have a long and lively history. The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), formed in 1951, dominated politics from its inception until 1967, when the All People's Congress (APC) claimed to have won a plurality of the seats in a disputed parliamentary election. The SLPP combined the Sierra Leone Organization Society, founded in the protectorate in 1946, and the Freetown People's Party, founded in the colony by the Rev. Etheldred Jones, also known as Lamina Sankoh. Although the SLPP won only two of the seven seats open to election in 1951, it was given recognition when the indirectly elected protectorate members and eight paramount chiefs joined with it. In 1953, Milton Margai became chief minister, and in 1957, the SLPP won 26 of the 39 seats being contested.

During the pre-APC period, the National Council of Sierra Leone (NCSL), founded in 1951, was the principal opposition group. It was influential only in the colony and favored a federal constitution with separate assemblies for the colony and the protectorate. When universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1957, the NCSL lost all its seats in the legislature. The United People's Party (UPP) was founded in 1956 by Cyril Rogers-Wright and Wallace Johnson to unite the interests of the colony and the protectorate. In the 1957 general elections, it won one seat in the legislature and gained three more after election petitions to the courts, so that it then constituted the principal legislative opposition.

In September 1958, Siaka Stevens and Milton Margai's half-brother, Albert Margai, withdrew from the SLPP and formed the People's National Party (PNP) to pursue a more militant policy. In 1960, the PNP and UPP joined the United National Front of all parties for the April constitutional talks in London. A national coalition government was formed, and Albert Margai became a cabinet minister.

Stevens left the United Front to form a new opposition group, the Elections Before Independence Movement (EBIM). Expelled from the PNP, he transformed the EBIM into the APC and, with support from younger radicals and much of the trade union movement, campaigned for a neutralist foreign policy and the need for a general election before independence. In March 1961, Stevens and some of his supporters were charged with sedition, libel, and incitement and were jailed just before independence under emergency regulations. They were later released and acquitted of the charges.

In the election of 25 May 1962, the SLPP won 28 of 62 seats for ordinary members of the House of Representatives, the APC 16, the Sierra Leone Progressive Movement 4, and independents 14. After the election returns were announced, 12 of the independents declared themselves members of the SLPP, and Milton Margai was able to form a new government. Upon his death on 28 April 1964, Albert Margai became prime minister. Thirteen months of military rule followed the disputed 1967 elections, after which Siaka Stevens, leader of the APC, became prime minister.

Siaka Stevens, president from 1971 to 1985, created the APC in 1960. The APC dominated from 1967 until April 1992. In September 1970, another opposition group, the United Democratic Party, was formed. Shortly afterward, a state of emergency was declared, and on 8 October, the party was banned. The SLPP won 15 seats in the 1977 elections, the last in which an opposition party was allowed to participate. In the 1983 balloting, 173 candidates competed for 66 seats, and the remaining 19 elective seats (mostly held by members of the outgoing government) were uncontested. In 1978, a new constitution made the APC the sole legal party, and the SLPP was formally dissolved. Members of parliament were required to declare themselves members of the APC on penalty of losing their seats.

In the 1986 balloting, 335 candidates competed for the 105 popularly elected seats. Over half the sitting members, including three cabinet ministers, were defeated, and over 60% of those elected were newcomers to the House. After the April 1992 military coup, all political parties were banned and parliament was dissolved. In 1993 a timetable was prepared for a return to civilian rule and a multiparty democracy. Captain Valentine Strasser assumed leadership during the 1992 coup, but was overthrown in 1996.

In February 1996, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, candidate of the National Peoples Party, was elected president with 59.4% of the vote. Fifteen parties registered for the 1996 elections. In the parliamentary competition for 80 seats (68 elected members; 12 paramount chiefs), the SLPP took 27 seats, the UNPP 17, the PDP 12, the APC 5, the NUP 4, and the DCP 3. These were the first elections since the former House of Representatives had been shut down by the military coup of April 1992. In November 1999, the RUF changed its name to the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) and Foday Sankoh gave addresses around the country as though he were running for president.

With a cease-fire in place, presidential elections were held in May 2002. In a landslide victory, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, candidate of the SLPP obtained 70.06% of the vote to defeat Ernest Koroma of the APC. Koroma received 22.4% of the vote, while the Peace and Liberation Party (PLP) gained 3%, and others took 4.59%. The Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) and its chairman Foday Sankoh, were thoroughly discredited. In the parliamentary contest for 112 elected seats, the SLPP captured 83 seats, the All People's Congress (APC) 27 seats, and the PLP 2 seats.

In May 2004, the APC won local elections in Freetown, but also fared well elsewhere winning 22% of the vote, 4 councils, and 116 councilors. The SLPP, which continued to dominate overall, won 70% of the vote, 15 councils, and 330 councilors. Independents elected 10 councilors, but won no councils. Both the SLPP and APC alleged that the other side was guilty of vote-rigging, coercion, and multiple- and under-aged voting.

At the SLPP convention in September 2005, Solomon Berewa, the country's vice president, assumed leadership of the party and was designated the party's candidate for the 2007 presidential elections. Berewa defeated Charles Margaison of the late prime minister Albert Margaiand a number of other aspirants. At its convention the main opposition party, the APC, chose Ernest Koroma, a Muslim, who also was confirmed as party chairman. Although the APC has made inroads into SLPP territory, it also will need to balance its ticket to be competitive in the south. A number of independents formed a new party, the Republican Movement, and several small parties met in June 2005 to strategize on the creation of a "third force". In addition, Charles Margai left the SLPP to form his own party, the PMDC.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Sierra Leone is divided into the Western Area (the former colony) and the Northern, Eastern, and Southern provinces (formerly the protectorate). The three provinces are divided into a total of 12 districts with 148 chiefdoms. Local government in the Western Area is administered by municipalities. Rural areas are governed by village committees, which send members to district councils, which in turn are represented in a rural area council.

Each province has a resident minister as administrative head. Local units within the provinces are, in ascending order of importance, villages, extended villages or sections, chiefdoms, and district councils. The 19 district councils, which contain elected members as well as paramount chiefs, are responsible for primary education, health centers, agricultural extension work, social welfare, community development, and transportation services (roads, bridges, and ferries). The war incapacitated local government by severely disrupting social institutions, and uprooting some two million refugees and internally displaced persons.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Local courts apply traditional law and customs in the chiefdoms. Elected indigenous leaders preside over the local courts. Magistrates hold court in the various districts and in Freetown, administering the English-based code of law. Appeals from magistrates' courts are heard by the High Court, which also has unlimited original civil and criminal jurisdiction. Appeals from High Court decisions may be made to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court, consisting of a chief justice and not fewer than three other justices. The attorney general is a cabinet minister and head of the state law office, which is administered by the solicitor-general. Many of the justices, magistrates, and other lawyers are Sierra Leoneans trained in British universities or at Inns of Court in London. Judges serve until the age of 65.

The judiciary is not independent in practice and remains subject to manipulation. A UN Special Court for War Crimes, established at the end of the war, continued to hear cases of alleged war criminals in 2006.

ARMED FORCES

In 2005, the armed forces of Sierra Leone had about 12,00013,000 active members. This was a new, UK-trained army formed after the dismantling of various factions. There were about 200 naval personnel, with five patrol craft. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $26.1 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Admitted as the 100th member of the United Nations on 27 September 1961, Sierra Leone participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, ILO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The country belongs to the WTO, the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, Commonwealth of Nations, ECOWAS, G-77, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Development Bank, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. In 198081, then president Siaka Stevens served as chairman of the African Union and Freetown hosted the organization's summit conference in July 1980.

In October 1973, Sierra Leone and Liberia concluded the Mano River Union agreement, aimed at establishing an economic union of the two countries; Guinea joined the union in 1980. Trade restrictions among the three nations were abolished in 1981 and a common external tariff was established for most items of trade. The government is participating in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The union, has been scheduled to come on-stream in January 2003, but has been rescheduled for December 2009.

Sierra Leone signed a defense pact with Guinea in 1971 allowing for the exchange of some army personnel. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was established in 1999 to cooperate with government officials by monitoring the implementation of peace agreements and the disarmament of civil and revolutionary forces. UNAMSIL is supported by 31 countries. Sierra Leone is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Sierra Leone is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.

ECONOMY

Although Sierra Leone is a potentially rich country with diverse resources, which include diamonds, gold, rutile, bauxite, and a variety of agricultural products, the economy has been severely depressed over the past two decades. The country has a chronic balance-of-payments deficit aggravated by a rebellion in the export-producing diamond regions of the country. The economy suffers from low production, poor export performance, large budget deficits, shortage of essential goods, deterioration of infrastructure, inability to service external debts, a pervasive parallel market, an influx of refugees from the civil war in Liberia, and inflation.

The government adhered to a structural adjustment program established in 199192 that called for a reduction in the number of civil service employees, increased privatization of the economy, increased taxation, and fiscal discipline. The program produced some improvements in the stability of the exchange rate and reduced inflation. Consequently, although some donors suspended aid, Sierra Leone gained the support of the World Bank, IMF, and other international agencies. In 1994, after the devaluation of the CFA franc, the inflation rate was at 104%.

Civil unrest in 1997 and the Army's takeover of the democratically elected government cast doubt on whether support would last. Less than a third of $230 million dollars pledged in 1996 for the first stage of a five-year recovery program was given and it was likely that the donors would renege on the remainder if the political situation worsened. In 1997, GDP weakened by 20%, and remained at this depressed rate; in 1998, GDP gained by only 0.7%. Peace talks in 1998 broke down during the same year, and fighting continued into 2002.

In 2002, Sierra Leone qualified for $950 million in debt relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Under the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), and with the aid of bilateral donors, the country is implementing strategies to reduce poverty and introduce stability by decentralizing government functions, supporting good governance and restoring local government, improving education and health programs, building an effective police force, and fighting corruption. The smuggling of diamonds out of the country from rebel-controlled areas remains a catalyst for instability and undermines the legitimate economy. Bauxite and rutile mines that were closed during the war had not reopened by 2003.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Sierra Leone's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $5.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.5%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 49% of GDP, industry 31%, and services 21%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $26 million or about $5 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $297 million or about $56 per capita and accounted for approximately 39.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Sierra Leone totaled $759 million or about $142 per capita based on a GDP of $1.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -4.2%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 47% of household consumption was spent on food, 9% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 13% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 70.2% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

There are approximately 1.4 million workers in Sierra Leone, but only 65,000 of those are actual wage earners. Subsistence agriculture is the occupation of vast majority of the population. There was no further data available on occupational breakdown or the unemployment rate in Sierra Leone.

The 1991 constitution provides for the right of association, and all workers (including civil servants) have the right to join trade unions of their choice. The trade union movement in Sierra Leone, one of the oldest in West Africa, dates back to 1913, when Wallace Johnson organized the Customs Employees Union. Under his influence, other unions developed, and in 1943, the first Sierra Leone Trade Union Council (TUC) was formed. The Sierra Leone Council of Labor, which replaced the TUC in 1946, merged in May 1966 with the Sierra Leone Federation of Labor to form the Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC). All unions are members of the SLLC, although membership is voluntary. In the mid-1980s, the SLLC had over a dozen constituent unions totaling about 40,000 members. With the decline of manufacturing, union membership has declined since then, although exact figures are unavailable. In 2001, about 60% of workers in urban areas (including government employees) were unionized, but unions have had little success in organizing workers in the agricultural and mining sectors.

The minimum working age is 18, but this is not enforced and children routinely work as vendors and petty traders in urban areas and work seasonally on family subsistence farms in rural areas. The standard workweek is 38 hours but most workweeks exceed that amount. Health and safety regulations set by law are not enforced. The minimum wage is set at $10.50 per month.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the primary occupation in Sierra Leone, employing two-thirds of the labor force and accounting for 50% of GDP. Most Sierra Leoneans live on small, scattered farms, following a scheme of bush-fallow rotation, slash-and-burn field preparation, and limited use of fertilizer. Agricultural exports in 2004 amounted to nearly $13.9 million and consisted of coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, piassava, kola nuts, and ginger.

Rice, grown by 80% of farmers, is the most important subsistence crop and, along with millet in the northeast, is a food staple; 265,000 tons were produced in 2004, down from an annual average of 508,000 tons during 1989 to 1991. The Rice Research Institute, located in the Northern Province, breeds high-yielding varieties for seed. Other domestic food crops include cassava, yams, peanuts, corn, pineapples, coconuts, tomatoes, and pepper.

Coffee is grown in the eastern and southern provinces; production totaled 18,000 tons in 2004. Cocoa is grown in the Kenema and Kailahun districts of the Eastern Province and in the Pujehun District of the Southern Province, mainly on smallholdings of about 0.41.2 hectares (13 acres). In 2004, an estimated 11,000 tons of cocoa beans were produced. Palm produce is derived from stands of wild palms, mainly in the northeast and southeast; production in 2004 included 24,375 tons of palm kernels and 39,000 tons of palm oil. Although there is substantial local consumption of palm kernels, they are a major agricultural export. Piassava, a raffia palm fiber used for broom and brush bristles, is grown in the swampy areas of the extreme south. Small amounts of kola nuts were also exported, and modest crops of bananas, pineapples, and sugarcane were grown.

The 1991 invasion of rebels from Liberia in the eastern and southeastern provinces severely damaged agricultural production and exports. Whereas annual agricultural growth averaged 3.1% during 198090, it declied by -0.1% during 19902000. However, during 200204 crop production had improved by 8.9% over 19992001.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Estimates of livestock in 2005 were 400,000 head of cattle, 375,000 sheep, 220,000 goats, and 52,000 hogs. Large numbers of Ndama cattle are kept, mainly by nomads in the savanna area of the northeast. Poultry farmers had an estimated 7.5 million chickens in 2005. Total meat production in 2005 was 23,259 tons, 48% of it poultry.

FISHING

Fresh fish is not a staple for the country as a whole but is much prized in Freetown and other parts of the Peninsula. The fishing industry, which once was confined to inshore waters, has spread into the middle waters and includes canoe, industrial, freshwater, and shellfish fisheries. Total fish and shellfish production in 2003 was 96,926 tons, with bonga shad accounting for 28,516 tons. Shrimp is the main export; fisheries exports were valued at $11.5 million in 2003. The government has a joint venture agreement with Maritime Protection Services Sierra Leone Ltd., the purpose of which is to prevent poaching, protect artisanal fishing, increase revenue, and conserve maritime resources.

FORESTRY

About 15% of Sierra Leone is covered by forests. Much of Sierra Leone's rain forests have been cleared, with only remnant areas in the south and east; intensive farming gradually eliminated most of the forest area. There are still about 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of forests, with most of the prime forestland in the government estate in the mountainous eastern half of the country and in the Western Area hills. In 2004, an estimated total of 5.5 million cu m (194 million cu ft) of roundwood was harvested, 98% of it for fuel. Forests comprise both evergreen and semi-deciduous rain forests, swamp forests, mangrove forests, and significant areas of secondary and regenerating forests. The Gola Forest in the southeast is the largest remaining tract of rain forest.

MINING

The mining of diamonds was Sierra Leone's leading industry in 2003. In addition to diamonds, the country is also a producer of cement, gypsum, and salt. Although civil strife has adversely affected investment in natural resource development since 1995, conditions were expected to improve with the declaration that war had ended in 2001.

Diamond output in 2003 was reported at 506,819 carats, up sharply from 351,860 carats in 2002. However, these figures do not reflect smuggled artisanal output. National diamond output was placed at 600,000 carats annually from 1999 through 2001, and at 250,000 carats in 1998. It was believed that a substantial portion of the diamonds close to the earth's surface was smuggled out of the country. Alluvial diamonds, first discovered in Kono District in 1930, were widely scattered over a large area, but particularly along the upper Sewa River. The main diamond deposits were the Koidu and Tongo fields. DiamondWorks Ltd., of Canada, which owned 60% of the Koidu mine (reserves of 2.67 million carats), announced in 2001 that it was returning to Sierra Leone. DiamondWorks also held diamond exploration licenses on the Sewa River with reserves containing 1.7 million carats. There was no recorded gold production from 1999 through 2003.

Cement production in 2003 totaled 169,500 metric tons, up from 144,100 metric tons in 2002. Gypsum output was estimated at 4,000 metric tons annually from 1999 through 2003. Salt production in 2003 was estimated at 1,800 metric tons, unchanged from 2002. There was no recorded output of rutile in Sierra Leone in 2003, although it had been announced that rutile mining would resume by that year.

Sierra Leone is known to have reserves of bauxite and other minerals including antimony, cassiterite, columbite, corundum, fluorspar, ilmenite, lead, lignite, magnetite, molybdenum, monazite, platinum, silver, tantalite, tin, titanium, tungsten, and zinc.

A 1999 amendment to the 1994 Mines and Minerals Act introduced procedures for sale and export of precious minerals by license holders, and penalties for unlawful possession or smuggling of precious minerals. In 2001, Sierra Leone and Angola introduced a diamond certification scheme in response to UN sanctions aimed at prohibiting importation of diamonds from rebel-controlled areas in the countries.

ENERGY AND POWER

Total national electricity production totaled 255 million kWh in 2002, with 100% from fossil fuels. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 237 million kWh. Installed capacity in 2002 was 124,000 kW.

Sierra Leone, as of 1 January 2003, had no proven reserves of crude oil or natural gas. However, the country, as of 1 January 2003 did possess a modest crude oil refining capacity of 10,000 barrels per day. In 2002, imports of all petroleum products averaged 6,710 barrels per day, which included crude oil imports of 5,040 barrels per day. Refined oil production that year averaged 4,810 barrels per day, while demand averaged 6,410 barrels per day. There were no recorded imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in 2002.

INDUSTRY

Industry accounted for 30.6% of GDP in 2003, and is oriented toward the processing of raw materials and of light manufactured goods for domestic consumption. The sector has suffered from a lack of foreign exchange, high import costs, unreliable local services, and political instability. The Wellington Industrial Estate, covering 46 hectares just east of Freetown, was developed in the 1960s by the government to encourage investments. Its factories produce a variety of products, including cement, nails, shoes, oxygen, cigarettes, beer and soft drinks, paint, and knitted goods. Timber for prefabricated buildings is milled, and another factory produces modern furniture. Small factories in the Freetown area process tuna and palm oil. Oyster farming and shrimp production dominate the fishing industry. There are no proven oil reserves in the country, but there is one oil refinery. In 1992 the oil refinery in Freetown closed due to lack of capital for crude oil imports; in 1994 the facility was sold to Unipetrol of Nigeria. Its production capacity in 2002 was 10,000 barrels per day. Village craft products include a popular cloth, rope, sail canvas, boats, wood carvings, baskets, and leather goods.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography, founded in 1966, affiliated with Fourah Bay College of the University of Sierra Leone at Freetown. The college itself, founded in 1827 by the Church Missionary Society, has faculties of engineering and pure and applied sciences and an institute of marine biology and oceanography. Also part of the university is Njala University College (founded in 1964), which has faculties of agriculture and environmental sciences, and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (founded in 1987). In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 17% of college and university enrollments. A paramedical school in Bo operates with funds from the government and the European Community. The Ministry of Mines has a geological survey division to locate mineral deposits and advise on all matters relating to the earth. The Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association, founded in 1961, is headquartered in Freetown.

DOMESTIC TRADE

As of mid-1997, domestic commerce was hampered by political instability and guerilla raids on villages. Fuel and food staples are in short supply and many businesses and banks remained closed. Foreign investment has been stalled by all these factors.

Freetown is the principal commercial and distribution center. Internal trade is normally carried on by trading firms that deal in a variety of merchandise. Bo is the commercial center for the central region of the country, with most significant trading activity in ginger, rice, coffee, cocoa, and palm oil and kernels. Makeni, in central Sierra Leone, is a trading center for the Temne people, who mainly produce rice.

Normal business hours were from 8 am to 12:00 pm and 2 to 4:45 pm, Monday through Friday, with a half day on Saturday. Banks were open from 8 am to 1:30 pm, Monday through Thursday, and 8 to 2 pm on Friday.

FOREIGN TRADE

Principal imports are foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment, fuels, and lubricants. Civil war has inhibited foreign trade since 1995. Sierra Leone's most important exports are diamonds (45%) and rutile (27%). Other exports include vegetable oil (4.4%), fresh fish (3.9%), shellfish (3.8%), coffee (3.5%), and cocoa (1.7%). In 1999, Sierra Leone shipped 7,000 tons of rutile to the United States, the first cargo since the mine was closed by rebels in early 1995.

About half of Sierra Leone's exports go to Belgium, in the form of diamond exports to Antwerp. In 1999, diamond exports fell from a high of $500 million to $30 million. An immense black market for diamonds exists, probably accounting for the majority of exports from Sierra Leone. In 2003, principal exports were diamonds ($126.2 million), cocoa beans ($2.6 million) with other commodities bringing in $17.5 million.

Principal imports during the same year included fuel and lubricants ($78.2 million), food ($74.5 million), machinery and transport equipment ($56.4 million), and manufactured goods ($42.2 million). Principal trading partners for Sierra Leone's exports in 2004 were Belgium (63.1%), Germany (12%), the United States (5.5%) and India (7.3%). Imports came from Germany (16.3%), Côte d'Ivoire (9.3%), the United Kingdom (8.6%) and the United States (7.3%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Sierra Leone's frequently negative balance of trade and habitual deficit in current accounts are somewhat counterbalanced by capital inflows, generally from foreign governments.

The Economist Intelligence Agency reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Sierra Leone's exports was $200 million while imports totaled $330 million resulting in a trade deficit of $130 million.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Bank of Sierra Leone, established in 1963, is the central bank and bank of issue. The Banking Act of 1964 provides for the regulation of commercial banks by the central bank, including the control of money supply. Poor revenue collection, failure to control expenditures, and heavy debt servicing requirements as a result of past borrowing characterized government finances in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In the 1990s, there were six commercial banks operating in the country. Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone and Barclays Bank of Sierra Leone are both foreign banks that are locally incorporated, with Sierra Leonean staff. The International Bank of Trade and Industry opened in 1982, with funds from Lebanese and Sierra Leonean investors.

The National Development Bank was established in 1968 to finance agricultural and industrial projects. The National Cooperative Development Bank, established in 1971, serves as a central bank for all cooperatives and makes modest loans to individual farmers and cooperatives for agricultural improvements. Sierra

Current Account -74.7
   Balance on goods -202.2
     Imports -311.2
     Exports 109.0
   Balance on services -25.2
   Balance on income -9.9
   Current transfers 162.6
Capital Account 61.4
Financial Account -3.9
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Sierra Leone 0.2
   Portfolio investment assets -25.4
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 0.7
   Other investment liabilities 20.6
Net Errors and Omissions 44.2
Reserves and Related Items -27.0
() data not available or not significant.

Leone also has a Post Office Savings Bank. Most banks closed during the rebel attacks of the late 1990s.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $95.4 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $146.4 million.

There is no securities exchange in Sierra Leone.

INSURANCE

The National Insurance Co. is government owned. All insurance companies in Sierra Leone are supervised by the Ministry of Finance.

PUBLIC FINANCE

The government of Sierra Leone has been prevented from having any significant economic influence in the country thanks to a shortage of foreign exchange, deep-seated corruption, and uncertainty surrounding the civil wars that periodically take place. The minister of finance came under attack in 2000 for declaring expenditures reaching $30,000 on the war during the month of May alone, because government officials reportedly siphoned off money into private bank accounts. Payroll fraud in the same year to the tune of $400,00 in the accounting office also took a toll on government respectability.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 Sierra Leone's central government took in revenues of approximately $96 million and had expenditures of $351 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$255 million. Total external debt was $1.61 billion.

TAXATION

The main items of taxation are customs duties and direct taxes, which include income taxes. A 1963 amendment to the income

Revenue and Grants 151.21 100.0%
   Tax revenue 82.34 54.5%
   Social contributions
   Grants 65.39 43.2%
   Other revenue 3.48 2.3%
Expenditures 252.88 100.0%
   General public services
   Defense
   Public order and safety
   Economic affairs
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities
   Health
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Education
   Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

tax act abolished all personal deductions except medical and dental expenses and the costs of passage to and from Sierra Leone. A husband and wife are assessed separately for income tax on their individual incomes. Income tax is charged at a flat rate, with one rate for citizens and a higher rate for noncitizens. Also levied are a 55% corporate tax, property tax, payroll tax, social security contributions, and taxes on goods and services. In 2003, Sierra Leone's main indirect tax was its 20% sales tax.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

All import licensing requirements were eliminated in 1989 and all other restrictions, including those on cigarettes, ended in early 1992. Imports from other Mano River Union (MRU) members enter duty-free. Most duties for non-MRU imports average 20% but range from 0 to 100% on luxury goods. There is an additional 12.5% sales tax levied on all imports.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

The government encourages the development of plantations and the investment of foreign private capital in agriculture and worthwhile new enterprises. Safeguards are provided against nationalization, and repatriation of capital, profits, and interest is permitted. Legislation in 1983 offered tax relief for up to five years, preferential access to import licenses, exemption from customs and duties on capital equipment and new materials, and special bonuses for companies setting up outside Freetown.

Sierra Leone attracted few foreign investors in the early 1990s. Progress in reforming the economy was expected to reverse that trend, but renewed civil disturbances in 1997 threatened those prospects. Rex Mining, the first company to invest in Sierra Leone after the civil war, suspended work at its diamond mine after the military coup in May of 1997. Production in the rutile and bauxite plants resumed in 2000, but continuance was unsure because of political unrest.

Foreign direct investment inflow (FDI) was $9.6 million in 1997, but this was more than reversed by a net divestment outflow in 1998 of -$9.8 million. Net FDI inflow was $6 million in 1999 and averaged $4.45 million a year in 2000 and 2001. In UNCTAD's ranking of 140 countries in terms of their potential for attracting foreign investment in the period 1998 to 2000, Sierra Leone was ranked number 140. In 200104 Sierra Leone continued to perform poorly in attracting FDI, attracting only $2 million in 2002, $3 million in 2003, and $5 million in 2004. This can be explained by the fact that the country is still recovering from years of civil year, which ended in January 2002. The discovery of large iron ore deposits could result in far higher inflows of FDI.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Sierra Leone government, in addition to stabilizing its balance-of-payment and budgetary deficits and meeting its debt obligations, seeks investors in its mining sector. A parallel economy, lawless conditions, and a crumbling infrastructure continue to constrain economic growth. The government in the early 2000s was working with foreign donors to undertake rural development and agricultural projects. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund to direct a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The government encourages foreign investment. Senegal formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union with Liberia and Guinea to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration.

In 2001, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $169 million three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement for Sierra Leone, to support the government's economic reform program. In 2002, Sierra Leone became eligible for nearly $950 million in debt service relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Agreement on a new IMF poverty reduction and growth facility in 2005 is expected to shape economic policy in the coming years.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

All employees in the public and private sectors are covered under the social insurance plan initiated in 2001. There is voluntary coverage for the self-employed. The program is funded by employee and employer contributions, with the government providing funding for government employees only. Old age, disability, and survivorship benefits are available. Employers provide medical care for employees and their families through collective agreements.

Women are guaranteed equal rights under the constitution, and a number of women have held prominent posts. Even so, discrimination and violence against women are frequent. Women carry out most of the strenuous agricultural work, and are responsible for child rearing. According to a 2004 study, girls were denied an education more often than boys, and traditional beliefs kept women confined to the household. They do not have equal access to economic opportunities, health care, or social freedoms. Female genital mutilation, a practice which is painful and sometimes life threatening, is an entrenched cultural practice. It is estimated that as many as 8090% of girls and women may have been affected. There is considerable local opposition to advocates campaigning to have the practice banned. Domestic abuse and violence is a widespread social problem.

The government's human rights record has improved, although there are continued reports of the mistreatment of detainees and illegal detention.

HEALTH

Sierra Leone had 52 hospitals and 263 dispensaries and health treatment centers. There was one hospital bed per 1,000 inhabitants. Only 38% of the population had access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated seven physicians and 33 nurses per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 5.3% of GDP.

Lassa fever has continued to spread in the Kenema district since 1996. A World Health Organization (WHO) mission investigated the outbreak and is helping to remedy short supplies in this war-torn country. With WHO and UNICEF technical assistance, an endemic diseases control unit reduced the incidence of sleeping sickness and yaws, and began a leprosy control campaign. Malaria, tuberculosis, and schistosomiasis remain serious health hazards, as does malnutrition.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 44.6 and 18.8 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate was 162.55 per 1,000 live births in 2005, the third highest in the world. Since 1994, UNICEF estimated that Sierra Leone has one of the highest mortality rates in the world.

Only around 4% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. The fertility rate was 5.8 children per woman surviving through the childbearing years. The prevalence of child malnutrition was 23% of children under five. Immunization rates for children up to one year old included: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 26%, and measles, 28%. Life expectancy in 2005 was 39.87 years, among the lowest in the world.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 7.00 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 170,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 11,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

In 1999, as a result of the invasion of rebels, about 5,932 homes were completely destroyed in Freetown and the surrounding areas of Kissy, Wellington, Calaba Town, and Allen Town. The town of Koidu, which was once the second-largest town in the nation, suffered major destruction. National estimates indicate that by 2001, 300,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the internal rebellion. Approximately 1.2 million people were internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries.

As of the 2004 census, there were an estimated 967,300 households counted representing about 4,836,500 people. Village houses in the provinces are traditionally made of sticks with mud walls and thatch or grass roofs; they may be circular or rectangular in shape. In some villages, wattle-and-daub construction has been replaced by sun-dried mud blocks, and roofs of grass, palm thatch, or palm tiles are giving way to corrugated iron sheeting. In Freetown, older two-story wooden houses have been being replaced by structures built largely of concrete blocks, with corrugated iron or cement-asbestos roofs.

In a 2003 survey, about 75.7% of all housing had mud walls; only 15% were constructed of stone or cement. Zinc was the most common roofing material (64.2% of all housing), followed by thatch (31.5%). Flooring is typically mud or stone. Nearly 83% of all housing units were single-story, one-household detached dwellings. About 81.5% of all dwelling units were owner occupied. Only about 16.3% of all housing was listed as needing no repairs; 11.7% was in need of complete reconstruction. In 2003, about 49.4% of all households relied on a communal pit for toilet facilities. Another 40.5% used a nearby bush or river. Only 1% of all households had indoor flush toilets. About 42.6% of all households drew their water supply from a river or stream and 25.9% had an ordinary well. Only 1.2% of all households had indoor piped water.

The government has made reconstruction a priority and has initiated a National Housing Policy to work on programs of reform, resettlement, and reconstruction. Through one program, the government has planned to sell public housing and to use the proceeds to build more housing units. Building is controlled in the major towns, and designs are subject to approval.

EDUCATION

Primary education is neither wholly free nor compulsory, but the ultimate goal of the government is to provide free primary school facilities for every child. Primary school last for three years, followed by three years of junior secondary school and three years of senior secondary school. The academic year runs from October. In 2001, about 4% of all children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. In 2001, there were 554,000 students enrolled in primary school and 156,000 students enrolled in secondary school. It is estimated that about 56% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 37:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 27:1.

Fourah Bay College, the oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa, was founded in 1827 by the Church Missionary Society, primarily to provide theological training. It was affiliated with the University of Durham in England in 1876 and received a royal charter in 1959 as the University College of Sierra Leone. In 1967, the University of Sierra Leone was chartered with two constituent colleges, Fourah Bay (in Freetown) and Njala University College (in Moyamba District). In 2001, there were about 9,000 students enrolled in higher education programs.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.7% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The library of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, founded in 1827 has 200,000 volumes. Public collections are maintained by the Sierra Leone Library Board. The central public library collection is at Freetown, which holds 80,000 volumes. There are at least 10 branch locations. The American Cultural Center and the British Council both maintain small collections. The Sierra Leone National Museum contains documents concerning Sierra Leone and its history and various works of sculpture, especially Nomolis stone fetishes representing seated figures of unknown origin that have been found in the Mende areas. The Sierra Leone Railway Museum opened in 2005.

MEDIA

International cablegram, telex, and telephone services are provided by Sierra Leone External Telecommunications. In 2003, there were an estimated five mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 13 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service manages radio and television transmissions. Radio Sierra Leone, the oldest broadcasting service in English-speaking West Africa, broadcasts mainly in English, with regular news and discussion programs in several indigenous languages and a weekly program in French. The Sierra Leone Television Service was inaugurated in 1963. Private stations do exist, but license fees are high, prohibiting some sources from operating on a regular basis. As of 1999 there were 1 AM and 9 FM radio stations and 2 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 259 radios and 13 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, 2 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

In 2004, there were over 50 newspapers throughout the country. The only major daily newspaper is the government-owned Daily Mail (with a 2002 circulation of 10,000), but there were several privately owned weekly newspapers, including New Shaft (circulation 10,000) and Weekend Spark (20,000). Under legislation enacted in 1980, all newspapers must register with the Ministry of Information and pay a sizable registration fee.

The 1991 constitution provides for free speech and a free press, though in practice authorities are said to beat, detain, and otherwise harass journalists for publishing articles unflattering to the government.

ORGANIZATIONS

There is a chamber of commerce in Freetown. The cooperative movement has grown rapidly since the 1960s.

National youth organizations include the National Union of Sierra Leone Students, Sierra Leone Association of Students in Economics and Commerce, Sierra Leone Scouts Association, YMCA/YWCA, and the Sierra Leone National Youth League. There are several sports associations in the country with programs for amateur athletes of all ages.

Several voluntary associations exist, mostly in the Freetown area; most of these are women's religious, cultural, political, or economic groups. Coordinating bodies include the Federation of Sierra Leone Women's Organizations, and the United Church Women. The Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations serves as another coordinating group. International organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Caritas, and the Red Cross.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Sierra Leone has magnificent beaches, including Lumley Beach on the outskirts of Freetown, perhaps the finest in West Africa. Natural scenic wonders include Bintimani and the Loma Mountains, Lake Sonfon, and the Bumbuna Falls. There are several modern hotels in Freetown, as well as a luxury hotel and casino at Lumley Beach. There has been a slow response from the international community to change the image of the country to that of a tourist destination. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected area. Tourist arrivals numbered about 285,000 in 2003. That same year there were 1,457 hotel rooms with 1,718 beds and an occupancy rate of 13%.

According to 2005 estimates of the US Department of State, the average cost of staying in Freetown was $217 per day.

FAMOUS SIERRA LEONEANS

Sir Samuel Lewis (18431903) was a member of the Legislative Council for more than 20 years and the first mayor of Freetown. Sir Milton Augustus Strieby Margai (18951964), the grandson of a Mende warrior chief, was the founder of the SLPP and the first prime minister of Sierra Leone, a post he held until his death. Sir Albert Michael Margai (191080) succeeded his half-brother as prime minister from 1964 to 1967. Siaka Probyn Stevens (190588), the founder of the APC, was prime minister from 1968 to 1971 and became the republic's first president from 1971 to 1985. John Musselman Karefa-Smart (b.1915) served as minister of lands, mines, and labor, in which capacity he organized Sierra Leone's diamond industry, and also served as assistant director-general of WHO from 1965 to 1970. Davidson Nicol (192494) was his country's permanent representative to the UN from 1969 to 1971, served as president of the Security Council in 1970, and became executive director of UNITAR in 1972. Foday Sankoh (19372003) was the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, a guerrilla group that terrorized villages in the early 1990s.

DEPENDENCIES

Sierra Leone has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adebajo, Adekeye. Building Peace in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Binns, Margaret. Sierra Leone. Oxford, England; Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1992.

Fyle, C. Magbaily. Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2006.

Greene, Graham. The Heart of the Matter. New York: Viking, 1948.

Kessler, Cristina. No Condition Is Permanent. New York: Philomel Books, 2000.

Larémont, Ricardo René. Borders, Nationalism, and the African State. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2005.

Reno, William Sampson Klock. Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Thompson, Bankole. The Constitutional History and Law of Sierra Leone. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1997.

Zack-Williams, Alfred. Tributors, Supporters and Merchant Capital: Mining and Underdevelopment in Sierra Leone. Brookfield, Vt.: Avebury, 1995.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Sierra Leone

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the October 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Sierra Leone

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 71,740 sq. km. (29,925 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Cities: Capital—Freetown (est. 786,900). Provincial capitals—Southern Province, Bo; Eastern Province, Kenema; Northern Province, Mak-eni.

Terrain: Mangrove swamps and beaches and mostly shallow bays along the coast, wooded hills along the immediate interior, and a mountainous plateau in the interior.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sierra Leonean(s).

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

Annual growth rate: (2007 est.) 2.292%.

Ethnic groups: Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Krio 1%, balance spread over 15 other tribal groups, and a small Lebanese community.

Religions: (est.) Muslim 60%, Christian 30%, animist 10%.

Languages: English, Krio, Temne, Mende, and 15 other indigenous languages.

Education: (2002) Literacy—36%.

Health: Life expectancy (2007 est.)— 40.58 years. Infant mortality rate—158.27 deaths/1,000 live births. HIV infection rate for adults, ages 15-49 years (2002 est.)—1.4%.

Work force: Agriculture—52.5%; industry—30.6%; services—16.9%.

Government

Type: Republic with a democratically elected president and unicameral parliament.

Independence: From Britain, April 27, 1961.

Constitution: October 1, 1991.

Political parties: The Political Parties Registration Commission was formed in late 2005 to review registered parties to see whether they still met registration requirements. Most of the parties are inactive. Major parties—Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), All People's Congress (APC), Peace and Liberation Party (PLP), and People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).

Economy

GDP: (2006 est.) $1.233 billion.

GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 6.8%.

Avg. annual inflation rate: (2005 IMF est.) 8.5%.

Natural resources: Diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, iron ore, ilmenorutile, platinum, chromite, manganese, cassiterite, molybdenite, as well as forests, abundant fresh water, and rich offshore fishing grounds.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm kernels, cassava, bananas, citrus, peanuts, cashews, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables. Land—30% potentially arable, 8% cultivated.

Industry: Types—diamonds, bauxite, and rutile mining; forestry; fishing; beverages; cigarettes; flour; cement and other construction goods; plastics; tourism.

Trade: (Oct. 2004-Oct. 2005) Exports—$158 million: rutile, diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa, fishes. Major destinations of exports—Belgium, Germany, U.S., and India. Imports—$330 million: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuel and lubricants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building materials, light consumer goods, used clothing, textiles. Main origins of imports—Germany, Cote d'Ivoire (fuel), U.K., U.S., China (manufactured goods).

PEOPLE

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and from slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country. In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.

HISTORY

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable.

In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the “Province of Freedom.” Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa.

Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans—or Krio as they came to be called—were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.

In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and The Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well. 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-pean-style university in western Sub-Saharan Africa.

The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. Most of the 20th century history of the colony was peaceful, however, and independence was achieved without violence. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister. He became Prime Minister after successful completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton's Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton's death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister.

In closely contested elections in March 1967, the All Peoples Congress (APC) won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) declared Siaka Stevens—APC leader and Mayor of Freetown—as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Margai were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Another group of officers soon staged another coup, only to be later ousted in a third coup, the “sergeants' revolt,”and Stevens at last, in April 1968, assumed the office of Prime Minister under the restored constitution. Siaka Stevens remained as head of state until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned.

In August 1985, the APC named military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, Steven's own choice, as the party candidate. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In October 1991 Momoh had the constitution amended once again, re-establishing a multi-party system. Under Momoh, APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power. Earlier in 1991, in March, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono district and pushing the Sierra Leone army back towards Freetown. On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by Capt. Valentine Strasser, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority in Sierra Leone.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh government in repelling the RUF. More and more of the country fell to RUF fighters, so that by 1995 they held much of the countryside and were on the doorsteps of Freetown. To retrieve the situation, 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.

As a result of popular demand and mounting international pressure, the NPRC agreed to hand over power to a civilian government via presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held in April 1996. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a diplomat who had worked at the UN for more than 20 years, won the presidential election. Because of the prevailing war conditions, parliamentary elections were conducted, for the first time, under

the system of proportional representattation. However, on May 25, 1997 the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kab-bah and later invited the RUF to join the government. In March 1998 the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces ousted the AFRC junta after 10 months in office, and reinstated the democratically elected government of President Kabbah. The RUF's renewed attempts to overthrow the government in January 1999 brought the fighting to parts of Freetown, leaving thousands dead and wounded. ECO-MOG forces drove back the RUF attack several weeks later.

With the assistance of the international community, President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh on July 7, 1999, signed the Lomé Peace Agreement, which made Sankoh Vice President and gave other RUF members positions in the government. The accord called for an international peacekeeping force run initially by both ECOMOG and the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999, with an initial force of 6,000. ECOMOG forces departed in April 2000. Almost immediately, however, the RUF began to violate the agreement, most notably by holding hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel hostage and capturing their arms and ammunition in the first half of 2000. On May 8, 2000, members of the RUF shot and killed as many as 20 people demonstrating against the RUF violations outside Sankoh's house in Freetown. As a result, Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government.

After the events of May 2000, a new cease-fire was necessary to reinvigorate the peace process. This agreement was signed in Abuja in November of that year. However, Demobilization, Disarmament, Reintegration (DDR) did not resume, and fighting continued. In late 2000, Guinean forces entered Sierra Leone to attack RUF bases from which attacks had been launched against Liberian dissidents in Guinea. A second Abuja Agreement, in May 2001, set the stage for a resumption of DDR on a wide scale and a significant reduction in hostilities. As disarmament progressed, the government began to reassert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, some 72,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. On January 18, 2002 President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.

In May 2002 President Kabbah was re-elected to a five-year term along with the SLPP, which also won a landslide victory. The RUF political wing, the RUFP, failed to win a single seat in parliament. The elections were marked by irregularities and allegations of fraud, but not to a degree to significantly affect the out-come. On July 28, 2002 the British withdrew a 200-man military contingent that had been in country since the summer of 2000, leaving behind a 105-strong military training team to work to professionalize the Sierra Leonean army. In November 2002, UNAMSIL gradually began drawing down personnel until the end of its formal peacekeeping mission in December 2005. Following the end of the UNAMSIL mandate, the UN established the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), which assumed a peacebuilding mandate.

In the summer of 2002, Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) began operations. The Lomé Accord had called for the establishment of a TRC to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and to facilitate genuine reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Final Report to the government in October 2004. In June 2005, the Government of Sierra Leone issued a White Paper on the Commission's final report which accepted some but not all of the Commission's recommendations. Members of civil society groups dismissed the government's response as too vague and continued to criticize the government for its failure to follow up on the report's recommendations.

The Special Court was established by an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone pursuant to Security Council resolution 1315 (2000) of 14 August 2000. The Court's mandate is to try those who “bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.” The Special Court has issued indictments against ## individuals representing all three warring factions of Sierra Leone's civil conflict in addition to the case against former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor. On June 20, 2007, the Court issued its first verdicts in the trial of the AFRC accused Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu all of whom were found guilty on 11 of 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Court issued an indictment against a fourth AFRC defendant, former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, who is rumored to have been killed, though his death remains unconfirmed. In the trial against the leaders of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) accused, on August 2, 2007, the court found Moin-ana Fofana and Allieu Kondewa guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A third defendant in the CDF trial, Sam Hinga Norman, the former Minister of Interior and head of the CDF died in Dakar prior to the announcement of a judgment. Five alleged leaders of the RUF, Foday Saybana Sankoh, Sam Bockarie, Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kal-lon, and Augustine Gbao, were indicted on 18 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. The indictments against Sankoh and Bockarie were withdrawn on 8 December 2003 due to the deaths of the two accused. On March 25, 2006, with the election of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo permitted transfer of Charles Taylor, who had been living in exile in the Nigerian coastal town of Calobar, to Sierra Leone for prosecution. Two days later, Taylor attempted to flee Nigeria, but he was apprehended by Nigerian authorities and transferred to Freetown under UN guard. Taylor is now being held in The Hague, where he awaits trial before the Special Court on 11 indictments of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His trial is scheduled to begin in June 2007.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president and a multi-party system of government with a 124-seat parliament (112 elected members and 12 paramount chiefs). On August 11, 2007, Sierra Leone held nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections for the first time since the departure of UN peacekeepers. In the parliamentary elections, the National Election Commission reported the All People's Congress (APC) won a parliamentary majority taking 59 of 112 seats, while the ruling Sierra Leone's People's Party (SLPP) took 43 seats. The People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) won 10 seats in Parliament. In addition to their peaceful administration, the 2007 parliamentary elections were notable for the return to a constituency-based system, as called for in the 1991 constitution. In preparation for the elections, Sierra Leone redrew parliament's constituency boundaries for the first time since 1985.

According to the NEC official results of the August 11 presidential election, APC presidential candidate Ernest Koroma won 44.3 percent of the total 1,839,208 votes cast, while former Vice President and SLPP presidential candidate, Solomon Berewa, finished with 38.9 percent. PMDC presidential candidate Charles Margai placed third receiving 13.9 of the vote. Because none of the candidates won the 55 percent of the vote needed to win in the first round, a run-off election was held on September 8, 2007. The two leading candidates, former Vice President Solomon Berewa of the SLPP and Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC contest the second round. On September 17 Sierra Leone's National Election Commission declared Ernest Bai Koroma the winner with 54.6 percent of the vote. President Koroma was sworn in later that day at the Sierra Leone Statehouse.

Sierra Leone's judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, High Court of Justice, and magistrate courts. The president appoints and parliament approves justices for the three courts. Local chieftaincy courts administer customary law with lay judges; appeals from these lower courts are heard by the superior courts. Judicial presence outside the capital district remains limited, which contributes to excessive delays in the justice system. Although magistrate courts function in all 12 judicial districts, magistrates appointed to those courts did not reside there permanently and complained that they had insufficient resources to do their job. Justices of the peace or customary law partially fill the gap. Civil rights and religious freedom are respected. A critical press continues to operate, although journalists and editors are occasion-lly arrested for publishing articles the government considers inflammatory.

In 2000 the Government of Sierra Leone promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act to combat endemic corruption. The Anti Corruption Commission has not been able to secure convictions of high-level government officials, but has worked to raise national awareness of the problem and build in safeguards in “corruption hotspot” ministries.

The basic unit of local government outside the Western Area has generally been the chiefdom, headed by a paramount chief, who is elected for a life term. In May 2004, however, the first local government elections in 32 years were held in 311 wards nationwide. There are now 12 district councils and 5 town councils outside the Western Area. The Western Area has a rural area council and a city council for Freetown, the nation's capital. The local councils are gradually assuming responsibility for functions previously carried out by the central government.

As devolution progresses, chiefdom and council authorities are starting to work together to collect taxes. While district and town councils are responsible for service delivery, chiefdom authorities maintain their own infrastructure of police and courts, which are also funded by local taxes. Nationwide local elections are scheduled for 2008.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Ernest Bai KOROMA

Vice Pres.: Samuel SAMSUMANA

Min. of Agriculture & Food Security: Sam SESAY

Min. of Country Planning, Forestry, Environment, & Social Welfare: Alfred Bobson SESAY

Min. of Defense & National Security: Paulo CONTEH

Min. of Development & Economic Planning: Mohammed B. DARAMY

Min. of Education, Youth, & Sport: Minkailu BAH

Min. of Energy & Power: Haja Afsatu KABBA

Min. of Finance & Development: David Omashola CAREW

Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Zainab hawa BANGURA

Min. of Health: Soccoh KABIA, Dr.

Min. of Housing & Infrastructural Development: John SAAD

Min. of Information & Broadcasting: Ibrahim Ben KARGBO

Min. of Internal Affairs & Local Governments: Dauda KAMARA

Min. of Justice & Attorney General: Abdul SERRY-KAMAL

Min. of Labor & Industrial Relations: Minkailu MANSARAY

Min. of Local Government & Community Development: Sidikie BRIMA

Min. of Marine Resources: Moses KAPU

Min. of Mineral Resources: Abubacar JALLOH

Min. of Presidential & Public Affairs: Alpha KANU

Min. of Social Welfare: Musu KANDEH

Min. of Tourism & Cultural Affairs: Hindole TRYE

Min. of Trade & Industry: Alimamy KOROMA

Min. of Transport & Aviation: Kemoh SESAY

Min. of State for Eastern Region: Sahr Randolph FILLIE-FABOE

Min. of State for Northern Region: Alex Alie KARGBO

Min. of State for Southern Region: S. U. M. JAH

Governor, Central Bank: Samira KAMARA

Ambassador to the US: Ibrahim M.KAMARA

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Joe Robert PEMAGBI

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261, www.embassyofsi-erraleone.org; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.

ECONOMY

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on the mining sector in general, and diamonds in particular, for its economic base. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of Sierra Leone's formal economy was destroyed in the country's civil war. Since the cessation of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover.

Full recovery to pre-war economic levels will require hundreds of millions of additional dollars and many more years of serious effort by the Government of Sierra Leone and donor governments. Much of Sierra Leone's recovery will depend on the success of Government of Sierra Leone efforts to limit official corruption, which many feel was the chief culprit for the country's descent into civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector. About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 52.5% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. Also, the government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone's principal foreign exchange earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in this resource, the country has historically struggled to manage its exploitation and export. Annual production estimates range between $250-300 million. However, not all of that passes through formal export channels, although formal exports have dramatically improved since the days of civil war (1999: $1.2 million; 2000: $7 million; 2001: $26 million; 2002: $42 million; 2003: $76 million; 2004: $127 million; 2005: $142 million). The balance is smuggled, where it possibly is used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. Efforts to improve the management of the export trade have met with some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved export certification system for exporting diamonds from Sierra Leone was put into place that led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the Government of Sierra Leone created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of U.S. and European investors, began commercial mining operations near Bonthe in early 1979. Sierra Rutile was then the largest nonpetroleum U.S. investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million in export earnings in 1990. The company and the Government of Sierra Leone concluded a new agreement on the terms of the company's concession in Sierra Leone in 1990. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995, but exports resumed in 2005.

Since independence, the Government of Sierra Leone has encouraged foreign investment, although the business climate has been hampered by a shortage of foreign exchange, corruption, and uncertainty resulting from civil conflicts. Investors are protected by an agreement that allows for arbitration under the 1965 World Bank Convention. Legislation provides for transfer of interest, dividends, and capital. The government passed the Investment Promotion Act in August 2004 to attract foreign investors and has been working with international financial institutions to lower its administrative barriers to trade.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With Liberia and Guinea, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union, primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration. However, the MRU has been inactive because of domestic problems and internal and cross-border conflicts in all three countries. The future of the MRU depends on the ability of its members to deal with the fallout from these internal and regional problems. Sierra Leone's latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) expired in June 2005. A new agreement is not yet in place, but Sierra Leone's economic policy is expected to shift from post-conflict stabilization to poverty-reduction efforts, including good governance and fighting corruption; job creation; and food security.

Sierra Leone continues to rely on significant amounts of foreign assistance, principally from multilateral donors. The bilateral donors include the United States, Italy, and Germany, but the largest are the United Kingdom and the European Union.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with China, Libya, Cuba, and Iran.

Sierra Leone is a member of the UN and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Mano River Union (MRU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Sierra Leone began with missionary activities in the 19th century. In 1959, the U.S. opened a consulate in Freetown and elevated it to embassy status when Sierra Leone became independent in 1961. U.S.-Sierra Leone relations today are cordial, with ethnic ties between groups in the two countries receiving increasing historical interest. Many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States. In fiscal year 2006, total U.S. bilateral aid to Sierra Leone in all categories was $29.538 million. U.S. assistance focused on the consolidation of peace, democracy and human rights, health education, particularly combating HIV/AIDS, and human resources development.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

FREETOWN (E) LeicESTer, Freetown, APO/FPO 2160 Freetown PI, Washington, DC 20521-2160, 232-22-515-000 or 232-76-515-000, Fax 232-22-515-225, Workweek: M-T 0800-1715, F 0800-1300, Website: http://freetown.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Pamela Lynette
AMB OMS:Lontria A. Beale
ECO:Vacant
FM:Dirk Rettberg
HRO:Judy Marcouiller
MGT:Ola Criss
POL ECO:Amy Lemar
AMB:June C. Perry
CON:Brendan Mullarkey
DCM:Elizabeth Susie Pratt
PAO:Danna Van Brandt
GSO:Vacant
RSO:Bryan Scruggs
AFSA:Clara D. Pieh
AID:Christine M. Sheckler
CLO:Jennifer B. Mullarkey
DAO:Ltc. Leslie M. Bryant
DEA:Sam Gaye-Res Lagos
EEO:Meg E. Riggs - Resident In Monrovia
FMO:Ola Criss
ICASS:Chair Christine Sheckler
IMO:Joseph J. Hromatka
IRS:Kathy Beck
ISSO:Scott W. Cullum
LEGATT:Alvie L. Price
State ICASS:Danna Van Brandt

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 4, 2007

Country Description: Sierra Leone is a developing country in western Africa still recovering from a ten-year civil war that ended in 2002. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based language, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are rudimentary or nonexistent.

Entry Requirements: A passport and visa are required. Visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain visas in advance of travel to Sierra Leone. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever. The Embassy of Sierra Leone is located at 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261.

The Embassy also maintains a web site at www.embassyofsierraleone.org. Information may also be obtained from the Sierra Leonean Mission to the United Nations, 245 East 49th St., New York, NY 10017; telephone (212) 688-1656 and from the website of the Sierra Leonean High Commission in London at www.slhc-uk.org.uk. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security: Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of the civil war in 2002. The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAM-SIL) withdrew in December 2005 and Sierra Leone resumed responsibilities for its own security. The Sierra Leonean police are working to improve their professionalism and capabilities, but fall short of American standards in response time, communications, and specialty skills.

Areas outside Freetown lack most basic services. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, however, especially when traveling beyond the capital. Road conditions are hazardous and serious vehicle accidents are common. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent.

There are occasional unauthorized, possibly armed, roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers might be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not speak English, especially outside of Freetown, it can be difficult for foreigners to communicate their identity. Public demonstrations are rare but can turn violent. U.S. citizens should are advised to avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers out-side the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Entrenched poverty in Sierra Leone has led to criminality. There has been an increase in homicide, armed robbery, and residential burglary. Petty crime and pick pocketing of wallets, cell phones, and passports are very common. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all. Police investigative response are often incomplete and don't provide support to victims. Inefficiency is a serious problem at all levels within the government of Sierra Leone. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid becoming the victims of crime.

Business fraud is rampant and the perpetrators often target foreigners, including Americans. Schemes previously associated with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Sierra Leone, and pose a danger of grave financial loss. Typically these scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually e-mails) from strangers who promise quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of “advance fees” to be paid, such as fees for legal documents or taxes. Of course, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer's claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorization that drains their accounts, incurs large debts against their credit, and takes their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should carefully check and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams. Please see the Department of State's brochure on International Financial Scams for more information.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Quality and comprehensive medical services are very limited in Freetown, and are almost nonexistent for all but most minor treatment outside of the capital. Persons with unstable chronic medical conditions that require on-going medical treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply and due to inadequate diagnostic equipment, lack of medical resources and limited medical specialty personnel, complex diagnosis and treatment are unavailable. The quality of medications in Sierra Leone is inconsistent and counterfeit drugs remain a problem. Local pharmacies are generally unreliable. In the event medications are needed, such as over-the-counter medication, antibiotics, allergy remedies, or malaria prophylaxis, travelers may contact U.S. Embassy Health Unit personnel to receive general information about reliable pharmacies.

Medical facilities in Sierra Leone are scarce and for the most part sub-standard; outside the capital, standards are even lower. There is no ambulance service in Sierra Leone, trauma care is extremely limited, and local hospitals should only be used in the event of an extreme medical emergency. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and the administration of improper drugs have been reported. Life-threatening emergencies often require evacuation by air ambulance at the patient's expense. For a list of hospitals, visit our web site at http://visitfreetown.usembassy.gov.

Gastrointestinal diseases and malaria pose serious risk to travelers in Sierra Leone. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sierra Leone is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Most main roads in Freetown are narrow and paved but have potholes; extremely narrow unpaved side streets are generally navigable. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved and are generally passable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. However, certain stretches of mapped road are often impassable during the rainy season, which usually lasts from May to September. During the rainy season, add several hours to travel time between Freetown and outlying areas. There is a major road repair and resurfacing program going on throughout the country that is slowly improving the quality of roads. Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, unsafe, and not recommended. U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public transportation except for taxis that operate in conjunction with an approved hotel and that are rented on a daily basis.

Many vehicles on the road in Sierra Leone are unsafe and accidents resulting from the poor condition of these vehicles, including multi-vehicle accidents, are common. Many drivers on the road in Sierra Leone are inexperienced and often drive without proper license or training. Serious accidents are common, especially outside of Freetown, where the relative lack of traffic allows for greater speeds. The chance of being involved in an accident increases greatly when traveling at night, and Embassy officials are not authorized to travel outside of major cities after dark.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra Leone's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Passengers departing Freetown on certain airlines should expect to pay an airport tax of $40.00 (payable in U.S. Dollars). Several regional airlines service Freetown's Lungi International Airport; however, it is not uncommon for them to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in and must be prepared to handle alternate ticketing and/or increased food and lodging expenses. European carriers are typically more reliable. American citizens departing Lungi Airport have reported incidents of attempted extortion by officials claiming that travel documents were not in order. Luggage can often be lost or pilfered.

Lungi Airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. There are currently three travel options to/from Lungi airport: ferry, hovercraft, and helicopter. None is without risk. The cost for the ferry service is minimal; however, the service experiences frequent delays, and the ferry terminal is located in East Freetown, which has a higher crime rate than other parts of the capital. The hovercraft and helicopter service both cost approximately $50 each way (payable in U.S. currency) and are used by Embassy personnel.

Special Circumstances: Sierra Leone is a cash economy; however, an anti-money laundering law passed in July 2005 prohibits importing more than $10,000 in cash except through a financial institution. Travelers are advised not to use credit cards in Sierra Leone because very few facilities accept them and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATMs connected to international networks.

Travelers' checks are not usually accepted as payment; however, travelers' checks can be cashed at some banks including Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank. The traveler must, however, have proof of identification and a signed receipt by the institution where the travelers' checks were purchased. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is dangerous because criminals may “mark” such people for future attack and there is the risk of receiving counterfeit currency.

Sierra Leone's customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the export of gems and precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State and only the government of Sierra Leone can issue mining and export licenses. The legal authority for the issuance of licenses is vested in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Failure to comply with relevant legislation can lead to serious criminal penalties. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources: The Director of Mines, Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, Fifth Floor, Youyi Building, Brookfields, Freetown, Sierra Leone; tel. (232-22) 240-420 or 240-176; fax (232-22) 240-574.

Corruption is a problem in Sierra Leone. Travelers requesting service from government officials at any level may be asked for bribes. You should report corrupt government officials to the Anti-Corruption Commission at one of the following locations: The Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, 3 Gloucester Street, Freetown; 14a Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown; 37 Kissy Town Road, Bo, Southern Province; Independence Square, Rogbaneh Road, Makeni; telephone: (232-22) 229-984 or 227-100 or 221-701; fax: (232-22) 221-900; email: [email protected] or [email protected] anticorruption.sl; and web site www.anticorruptionsl.org.

You must obtain official permission to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities including the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the American Embassy. Areas where photography is prohibited may not be clearly marked or defined. People sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission before taking someone's picture.

U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance to depart the country. The Government of Sierra Leone now recognizes dual U.S.-Sierra Leonean citizenship; however; the U.S. Embassy may have difficulty assisting American citizens involved in legal or criminal proceedings if they entered the country on a Sierra Leonean passport.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Sierra Leone's judiciary is under-funded and overburdened, and offenders often must endure lengthy pre-trial or pre-hearing delays and detention. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sierra Leone laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sierra Leone are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Travelers should carefully check their passport to see the length of time they are permitted to remain in the country and the validity of their visa. Travelers leaving the country with an expired visa may incur additional charges. Any Sierra Leonean visa issues can be regulated at the immigration office at Rawdon Street in Freetown.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family. A significant number of American prospective adoptive parents have found that Sierra Leonean children offered for adoption are not orphans under U.S. immigration law, which has ultimately resulted in denials of U.S. immigrant visas for children they adopt in Sierra Leo-ean courts.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sierra Leone. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Leicester Square, Regent; tel. (232) (22) 515 000 or (232) (76) 515 000; fax (232) (22) 515 355. The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at http://freetown.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

December 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Under Sierra Leonean law, adoptive parents are currently required to be resident in Sierra Leone for six months and to attend the court hearing for the adoption. Although in the past the High Court of Sierra Leone would sometimes waive either the personal appearance of prospective adoptive parents at adoption proceedings or the six-month residency requirement, this was always at the Court's discretion and should not be considered the norm. The High Court is currently reviewing its application of the Adoption Act and practices may change without notice.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs is the government office responsible for overseeing adoptions and child welfare issues in Sierra Leone. The High Court is the only authority in Sierra Leone that can issue an order granting an adoption or legal custody of minor children. The Ministry's address is:

Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender &Children's Affairs
New England, Freetown
Sierra Leone
Tel: (232) 22 241 256

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residency Requirements: Adoptive parents are currently required to be resident in Sierra Leone for six months and to attend the court hearing for the adoption. In the past, the High Court of Sierra Leone sometimes waived the six-month residency requirement required by the Sierra Leone Adoption Act of 1989. This was always at the Court's discretion, and should not be considered the norm. The High Court does continue to mandate that adoptive parents personally attend the court hearing for the adoption. The High Court is currently reviewing its application of the Adoption Act and practices may change without notice.

Time Frame: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court's processing of adoptions. In the past, U.S. prospective adoptive parents have taken between six months to two years to complete the adoption procedures.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local attorneys which is available upon request. There are no registered adoption agencies in Sierra Leone. There are organizations registered as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that provide assistance to children and facilitate international adoptions. While the Government of Sierra Leone does not have a list of registered NGOs or PVOs, your adoption agency should be able to provide you with copies of a local organization's registration certificates. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.

Adoption Fees: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Sierra Leone are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees normally are less than U.S. $10. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but prospective adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney. Some adoption agencies charge prospective adoptive parents monthly maintenance fees that can be several hundred dollars per month. While monthly maintenance fees are legal in Sierra Leone, it appears that some local orphanages may have delayed adoption proceedings in order to continue payments of maintenance fees longer than necessary.

Adoption Procedures: Most prospective adoptive parents work through an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn maintains a relationship with an orphanage or organization in Sierra Leone, throughout the adoption process. To initiate an adoption, an attorney in Sierra Leone sends a letter with relevant documents attached to the Social Development Officer in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs in Freetown. After the Social Development Officer approves the prospective adoption the attorney files a petition for adoption with the High Court of the Sierra Leone. The petition usually contains the following information:

  • name, age, residence, and marital status of the petitioners;
  • name, date and place of birth of the child;
  • the date and manner in which the petitioners or orphanage acquired physical custody of the child;
  • facts (if any) that render consent of either birth parent unnecessary;
  • the petitioners' desire to adopt the child; and
  • the child's change of name, if any.

Following the filing of the petition, the High Court normally serves notice on all interested parties. The High Court may require written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents may be required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent. The High Court will not require the consent of the biological parents if those parents have legally abandoned the child, if a Sierra Leonean governmental or judicial authority has terminated their parental rights or appointed a different legal guardian for the children, or if the parents are deceased. Birth parents who have granted consent to the adoption may withdraw this consent at any point during the adoption proceedings, with the High Court's permission.

The High Court may order an investigation by an investigator appointed by the Court. The investigator should file a written report of the investigation with the High Court within 30 days of issuance of the investigation order. The High Court will schedule a hearing. The High Court currently requires at least one prospect adopting parent and the adoptive children to attend the hearing. The High Court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause and will usually state this in the order of adoption. The High Court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be served by the adoption. While the High Court usually makes a ruling after one hearing, in some cases it will request additional documentation and/or investigation and schedule another hearing. If the High Court approves the adoption, it will issue a court order that either grants a full and final adoption, or authorizes the leave to adopt. There are no fixed time-lines or constraints on the High Court's processing of adoptions.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Required Documents:

  • Petition for Adoption;
  • Written consent of living biological parents;
  • Affidavits concerning the prospective adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate if appropriate;
  • Evidence of finances such as bank statements and job letters;
  • The High Court may also require additional documentation on a case-by-case basis.

Embassy of Sierra Leone
1701 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Telephone: (202) 939-9261
Fax: (202) 483-1793

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
Leicester
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Telephone: 232-22-515-000 or
232-76-515-000
E-mail: [email protected]

Mailing Address:
U.S. Embassy
Consular Section
2160 Freetown Place
Washington, DC 20521-2160

International Mailing Address:
Consular Section
American Embassy
P O Box 50
Freetown, Sierra Leone
or
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy
Leicester
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Sierra Leone may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone by emailing [email protected] state.gov or the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal by emailing [email protected] General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

Sierra Leone

Compiled from the September 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Sierra Leone

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 71,740 sq. km. (29,925 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Cities: Capital—Freetown (est. 786,900). Provincial capitals—Southern Province, Bo; Eastern Province, Kenema; Northern Province, Makeni.

Terrain: Mangrove swamps and beaches and mostly shallow bays along the coast, wooded hills along the immediate interior, and a mountainous plateau in the interior.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sierra Leonean(s).

Population: (2004) 5 million.

Annual growth rate: (2002 est.) 2.2%.

Ethnic groups: Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Krio 1%, balance spread over 15 other tribal groups, and a small Lebanese community.

Religions: (est.) Muslim 60%, Christian 30%, animist 10%.

Languages: English, Krio, Temne, Mende, and 15 other indigenous languages.

Education: (2002) Literacy—36%.

Health: Life expectancy (2002 est.)—34.3 yrs. Access to safe water—57%. Infant mortality rate—182/1,000. Under five mortality—316/1,000. HIV infection rate for adults, ages 15-49 years (2002 est.)—1.4%.

Work force: Agriculture—52.5%; industry—30.6%; services—16.9%.

Government

Type: Republic with a democratically elected President and unicameral Parliament.

Independence: From Britain, April 27, 1961.

Constitution: October 1, 1991.

Political parties: The Political Parties Registration Commission was formed in late 2005 and will be reviewing the two large and numerous small parties currently registered to see if they still meet registration requirements. Most of these parties are inactive. Major parties—Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), All People’s Congress (APC), Peace and Liberation Party (PLP) and the newly registered People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $1.1 billion.

GDP growth rate: (2005 est.) 7.5%.

GDP per capita: income: (2005 est.) $209.

Avg. annual inflation rate: (2005 IMF est.) 8.5%.

Natural resources: Diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, iron ore, ilmenorutile, platinum, chromite, manganese, cassiterite, molybdenite, as well as forests, abundant fresh water, and rich offshore fishing grounds.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm kernels, cassava, bananas, citrus, peanuts, cashews, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables. Land—30% potentially arable, 8% cultivated.

Industry: Types—diamonds, bauxite, and rutile mining; forestry; fishing; beverages; cigarettes; flour; cement and other construction goods; plastics; tourism.

Trade: (Oct. 2004-Oct. 2005) Exports—$158 million: rutile, diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa, fishes. Major destinations of exports—Belgium, Germany, U.S., and India. Imports—$330 million: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuel and lubricants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building materials, light consumer goods, used clothing, textiles. Main origins of imports—Germany, Cote d’Ivoire (fuel), U.K., U.S., China (manufactured goods).

PEOPLE

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and from slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country.

In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.

HISTORY

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable.

In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the “Province of Freedom.” Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain’s first colonies in West Africa.

Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans—or Krio as they came to be called—were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.

In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and The Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well. 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 SubSaharan Africa.

The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. Most of the 20th century history of the colony was peaceful, however, and independence was achieved without violence. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister. He became Prime Minister after successful completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton’s Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton’s death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister.

In closely contested elections in March 1967, the All Peoples Congress (APC) won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) declared Siaka Stevens—APC leader and Mayor of Freetown—as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Margai were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Another group of officers soon staged another coup, only to be later ousted in a third coup, the “sergeants’ revolt,” and Stevens at last, in April 1968, assumed the office of Prime Minister under the restored constitution. Siaka Stevens remained as head of state until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned.

In August 1985, the APC named military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, Steven’s own choice, as the party candidate to succeed Stevens. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In October 1991 Momoh had the constitution amended once again, re-establishing a multi-party system. Under Momoh, APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power. Earlier in 1991, in March, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono district and pushing the Sierra Leone army back towards Freetown. On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by Capt. Valentine Strasser, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority in Sierra Leone.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh government in repelling the RUF. More and more country fell to RUF fighters, so that by 1995 they held much of the countryside and were on the doorsteps of Freetown. To retrieve the situation, 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.

As a result of popular demand and mounting international pressure, the NPRC agreed to hand over power to a civilian government via presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held in April 1996. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a diplomat who had worked at the UN for more than 20 years, won the presidential election. Because of the prevailing war conditions, parliamentary elections were conducted, for the first time, under the system of proportional representation. Thirteen political parties participated, with the SLPP winning 27 seats, UNPP 17, PDP 12, APC 5 and DCP 3.

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kabbah on May 25, 1997, and invited the RUF to join the government. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of President Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. On January 6, 1999, the RUF launched another attempt to overthrow the government. Fighting reached parts of Freetown, leaving thousands dead and wounded. ECOMOG forces drove back the RUF attack several weeks later.

With the assistance of the international community, President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh negotiated the Lome Peace Agreement, which was signed on July 7, 1999. The accord made Sankoh Vice President and gave other RUF members positions in the government. Lome called for an international peacekeeping force run initially by both ECOMOG and the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999, with an initial force of 6,000. ECOMOG forces departed in April 2000. Almost immediately, however, the RUF began to violate the agreement, most notably by holding hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel hostage and capturing their arms and ammunition in the first half of 2000. On May 8, 2000, members of the RUF shot and killed as many as 20 people demonstrating against the RUF violations outside Sankoh’s house in Freetown. As a result, Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government.

After the events of May 2000, a new cease-fire was necessary to reinvigo-rate the peace process. This agreement was signed in Abuja in November of that year. However, Demobilization, Disarmament, Rein-tegration (DDR) did not resume, and fighting continued. In late 2000, Guinean forces entered Sierra Leone to attack RUF bases from which attacks had been launched against Liberian dissidents in Guinea. A second Abuja Agreement, in May 2001, set the stage for a resumption of DDR on a wide scale and a significant reduction in hostilities. As disarmament progressed, the government began to reassert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, some 72,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. On January 18, 2002 President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.

In May 2002 President Kabbah and his party, the SLPP, won landslide victories in the presidential and legislative elections. Kabbah was reelected for a five year term. The RUF political wing, the RUFP, failed to win a single seat in parliament. The elections were marked by irregularities and allegations of fraud, but not to a degree to significantly affect the outcome.

On July 28th, 2002 the British withdrew a 200-man military contingent that had been in country since the summer of 2000, leaving behind a 105-strong military training team to work to professionalize the Sierra Leone army. The Lome Accord called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and facilitate genuine reconciliation. Subsequently, the Sierra Leonean government asked the UN to help set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone, which would try those who “bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.” Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court began operating in the summer of 2002.

In November 2002, UNAMSIL began a gradual reduction from a peak level of 17,500 personnel. Under pressure from the British, the withdrawal slowed, so that by October 2003 the UNAMSIL contingent still stood at 12,000 men. As peaceful conditions continued through 2004, however, UNAMSIL drew down its forces to slightly over 4,000 by December 2004. In June 2005, the UN Security Council extended UNAMSIL’s mandate until December 2005.

On January 13, 2003 a small group of armed men tried unsuccessfully to break into an armory in Freetown. Former AFRC-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, went into hiding, after being linked to the raid. In March the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its first indictments for war crimes during the civil war. Foday Sankoh, already in custody, was indicted, along with notorious RUF field commander Sam “Mosquito” Bockarie, Johnny Paul Koroma, the Minister of Interior and former head of the Civil Defense Force, Hinga Norman, and several others. Norman was arrested when the indictments were announced, while Bockarie and Koroma remained at large (presumably in Liberia). On May 5th Bockarie was killed in Liberia, probably on orders from President Charles Taylor, who expected to be indicted by the Special Court and feared Bockarie’s testimony. Several weeks later word filtered out of Liberia that Johnny Paul Koroma had been killed, as well, although his death remains unconfirmed. In June the Special Court announced Taylor’s indictment. Sankoh died in prison in Freetown on July 29th from a heart attack. He had been ailing for some time.

In August 2003 President Kabbah testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his role during the civil war. Instead of acting in a statesman-like, unifying manner, he answered questions in a partisan, defensive style. He blamed the international community for ignoring Sierra Leone during much of the civil war, without acknowledging its assistance in the late 1990s that ended the fighting. In October 2004, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Final Report to the government, although widespread public distribution was delayed until August 2005 because of editing and printing problems. The government released a White Paper in June 2005 accepting some and rejecting or ignoring a number of other recommendations. Members of civil society groups dismissed the government’s response as too vague and continued to criticize the government for its failure to follow up on the report’s recommendations.

In December 2005, the UNAMSIL peacekeeping mission formally ended, and the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) began, assuming a peace building mandate.

On March 25, 2006, after discussions with newly elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that Liberia was free to take Charles Taylor, who had been living in exile in the Nigerian coastal town of Calobar, into custody. Two days later, Taylor attempted to flee Nigeria, but he was apprehended on March 29 near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon by Nigerian authorities. Taylor was transferred to Freetown under UN guard by nightfall on March 29, where he is incarcerated at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) awaiting trial on 11 counts of war crimes.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president and a multi-party system of government with a 124-seat Parliament (112 elected members and 12 paramount chiefs). Presidential and legislative elections will be held in 2007. The elections will be preceded by a redrawing of constituency boundaries, not adjusted since 1985. The 2007 elections will also be notable for their shift from the proportional representation system used in 1996 and 2002 to a constituency-based system, as called for in the 1991 Constitution. The incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has a strong advantage going into these elections and maintains its traditional support in the south and east of the country; however, population increases in the northern part of the country and in the Western Area (where Freetown is located), may benefit the opposition All People’s Congress (APC). In 2005, Charles Margai, a former SLPP member, formed a new party, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), which could potentially draw support away from the SLPP. Civil rights and religious freedom are respected. A critical press continues to operate, although journalists and editors are occasionally arrested for publishing articles the government considers inflammatory.

The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, High Court of Justice, and magistrate courts. The President appoints and Parliament approves justices for the three courts. Local chieftaincy courts administer customary law with lay judges; appeals from these lower courts are heard by the superior courts. Judicial presence outside the capital district remains limited, which contributes to excessive delays in the justice system. Although magistrate courts function in all 12 judicial districts, magistrates appointed to those courts did not reside there permanently and complained that they had insufficient resources to do their job. Justices of the peace or customary law partially fill the gap.

In 2000 the Government of Sierra Leone promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act to combat endemic corruption. The Anti Corruption Commission has not been able to secure convictions of high-level government officials, but has worked to raise national awareness of the problem and build in safeguards in “corruption hotspot” ministries.

The basic unit of local government outside the Western Area has generally been the chiefdom, headed by a paramount chief, who is elected for a life term. In May 2004, however, the first local government elections in 32 years were held in 311 wards nationwide. There are now 12 district councils and 5 town councils outside the Western Area. The Western Area has a rural area council and a city council for Freetown, the nation’s capital. The local councils are gradually assuming responsibility for functions previously carried out by the central government. As devolution progresses, chiefdom and council authorities are starting to work together to collect taxes. While district and town councils are responsible for service delivery, chiefdom authorities maintain their own infrastructure of police and courts, which are also funded by local taxes.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 9/13/2005

President: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH

Vice President: Solomon BEREWA

Min. of Agriculture & Food Security: Sama Sahr MONDEH

Min. of Country Planning, Forestry, Environment, & Social Welfare: Alfred Bobson SESAY

Min. of Defense: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH

Min. of Development & Economic Planning: Mohamed B. DARAMY

Min. of Education, Science, & Technology: Alpha T. WURIE

Min. of Energy & Power: Lloyd DURING

Min. of Finance: John BENJAMIN

Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Momodu KOROMA

Min. of Health & Sanitation: Agnes TAYLOR-LEWIS, Dr.

Min. of Information & Broadcasting: Septimus KAIKAI

Min. of Internal Affairs: Pascal EGBENDA

Min. of Justice: Eke Ahmed HALLOWAY

Min. of Labor, Industrial Relations, & Social Security: Alpha TIMBO

Min. of Local Government & Community Development: Sidikie BRIMA

Min. of Marine Resources: Chernor JALLOH

Min. of Mineral Resources: Mohamed Swarray DEEN

Min. of Political & Parliamentary Affairs: George Banda THOMAS

Min. of Social Welfare, Gender, & Children’s Affairs: Shirley Yema GBUJAMA

Min. of Tourism: Okere ADAMS

Min. of Trade & Industry: Kadi SESAY

Min. of Transport & Communications: Prince A. HARDING

Min. of Works, Housing, & Technical Maintenance: Caiser J. BOIMA

Min. of Youth & Sport: Dennis BRIGHT

Min. of State for Eastern Region: Sahr Randolph FILLIE-FABOE

Min. of State for Northern Region: Alex Alie KARGBO

Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Foday YUMKELLA

Min. of State for Southern Region: S. U. M. JAH

Attorney General: Eke Ahmed HALLOWAY

Governor, Central Bank: James ROGERS

Ambassador to the US: Ibrahim M. KAMARA

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Joe Robert PEMAGBI

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.

ECONOMY

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on the mining sector in general, and diamonds in particular, for its economic base. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of Sierra Leone’s formal economy was destroyed in the country’s civil war. Since the cessation of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Full recovery to pre-war economic levels will require hundreds of millions of additional dollars and many more years of serious effort by the Government of Sierra Leone and donor governments. Much of Sierra Leone’s recovery will depend on the success of Government of Sierra Leone efforts to limit official corruption, which many feel was the chief culprit for the country’s descent into civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 52.5% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. Also, the government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects. Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone’s principal foreign exchange earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in this resource, the country has historically struggled to manage its exploitation and export. Annual production estimates range between $250-300 million. However, not all of that passes through formal export channels, although formal exports have dramatically improved since the days of civil war (1999: $1.2 million; 2000: $7 million; 2001: $26 million; 2002: $42 million; 2003: $76 million; 2004: $127 million; 2005: $142 million). The balance is smuggled, where it possibly is used for money laundering or financing illicit activities.

Efforts to improve the management of the export trade have met with some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved export certification system for exporting diamonds from Sierra Leone was put into place that led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the Government of Sierra Leone created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities’ stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of U.S. and European investors, began commercial mining operations near Bonthe in early 1979. Sierra Rutile was then the largest nonpetroleum U.S. investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million in export earnings in 1990. The company and the Government of Sierra Leone concluded a new agreement on the terms of the company’s concession in Sierra Leone in 1990. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995, but exports resumed in 2005.

Since independence, the Government of Sierra Leone has encouraged foreign investment, although the business climate has been hampered by a shortage of foreign exchange, corruption, and uncertainty resulting from civil conflicts. Investors are protected by an agreement that allows for arbitration under the 1965 World Bank Convention. Legislation provides for transfer of interest, dividends, and capital. The government passed the Investment Promotion Act in August 2004 to attract foreign investors and has been working with international financial institutions to lower its administrative barriers to trade.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With Liberia and Guinea, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union, primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration. However, the MRU has been inactive because of domestic problems and internal and cross-border conflicts in all three countries. The future of the MRU depends on the ability of its members to deal with the fallout from these internal and regional problems. Sierra Leone’s latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) expired in June 2005. A new agreement is not yet in place, but Sierra Leone’s economic policy is expected to shift from post-conflict stabilization to poverty-reduction efforts, including good governance and fighting corruption; job creation; and food security.

Sierra Leone continues to rely on significant amounts of foreign assistance, principally from multilateral donors. The bilateral donors include the United States, Italy, and Germany, but the largest are the United Kingdom and the European Union.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with China, Libya, Cuba, and Iran.

Sierra Leone is a member of the UN and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Mano River Union (MRU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Sierra Leone began with missionary activities in the 19th century. In 1959, the U.S. opened a consulate in Freetown and elevated it to embassy status when Sierra Leone became independent in 1961.

U.S.-Sierra Leone relations today are cordial, with ethnic ties between groups in the two countries receiving increasing historical interest. Many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States.

In fiscal year 2004, total U.S. bilateral aid to Sierra Leone in all categories was about $23 million, primarily for relief and basic economic development. U.S. aid also stresses restoration of peace, democracy and human rights, health education, particularly combating HIV/AIDS, and human resources development.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

FREETOWN (E) Address: Leicester Plaza/Regent Freetown; APO/FPO: 2160 Freetown Pl, Washington, DC 20521-2160; Phone: 232-22-515-000 or 232-76-515-000; Fax: 232-22-515-225; Workweek: M-T 0800-1715, F 0800-1300; Website: http://freetown.usembassy.gov.

AMB:Thomas N. Hull III
AMB OMS:Mary Kay Beckwith
DCM:Elizabeth Susie Pratt
DCM OMS:Pamela Lynette
POL/ECO:Martin A. Dale
CON:Brendan Mullarkey
MGT:Salvatore Piazza
AFSA:Martin A. Dale
AID:Christine M. Sheckler
CLO:Jennifer B. Mullarkey
DAO:Gia Cromer
DEA:Sam Gaye-Res Lagos
ECO:Martin A. Dale
EEO:Brenda C. Soya
FMO:Salvatore Piazza
GSO:Jennifer Bah
ICASS Chair:Christine Sheckler
IMO:Joseph J. Hromatka
IRS:Kathy Beck
ISSO:Scott W. Cullum
LEGATT:Alvie L. Price
PAO:Brenda C. Soya
RSO:Bryan Scruggs
State ICASS:Brenda C. Soya

Last Updated: 1/26/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : October 31, 2006

Country Description: Sierra Leone is an impoverished, developing country in western Africa that emerged from a ten-year civil war in 2002. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based language, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are rudimentary or nonexistent.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required. Visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain visas in advance of travel to Sierra Leone. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever.

The Embassy of Sierra Leone is located at 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261. Information may also be obtained from the Sierra Leone Mission to the United Nations, 245 East 49th St., New York, NY 10017; telephone (212) 688-1656. The Embassy does not maintain a current website; however, current visa information can be found at the London Sierra Leone High Commission’s website at http://www.slhc-uk.org.uk. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security: Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of the civil war in 2001. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) peacekeeping troops withdrew in December 2005 and were replaced by UNIOSIL, a peace-building mission. Isolated security incidents are increasing. The Sierra Leonean police are working to improve their professionalism and capabilities, but fall short of American standards in response time, communications, and specialty skills.

Areas outside of Freetown lack most basic services. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, however, especially when traveling beyond the capital. Areas outside of Freetown lack most basic services, road conditions are hazardous and serious vehicle accidents are common. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent. There are occasional unauthorized, possibly armed, roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers might be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not speak English, especially outside of Freetown, it can be difficult for foreigners to communicate their identity. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone. Public demonstrations are rare but can turn violent. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The continued poor state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for most people in Sierra Leone have led many individuals or small groups to turn to crime. There has been an increase in homicide, armed robbery, and residential burglary. Petty crime and pick pocketing of wallets, cell phones, and passports are very common. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all. Police investigative response rarely provides substantive support to victims. Inefficiency is a serious problem at all levels within the government of Sierra Leone. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid becoming the victims of crime.

Business fraud is rampant and the perpetrators often target foreigners, including Americans. Schemes previously associated with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Sierra Leone, and pose a danger of grave financial loss. Typically these scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually e-mails) from strangers who promise quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of “advance fees” to be paid, such as fees for legal documents or taxes. Of course, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorization that drains their accounts, incurs large debts against their credit, and takes their life savings. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should carefully check and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. One possible clue to a scam is the telephone number: legitimate businesses provide fixed line numbers, while scams typically use only cell phones. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Availability of quality and comprehensive medical services are very limited in Freetown, and are almost nonexistent for all but most minor treatment outside of the capital. Persons with unstable chronic medical conditions that may require on-going medical treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply and due to inadequate diagnostic equipment, lack of medical resources and limited medical specialty personnel, complex diagnosis and treatment are unavailable. The quality of medications in Sierra Leone is very questionable. It is advisable to avoid purchasing any medication from local pharmacies. In the event medications are needed, such as over-the-counter medication, antibiotics, allergy remedies, or malaria prophylaxis, travelers may contact U.S. Embassy Health Unit personnel to receive general information about reputable pharmacies. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and the administration of improper drugs have been reported. There is an emergency hospital in Goderich, near Freetown, but the road to the hospital is difficult to traverse, especially during the rainy season. There is no ambulance service in Sierra Leone, and trauma care is extremely limited. Gastrointestinal diseases and malaria pose serious risk to travelers in Sierra Leone. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers’ Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sierra Leone is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Most main roads in Freetown are narrow and paved but have potholes; extremely narrow unpaved side streets are generally navigable. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved and are generally passable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. However, certain stretches of mapped road are often impassable during the rainy season, which usually lasts from May to September. During the rainy season, add several hours to travel time between Freetown and outlying areas. There is a major road repair and resurfacing program going on throughout the country that is slowly improving the quality of roads. Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, unsafe, and not recommended. U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public transportation except for taxis that operate in conjunction with an approved hotel and that are rented on a daily basis.

Many vehicles on the road in Sierra Leone are unsafe and accidents resulting from the poor condition of these vehicles, including multi-vehicle accidents, are common. Many drivers on the road in Sierra Leone are inexperienced and often drive without proper license or training. Serious accidents are common, especially outside of Freetown, where the relative lack of traffic allows for greater speeds. The chance of being involved in an accident increases greatly when traveling at night, and Embassy officials are not authorized to travel outside of major cities after dark.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra Leone’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

SN Brussels, Bellview, and Astraeus airlines operate flights from Brussels and London to Freetown’s Lungi International Airport. Other regional airlines service the airport, but are not always reliable. While SN Brussels and Astraeus flights are exempt, a $40 airport tax is levied on outbound regional flights. It is not uncommon for regional airlines to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in and must be prepared to handle alternate ticketing and/or increased food and lodging expenses. American citizens departing Lungi Airport recently have reported incidents of attempted extortion by officials claiming that travel documents were not in order, and of theft from checked luggage.

Lungi airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. There are helicopter, ferry, and hovercraft services in connection with most major flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, the hovercraft suffers frequent breakdowns and the ferry service has frequent delays. Also, the ferry terminal is located in East Freetown, which has a higher crime rate than other parts of the capital. Paramount Helicopter service, at a cost of $50 each way, is available and used by Embassy personnel.

Special Circumstances: Sierra Leone is a cash economy; however, an anti-money laundering law passed in July 2005 prohibits importing more than $10,000 in cash except through a financial institution. Travelers are advised not to use credit cards in Sierra Leone because very few facilities accept them and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATMs connected to international networks. Travelers’ checks are not usually accepted as payment; however, travelers’ checks can be cashed at some banks including Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank. The traveler must, however, have proof of identification and a signed purchase order from the institution where the travelers’ checks were purchased. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is dangerous because criminals may “mark” such people for future attack and there is the risk of receiving counterfeit currency.

Sierra Leone’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the export of gems and precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State and only the government of Sierra Leone can issue mining and export licenses. The legal authority for the issuance of licenses is vested in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Failure to comply with relevant legislation can lead to serious criminal penalties. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources: The Director of Mines, Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, Fifth Floor, Youyi Building, Brookfields, Freetown, Sierra Leone; tel. (232-22) 240-420 or 240-176; fax (232-22) 240-574.

Corruption is widespread in Sierra Leone, including among government officials. Although the Anti-Corruption commission has stepped up efforts to combat official corruption, travelers requesting service from government officials at any level may be asked for bribes. You should report corrupt government officials to the Anti-Corruption Commission at one of the following locations: The Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, 3 Gloucester Street, Freetown; 14a Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown; 37 Kissy Town Road, Bo, Southern Province; Independence Square, Rogbaneh Road, Makeni; tel. (232-22) 229-984 or 227-100 or 221-701; fax (232-22) 221-900; email: [email protected] and [email protected]; www.anticorruptionsl.org/anonymous.html and www.anticorruptionsl.org. You must obtain official permission to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities. Areas where photography is prohibited may not be clearly marked or defined. People sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission before taking someone’s picture. U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance to depart the country. The U.S. Embassy has very limited ability to assist dual U.S.-Sierra Leonean nationals because local authorities do not recognize dual nationality and view such individuals solely as Sierra Leonean citizens. It is especially difficult to assist American citizens involved in legal or criminal proceedings if they enter the country on a Sierra Leonean passport.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sierra Leone laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sierra Leone are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Sierra Leone’s judiciary is underfunded and overburdened, and offenders often must endure lengthy pre-trial or pre-hearing delays and detention. Arbitrary arrests can occur and sometimes U.S. citizens have been arrested at the request of business partners who alleged the citizen owed them money. There have also been cases of U.S. citizens falsely accused and arrested for crimes just before their scheduled departure. This is often done in the hope of extorting money from the American citizen who wants to “clear” the charges so that s/he will be allowed to depart the country.

Children’s Issues: A significant number of American prospective adoptive parents have found that Sierra Leonean children offered for adoption are not orphans under U.S. immigration law, which has ultimately resulted in denials of U.S. immigrant visas for children they adopt in Sierra Leonean courts. For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sierra Leone. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets; tel. (232-22) 225-481; fax (232) (22) 225-471. The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at http://freetown.usembassy.gov/.

International Adoption : February 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Under Sierra Leonean law, adoptive parents are currently required to be resident in Sierra Leone for six months and to attend the court hearing for the adoption. Although in the past the High Court of Sierra Leone would sometimes waive either the personal appearance of prospective adoptive parents at adoption proceedings or the six-month residency requirement, this was always at the Court’s discretion and should not be considered the norm. The High Court is currently reviewing its application of the Adoption Act and practices may change without notice.

The U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal issues immigrant visas for Sierra Leonean citizens, including adopted orphans. Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family for details.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs is the government office responsible for overseeing adoptions and child welfare issues in Sierra Leone. The High Court is the only authority in Sierra Leone that can issue an order granting an adoption or legal custody of minor children.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residency Requirements: Adoptive parents are currently required to be resident in Sierra Leone for six months and to attend the court hearing for the adoption.

Time Frame: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court’s processing of adoptions. In the past, U.S. prospective adoptive parents have taken between six months to two years to complete the adoption procedures.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local attorneys. There are no registered adoption agencies in Sierra Leone. There are organizations registered as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that provide assistance to children and facilitate international adoptions. While the Government of Sierra Leone does not have a list of registered NGOs or PVOs, your adoption agency should be able to provide you with copies of a local organization’s registration certificates. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Fees: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Sierra Leone are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees normally are less than U.S. $10. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but prospective adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney. Some adoption agencies charge prospective adoptive parents monthly maintenance fees that can be several hundred dollars per month. While monthly maintenance fees are legal in Sierra Leone, it appears that some local orphanages may have delayed adoption proceedings in order to continue payments of maintenance fees longer than necessary.

Adoption Procedures: Most prospective adoptive parents work through an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Sierra Leone prior to going through the adoption process.

Step 1: To initiate an adoption, an attorney in Sierra Leone sends a letter with relevant documents attached to the Social Development Officer in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in Freetown.

Step 2: After the Social Development Officer approves the prospective adoption the attorney files a petition for adoption with the High Court of the Sierra Leone. The petition usually contains the following information:

  • name, age, residence, and marital status of the petitioners;
  • name, date and place of birth of the child;
  • the date and manner in which the petitioners or orphanage acquired physical custody of the child;
  • facts (if any) that render consent of either birth parent unnecessary;
  • the petitioners’ desire to adopt the child; and
  • the child’s change of name, if any.

Step 3: Following the filing of the petition, the High Court normally serves notice on all interested parties. The High Court may require written consent by the biological parents. Birth parents who have granted consent to the adoption may withdraw this consent at any point during the adoption proceedings, with the High Court’s permission.

Step 4: The High Court may order an investigation by an investigator appointed by the Court.

Step 5: The High Court will schedule a hearing after Steps 3 and 4 are completed to the court’s satisfaction. The High Court currently requires at least one prospect adopting parent and the adoptive children to attend the hearing. The High Court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause and will usually state this in the order of adoption. The High Court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be served by the adoption. While the High Court usually makes a ruling after one hearing, in some cases it will request additional documentation and/or investigation and schedule another hearing. If the High Court approves the adoption, it will issue a court order that either grants a full and final adoption, or authorizes the leave to adopt. There are no fixed time-lines or constraints on the High Court’s processing of adoptions.

Documentary Requirements:

  • Petition for Adoption;
  • Written consent of living biological parents;
  • Affidavits concerning the prospective adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate if appropriate;
  • Evidence of finances such as bank statements and job letters;
  • The High Court may also require additional documentation on a case-by-case basis.

Embassy of Sierra Leone:
1701 19th Street, NW
Washington DC 20009
Telephone: (202) 939-9261
Fax: (202) 483-1793

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone:
Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens
Streets
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Telephone 232 22 226 481
ext 285, 207, 205
E-mail: [email protected]

Mailing Address:
U.S. Embassy
Consular Section
2160 Freetown Place
Washington, DC 20521-2160

Int’l Mailing Address:
Consular Section
American Embassy
P O Box 50
Freetown, Sierra Leone

OR

Consular Section
U.S. Embassy
Corner of Walpole and
Siaka Stevens Streets
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Sierra Leone may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone or the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

SIERRA LEONE

Compiled from the January 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Sierra Leone


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 71,740 sq. km. (29,925 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Cities: Capital—Freetown (est. 550,000). Provincial capitals—Southern Province, Bo; Eastern Province, Kenema; Northern Province, Makeni.

Terrain: Three areas are mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills along the immediate interior, and a mountainous plateau in the interior.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sierra Leonean(s).

Population: (2002 est., no census since 1989) 4.9 million.

Annual growth rate: (2001 est.) 2.4%.

Ethnic groups: Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Krio 1%, balance spread over 15 other tribal groups, and a small Lebanese community.

Religions: (est.) Muslim 60%, Christian 30%, animist 10%.

Languages: English, Krio, Temne, Mende, and 15 other indigenous languages.

Education: (2001) Literacy—36%.

Health: Life expectancy (2001 est.)—34.5 yrs. Access to safe water—57%. Infant mortality rate—182/1,000. Under five mortality—316/1,000.

Work force: Agriculture—67%; industry—15%; services—18%.

Government

Type: Republic with a democratically elected President and Parliament.

Independence: From Britain, April 27, 1961.

Constitution: October 1, 1991.

Political parties: Thirteen political parties contested the 1996 elections. There are now 22 registered political parties. Major parties—All People's Congress (APC), Democratic Center Party (DCP), National Unity Party (NUP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), United National People's Party (UNPP).

Economy

GDP: (2002 est.) $836 million.

GDP growth rate: 6.6%.

GDP Per capita income: $171.

Avg. annual inflation rate: −3.2%.

Natural resources: Diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, platinum and chromite.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm kernels, cassava, bananas, citrus, peanuts, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables. Land—30% potentially arable, 8% cultivated.

Industry: Types—diamonds, bauxite, and rutile mining; forestry; beverages; cigarettes; construction goods; tourism.

Trade: (2002 est.) Exports—$72.5 million: rutile, diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa, fishes. Major markets—U.S., Belgium, Spain, U.K. and other west European nations. Imports—$190 million: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuel and lubricants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building materials, light consumer goods, used clothing, textiles.


PEOPLE

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country.

In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.


HISTORY

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable.

In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa.

Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans—or Krio as they came to be called—were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.

In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well. 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.

The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. Most of the 20th century history of the colony was peaceful, however, and independence was achieved without violence. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister. He became Prime Minister after successful completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton's Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton's death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister.

In closely contested elections in March 1967, the All Peoples Congress (APC) won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) declared Siaka Stevens—APC leader and Mayor of Freetown—as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Margai were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Another group of officers soon staged another coup, only to be later ousted in a third coup, the "sergeants' revolt," and Stevens at last, in April 1968, assumed the office of Prime Minister under the restored constitution. Siaka Stevens remained as head of state until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned.

In August 1985, the APC named military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, Steven's own choice, as the party candidate to succeed Stevens. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In October 1991 Momoh had the constitution amended once again, re-establishing a multi-party system. Under Momoh, APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power. Earlier in 1991, in March, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono district and pushing the Sierra Leone army pack towards Freetown. On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by Capt. Valentine Strasser, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority in Sierra Leone.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh government in repelling the RUF. More and more country fell to RUF fighters, so that by 1995 they held much of the countryside and were on the doorsteps of Freetown. To retrieve the situation, 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.

As a result of popular demand and mounting international pressure, the NPRC agreed to hand over power to a civilian government via presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held in April 1996. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a diplomat who had worked at the UN for more than 20 years, won the presidential election. Because of the prevailing war conditions, parliamentary elections were conducted, for the first time, under the system of proportional representation. Thirteen political parties participated, with the SLPP winning 27 seats, UNPP 17, PDP 12, APC 5 and DCP 3.

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Maj. Johnny

Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kabbah on May 25, 1997, and invited the RUF to join the government. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of President Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. On January 6, 1999, the RUF launched another attempt to over-throw the government. Fighting reached parts of Freetown, leaving thousands dead and wounded. ECOMOG forces drove by the RUF attack several weeks later.

With the assistance of the international community, President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh negotiated the Lome Peace Agreement, which was signed on July 7, 1999. The accord made Sankoh Vice President and gave other RUF members positions in the government. Lome called for an international peacekeeping force run initially by both ECOMOG and the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999, with an initial force of 6,000. ECOMOG forces departed in April 2000. Almost immediately, however, the RUF began to violate the agreement, most notably by holding hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel hostage and capturing their arms and ammunition in the first half of 2000. On May 8, 2000, members of the RUF shot and killed as many as 20 people demonstrating against the RUF violations outside Sankoh's house in Freetown. As a result, Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government.

After the events of May 2000, a new cease-fire was necessary to reinvigo-rate the peace process. This agreement was signed in Abuja in November of that year. However, DDR did not resume, and fighting continued. In late 2000, Guinean forces entered Sierra Leone to attack RUF bases from which attacks had been launched against Liberian dissidents in Guinea. A second Abuja Agreement, in May 2001, set the stage for a resumption of DDR on a wide scale and a significant reduction in hostilities. As disarmament has progressed, the government began to reassert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, some 72,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. On January 18, 2002 President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.

In May 2002 President Kabbah and his party, the SLPP, won landslide victories in the presidential and legislative elections. Kabbah was reelected for a five year term. The RUF political wing, the RUFP, failed to win a single seat in parliament. The elections were marked by irregularities and allegations of fraud, but not to a degree to significantly affect the outcome.

On July 28th, 2002 the British withdrew a 200-man military contingent that had been in country since the summer of 2000, leaving behind a 140-strong military training team to work to professionalize the Sierra Leone army. The Lome Accord called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and facilitate genuine reconciliation. Subsequently, the Sierra Leonean government asked the UN to help set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone, which would try those who "bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996." Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court began operating in the summer of 2002.

In November 2002, UNAMSIL began a gradual reduction from a peak level of 17,500 personnel. Under pressure from the British, the withdrawal slowed, so that by October 2003 the UNAMSIL contingent still stood at 12,000 men. As peaceful conditions continued through 2004, however, UNAMSIL drew down its forces to slightly over 4,000 by December 2004. The UN Security Council extended UNAMSIL's mandate until June 2005 and may extend it one last time until December 2005, when UNAMSIL is expected to complete withdrawal of all troops.

On January 13, 2003 a small group of armed men tried unsuccessfully to break into an armory in Freetown. Former AFRC-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, went into hiding, after being linked to the raid. In March the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its first indictments for war crimes during the civil war. Foday Sankoh, already in custody, was indicted, along with notorious RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, Johnny Paul Koroma, the Minister of Interior and former head of the Civil Defense Force, Hinga Norman, and several others. Norman was arrested when the indictments were announced, while Bockarie and Koroma remained at large (presumably in Liberia). On May 5th Bockarie was killed in Liberia, probably on orders from President Charles Taylor, who expected to be indicted by the Special Court and feared Bockarie's testimony. Several weeks later word filtered out of Liberia that Johnny Paul Koroma had been killed, as well, although his death remains unconfirmed. In June the Special Court announced Taylor's indictment. Sankoh died in prison in Freetown on July 29th from a heart attack. He had been ailing for some time.

In August, 2003 President Kabbah testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his role during the civil war. Instead of acting in a statesman-like, unifying manner, he answered questions in a partisan, defensive style. He blamed the international community for ignoring Sierra Leone during much of the civil war, without acknowledging its assistance in the late 1990s that ended the fighting.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president and a multi-party system of government. Civil rights and religious freedom are respected. A critical press continues to operate, although the government has intervened for alleged inaccurate reporting.

The judicial system continues to function for civil cases but is severely handicapped by shortages of resources and qualified personnel. It is comprised of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and a High Court with judges appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission with the approval of Parliament. There also are magistrate and local courts and from these appeals lie to the superior courts of judicature. The 1991 constitution created an ombudsman responsible for looking into complaints of abuses and capricious acts on the part of public officials. In 2000 the GOSL promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act to combat corruption, which is endemic. As of October 2003, the GOSL had prosecuted only two high-level cases. The basic unit of local government generally is the chiefdom, headed by a paramount chief and council of elders. There also is an elected council and mayor in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/27/02

President: Kabbah , Ahmad Tejan
Vice President: Berewa , Solomon
Min. of Agriculture & Food Security: Mondeh , Sama Sahr, Dr.
Min. of Country Planning, Forestry, Environment, & Social Welfare: Sesay , Alfred Bobson
Min. of Defense: Kabbah , Ahmad Tejan
Min. of Development & Economic Planning: Daramy , Mohamed B.
Min. of Education, Science & Technology: Wurie , Alpha T., Dr.
Min. of Energy & Power: Grant , Emmanuel
Min. of Finance: Dauda , Joseph
Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Koroma , Momodu
Min. of Health & Sanitation: Taylor-Lewis , Agnes, Dr.
Min. of Information & Broadcasting: Kaikai , Septimus
Min. of Internal Affairs: Norman , Sam Hinga
Min. of Justice: Halloway , Eke Ahmed
Min. of Labor, & Industrial Relations, & Social Security: Timbo , Alpha
Min. of Local Government & Community Development: Brima , Sidikie
Min. of Marine Resources: Adams , Okere
Min. of Mineral Resources: Deen , Mohamed Swarray, Alhaji
Min. of Political & Parliamentary Affairs: Thomas , George Banda
Min. of Social Welfare, Gender, & Children's Affairs: Gbujama , Shirley Yema
Min. of Trade & Industry: Sesay , Kadi, Dr.
Min. of Transport & Communications: Harding , Prince A., Dr.
Min. of Works, Housing, & Technical Maintenance: Boima , Caiser J., Dr.
Min. of Youth & Sport: Bright , Dennis, Dr.
Min. of State for Eastern Region: Fillie-Faboe , Sahr Randolph
Min. of State for Northern Region: Kargbo , Alex Alie
Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Yumkella , Foday
Min. of State for Southern Region: Jah , S. U. M.
Attorney General: Halloway , Eke Ahmed
Ambassador to the US: Kamara , Ibrahim M.
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.


ECONOMY

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on the mining sector in general, and diamonds in particular, for its economic base. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of Sierra Leone's formal economy was destroyed in the country's civil war. Since the cessation of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Full recovery to pre-war economic levels will require hundreds of millions of additional dollars and many more years of serious effort by the GOSL and donor governments. Much of Sierra Leone's recovery will depend on the success of GOSL efforts to limit official corruption, which many feel was the chief culprit for the country's descent into civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. Despite the fact that most Sierra Leoneans derive their livelihood from it, agriculture accounts for only 42% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. Also, the government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone's principal foreign exchange earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in this resource, the country has historically struggled to manage its exploitation and export. Annual production estimates range between $250-300 million. However, only a portion of that passes through formal export channels (1999: $1.2 million; 2000: $7 million; 2001: $26 million; 2002: $42 million; 2003: $76 million; 2004: $127 million). The balance is smuggled out, where it is used for money laundering and the financing of other illicit activities. Recent efforts on the part of the country to improve the management of the export trade have met with some success. In October 2000, a new UN-approved export certification system for exporting diamonds from Sierra Leone was put into place that led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the Government of Sierra Leone created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of US and European investors, began commercial mining operations near Bonthe in early 1979. Sierra Rutile was then the largest nonpetroleum U.S. investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million for the country in 1990. The company and the Government of Sierra Leone concluded a new agreement on the terms of the company's concession in Sierra Leone in 1990. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995. In 2003 OPIC agreed to a $25 million guarantee to Sierra Rutile to assist with the re-start of operations, which are expected to resume soon.

Since independence, the Government of Sierra Leone has encouraged foreign investment, although the business climate has been hampered by a shortage of foreign exchange, corruption, and uncertainty resulting from civil conflicts. Investors are protected by an agreement that allows for arbitration under the 1965 World Bank Convention. Legislation provides for transfer of interest, dividends, and capital.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With Liberia and Guinea, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union, primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration. However, the MRU has so far been inactive because of domestic problems and internal and cross-border conflicts in all three countries. The future of the MRU depends on the ability of its members to deal with the fallout from these internal and regional problems.

Sierra Leone continues to rely on significant amounts of foreign assistance, principally from multilateral donors. The bilateral donors include the United States, Italy, and Germany, the largest being the United Kingdom and the European Union.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with the Republics of the former Soviet Union as well as with China, Libya and Iran.

Sierra Leone is a member of the UN and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Mano River Union (MRU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Sierra Leone began with missionary activities in the 19th century. In 1959, the U.S. opened a consulate in Freetown and elevated it to embassy status when Sierra Leone became independent in 1961.

U.S.-Sierra Leone relations today are cordial, with ethnic ties between groups in the two countries receiving increasing historical interest. Many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States.

In fiscal year 2003, total U.S. aid to Sierra Leone in all categories was about $60 million, primarily for relief and basic economic development. U.S. aid also stresses restoration of peace, democracy and human rights, health education, particularly combating HIV/AIDS, and human resources development.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

FREETOWN (E) Address: Siaka Stevens St., Freetown; APO/FPO: 2160 Freetown Pl, Washington, DC 20521-2160; Phone: 232-22-226481; Fax: 232-22-225471; Workweek: M-T 0745-1700, F 0745-1245; Website: http://freetown.usembassy.gov

AMB: Thomas N. Hull III
AMB OMS: Mary Kay Beckwith
DCM: James A. Stewart
POL/ECO: Rachael T. Doherty
CON: Rachael T. Doherty
MGT: Salvatore Piazza
AFSA: Salvatore Piazza
AID: Christine M. Sheckler
DAO: Patricia Parris
ECO: Rachael T. Doherty
FMO: Salvatore Piazza
GSO: James Stover
ICASS Chair: Brian J. Mckenna
IMO: Vella G. Mbenna
ISSO: Nicholas Brashich
PAO: Kevin D. Green
RSO: Jean Richter State
ICASS: Kevin D. Green

Last Updated: 12/21/2004


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 21, 2004

Country Description: Sierra Leone is an impoverished, developing country in western Africa that is emerging from a ten-year civil war. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based dialect, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are primitive or non-existent.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required. Landing visas are available for American citizens for $100 upon arrival at Lungi Airport. However, for ease of travel, visitors are strongly recommended to obtain visas in advance. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) containing evidence of vaccination against yellow fever upon arrival at airport. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Sierra Leone, 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance for departure from Sierra Leone. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist dual U.S.-Sierra Leonean nationals is extremely limited because Sierra Leonean authorities do not recognize dual nationality and view such individuals as solely Sierra Leonean citizens.

Safety and Security: Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of civil war in 2001. Government forces exercise authority throughout Sierra Leone, aided by a large contingent of peace-keepers of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). UNAMSIL is scheduled to reduce to only 3,250 peacekeepers by March 2005 and to withdraw completely by June 2005. As UNAMSIL draws down, Sierra Leone police and army are filling in behind, but without the capacity for equivalent performance. Periodic security incidents are increasing as a result. The Sierra Leone police are working to improve professionalism, capabilities, and training of their modest force, but fall short of American standards in response time, communications, and specialty skills.

Areas outside of Freetown lack most basic services. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially when traveling beyond the capital. Road conditions are hazardous and serious vehicle accidents are common. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone with the exception of Tongo Fields in Kenema District and the area between the Moa River and the border with Liberia. Travel to these areas is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. There are occasional unauthorized roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers may be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans, especially outside the capital, do not speak English, it can be difficult for a foreigner to communicate his or her identity. In the past year, there have been security incidents related to police operations to reclaim land from illegal occupants and to clear streets of petty traders and vendors. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). See the section below on Registration/Embassy Location for more information.

Crime: The continued poor state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for most in Sierra Leone have led many individuals or small groups to turn to criminal activity. Petty crime and theft of wallets, cell phones and passports are very common. There has been a moderate increase in nighttimeburglaries and other criminal incidents. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly if they respond at all. Police response and investigative response rarely provide substantive support to victims. U.S. citizens and other expatriates have experienced harassment, blackmail and shakedowns when dealing with Sierra Leone officials. Corruption and incompetence remain serious problems at all levels within the Government of Sierra Leone. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid being the victims of crimes.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Business Fraud: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Sierra Leone. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. There have been many cases of these scams originating from Sierra Leone.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees.

One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Sierra Leone. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Sierra Leone should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, single copies of the Department of State's brochures Advance Fee Business Schemes and Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria, are available at no charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. These brochures are also available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards in Freetown, and are almost non-existent for all but the most minor of treatments outside of the capital. Persons with medical conditions that may require treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment and administration of improper drugs have been reported.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. This is absolutely essential for travel to Sierra Leone, as medical evacuation companies will not commence an evacuation until after financial compensation has been arranged. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations. American citizens traveling overseas are recommended to leave copies of pertinent insurance information with friends and/or family members who would have easy access to the information in the event of an emergency. This information may also be provided to the Embassy when you register.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Sierra Leone. Chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum malaria is a severe form of the disease that is found in many parts of western Africa, including Sierra Leone. Because travelers to Sierra Leone are at high risk for contracting malaria they should take one of the following anti-malarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate anti-malarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the dis-ease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarials, visit the CDC travelers' health web-site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sierra Leone is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor

Most main roads in Freetown are paved but have potholes; unpaved side streets are generally navigable. There is a major road resurfacing and repair program ongoing in Freetown that is slowly improving the quality of roads in the city. Most roads out-side Freetown are unpaved, and most are passable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. However, certain stretches of mapped road are often impassable during the rainy season. Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, unsafe, and not recommended. U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public transportation except for taxis that work in conjunction with an approved hotel.

Many vehicles on the road in Sierra Leone would be considered unsafe to drive in the United States, and accidents, including multi-vehicle accidents, resulting from the poor condition of these vehicles are common. Many drivers are inexperienced and are often driving without a license or training. Serious accidents are common, especially outside of Freetown where a relative lack of traffic allows for greater speeds. The chance of being involved in an accident increases greatly when traveling at night, and U.S. Embassy officials are not authorized to travel outside of major cities at night.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html.

Air Travel: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra Leone's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The airline SN Brussels operates twice weekly flights to Lungi International Airport. The national airline, Sierra National Airways, operates chartered European aircraft once a week between London and Lungi. Newly opened service, Astreus Airline, operates chartered European aircraft twice a week to London. Some regional airlines service the airport, but are unreliable. Travelers using regional flights are required to pay a $30 airport tax. This tax is not required for SN Brussels, Astreus or SNA flights. It is not uncommon for the airlines to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in, and should be prepared to handle alternate ticketing and/or increased food and lodging expenses.

The airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. Helicopters, ferries, and hovercraft service is available in connection with most major regional flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, due to concerns about safety and maintenance of the helicopters, United States Government employees are currently authorized to use only the Pan African Helicopter Service and the ferry and hovercraft services.

Photography Restrictions: Permission is required to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities. Areas where photography is prohibited may not be clearly marked or defined. Individuals sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission before taking pictures.

Customs Restrictions: Sierra Leone's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Sierra Leone of gems and precious minerals such as diamonds and gold. American travelers have encountered serious difficulties when trying to depart with such items, even if the items were brought into the country by the traveler initially.

All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State and only the government of Sierra Leone can issue mining licenses. The legal authority for the issuance of licenses is vested in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Failure to comply with relevant legislation can lead to serious criminal penalties. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources as follows: The Director of Mines; Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources; Fifth Floor; Yoyo Building; Brookfield's, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Tel: 232-22-240420 or 240176; Fax: 232-22-240574.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sierra Leonean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sierra Leone are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Sierra Leone's judiciary is under-resourced and overburdened. Offenders often must endure lengthy pre-trial or pre-hearing delays and detention. Arbitrary arrests can occur. In past years, U.S. citizens have been arrested at the demand of business partners who alleged the citizen owed them money. There have also been cases of U.S. citizens falsely accused of a crime and arrested just before their scheduled departure from the country. This is often done in the hopes of extorting money from the American citizen who wants to "clear" the charges in order to lift an "immigration departure ban" so s/he can depart the country.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad.

Under the Protection of children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Currency: Sierra Leone is effectively a cash-only economy. Very few facilities accept credit cards, and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATM machines connected to international networks. Travelers' checks are not easy to cash and are not usually accepted as payment. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is risky. Criminals may "mark" such people for future attack and there is a risk of being provided counterfeit currency.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Inter-net site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Sierra Leone. The Embassy is located at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, tel: (232)(22) 226-481, fax (232)(22) 225-471. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown currently provides full consular services to U.S. citizens. The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at http://freetown.usembassy.gov/. The U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, tel: (224) 41-15-20/21/23, ax (224) 41-15-22, provides other routine consular services, such as visa.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family

Disclaimer: The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child in Sierra Leone and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Adoptive parents are required to travel to Sierra Leone to attend the court hearing for the adoption. The old practice of waiving personal appearance of adoptive parents is now ended.

Immigrant visas for Sierra Leonean citizens, including adopted orphans are issued at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Due to a high rate of document and adoption fraud in Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal carefully scrutinizes all immigrant visa petitions. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone will conduct field investigations into the circumstances surrounding the adoption as warranted. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar will return all immigrant visa petitions (I-600s) to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if, after an investigation, the relevant adoption court orders are determined to be fraudulent and/or the prospective adopted children are determined not to be orphans under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Patterns of Immigration of Adopted Orphans to the U.S.: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans.

Fiscal Year: Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
FY 2003: 56
FY 2002: 32
FY 2001: 8
FY 2000: 23
FY 1999: 28

Adoption Authority in Sierra Leone: The government office responsible for adoptions in Sierra Leone is the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs. All petitions for adoptions are filed in the High Court, which issues an adoption court order (a document granting adoption if all legal requirements are met).

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residential Requirements: Adoptive parents using an adoption agency do not need to be resident in Sierra Leone to adopt. However, they must travel to Sierra Leone to attend the court hearing for the adoption. In these cases, the High Court of Sierra Leone grants legal custody to the adopting parents and permission for the child to immigrate to the United States for eventual adoption in a State court. Adoptive parents not using an adoption agency must reside with their prospective adoptive child for 6 months in Sierra Leone.

Time Frame: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court's processing of adoptions.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local solicitors (attorneys). The Embassy does not maintain a list of adoption agencies. The U.S. Embassy also cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or adoption agency.

Adoption Fees in Sierra Leone: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Sierra Leone are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees normally are less than $10 USD. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but the adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney.

Adoption Procedures: Most adoptive parents go through an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an adoption agency in Sierra Leone prior to going through the adoption process. The adoption agency in Sierra Leone must be registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs, and with the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning.

If the adoptive parents do not want to go through an agency, they should write to the Chief Social Development Officer indicating their name and address and period of relationship between them and the child. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Documents Required for Adoption in Sierra Leone: There are no documents required by the laws concerning adoption. Normal paperwork such as a passport, and birth certificate may be needed as required by the court in a case-by-case basis.

  • Petition for Adoption (drafted by an attorney);
  • Written consent of the biological parents acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace);
  • Affidavits (including marriage certificate, bank account and occupation and salary structure) concerning adoptive parents for filing in High Court.

The parents will also need these documents for obtaining an immigrant visa to the U.S. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Authenticating U.S. Documents To Be Used Abroad: Sierra Leone is not a party of the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents, so the Legalization Convention "apostille" certificate should not be used for documents to be presented in Sierra Leone. Instead, the "chain authentication method" will be used to authenticate documents for Sierra Leone. Please visit our Web site at travel.state.gov for additional information about authentication procedures.

Sierra Leone Embassy and Consulate in the United States: 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington DC 20009; Telephone: (202) 939-9261; Fax: (202) 483-1793.

Sierra Leone also has a consulate in New York City.

U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone: As soon as prospective adopting parents arrive in Sierra Leone, they should contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in order to register their presence in Sierra Leone.

The Consulate Section is located at: Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Telephone 232 22 226 481 ext 285, 207, 205; E-mail: [email protected]/Mailing Address: U.S. Embassy; Consular Section; 2160 Freetown Place; Washington, DC 20521-2160. Int'l Mailing Address: Consular Section; American Embassy; P O Box 50; Freetown, Sierra Leone; OR Consular Section; U.S. Embassy; Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets; Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Sierra Leone may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4 th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.

views updated

SIERRA LEONE

Compiled from the September 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Sierra Leone


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

71,740 sq. km. (29,925 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Cities:

Capital—Freetown (est. 550,000). Provincial capitals—Southern Province, Bo; Eastern Province, Kenema; Northern Province, Makeni.

Terrain:

Three areas are mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills along the immediate interior, and a mountainous plateau in the interior.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Sierra Leonean(s).

Population (2002 est., no census since 1989):

4.9 million.

Annual growth rate (2001 est.):

2.4%.

Ethnic groups:

Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Krio 1%, balance spread over 15 other tribal groups, and a small Lebanese community.

Religion:

(est.) Muslim 60%, Christian 30%, animist 10%.

Language:

English, Krio, Temne, Mende, and 15 other indigenous languages.

Education (2001):

Literacy—36%.

Health:

Life expectancy (2001 est.)—34.5 yrs. Access to safe water—57%. Infant mortality rate—182/1,000. Under five mortality—316/1,000.

Work force:

Agriculture—67%; industry—15%; services—18%.

Government

Type:

Republic with a democratically elected President and Parliament.

Independence:

From Britain, April 27, 1961.

Constitution:

October 1, 1991.

Political parties:

Thirteen political parties contested the 1996 elections. There are now 22 registered political parties. Major parties—All People's Congress (APC), Democratic Center Party (DCP), National Unity Party (NUP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), United National People's Party (UNPP).

Economy

GDP (2002 est.):

$836 million.

GDP Growth rate:

6.6%.

GDP per capita income:

$171.

Avg. annual inflation rate:

−3.2%.

Natural resources:

Diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, platinum and chromite.

Agriculture:

Products—coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm kernels, cassava, bananas, citrus, peanuts, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables. Land—30% potentially arable, 8% cultivated.

Industry:

Types—diamonds, bauxite, and rutile mining; forestry; beverages; cigarettes; construction goods; tourism.

Trade (2004 est.):

Exports—$130 million: rutile, diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa, fishes. Major markets—U.S., Belgium, Spain, U.K. and other west European nations. Imports—$350 million: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuel and lubricants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building materials, light consumer goods, used clothing, textiles.


PEOPLE

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country.

In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.


HISTORY

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable.

In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa.

Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans—or Krio as they came to be called—were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.

In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well. 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.

The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. Most of the 20th century history of the colony was peaceful, however, and independence was achieved without violence. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister. He became Prime Minister after successful completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton's Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton's death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister.

In closely contested elections in March 1967, the All Peoples Congress (APC) won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) declared Siaka Stevens—APC leader and Mayor of Freetown—as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Margai were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Another group of officers soon staged another coup, only to be later ousted in a third coup, the "sergeants' revolt," and Stevens at last, in April 1968, assumed the office of Prime Minister under the restored constitution. Siaka Stevens remained as head of state until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned.

In August 1985, the APC named military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, Steven's own choice, as the party candidate to succeed Stevens. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In October 1991 Momoh had the constitution amended once again, re-establishing a multi-party system. Under Momoh, APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power. Earlier in 1991, in March, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono district and pushing the Sierra Leone army pack towards Freetown. On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by Capt. Valentine Strasser, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority in Sierra Leone.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh government in repelling the RUF. More and more country fell to RUF fighters, so that by 1995 they held much of the countryside and were on the doorsteps of Freetown. To retrieve the situation, 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.

As a result of popular demand and mounting international pressure, the NPRC agreed to hand over power to a civilian government via presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held in April 1996. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a diplomat who had worked at the UN for more than 20 years, won the presidential election. Because of the prevailing war conditions, parliamentary elections were conducted, for the first time, under the system of proportional representation. Thirteen political parties participated, with the SLPP winning 27 seats, UNPP 17, PDP 12, APC 5 and DCP 3.

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kabbah on May 25, 1997, and invited the RUF to join the government. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of President Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. On January 6, 1999, the RUF launched another attempt to overthrow the government. Fighting reached parts of Freetown, leaving thousands dead and wounded. ECOMOG forces drove by the RUF attack several weeks later.

With the assistance of the international community, President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh negotiated the Lome Peace Agreement, which was signed on July 7, 1999. The accord made Sankoh Vice President and gave other RUF members positions in the government. Lome called for an international peacekeeping force run initially by both ECOMOG and the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999, with an initial force of 6,000. ECOMOG forces departed in April 2000. Almost immediately, however, the RUF began to violate the agreement, most notably by holding hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel hostage and capturing their arms and ammunition in the first half of 2000. On May 8, 2000, members of the RUF shot and killed as many as 20 people demonstrating against the RUF violations outside Sankoh's house in Freetown. As a result, Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government.

After the events of May 2000, a new cease-fire was necessary to reinvigorate the peace process. This agreement was signed in Abuja in November of that year. However, DDR did not resume, and fighting continued. In late 2000, Guinean forces entered Sierra Leone to attack RUF bases from which attacks had been launched against Liberian dissidents in Guinea. A second Abuja Agreement, in May 2001, set the stage for a resumption of DDR on a wide scale and a significant reduction

in hostilities. As disarmament progressed, the government began to reassert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, some 72,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. On January 18, 2002 President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.

In May 2002 President Kabbah and his party, the SLPP, won landslide victories in the presidential and legislative elections. Kabbah was reelected for a five year term. The RUF political wing, the RUFP, failed to win a single seat in parliament. The elections were marked by irregularities and allegations of fraud, but not to a degree to significantly affect the outcome.

On July 28th, 2002 the British withdrew a 200-man military contingent that had been in country since the summer of 2000, leaving behind a 140-strong military training team to work to professionalize the Sierra Leone army. The Lome Accord called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and facilitate genuine reconciliation. Subsequently, the Sierra Leonean government asked the UN to help set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone, which would try those who "bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996." Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court began operating in the summer of 2002.

In November 2002, UNAMSIL began a gradual reduction from a peak level of 17,500 personnel. Under pressure from the British, the withdrawal slowed, so that by October 2003 the UNAMSIL contingent still stood at 12,000 men. As peaceful conditions continued through 2004, however, UNAMSIL drew down its forces to slightly over 4,000 by December 2004. In June 2005, the UN Security Council extended UNAMSIL's mandate until December 2005.

On January 13, 2003 a small group of armed men tried unsuccessfully to break into an armory in Freetown. Former AFRC-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, went into hiding, after being linked to the raid. In March the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its first indictments for war crimes during the civil war. Foday Sankoh, already in custody, was indicted, along with notorious RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, Johnny Paul Koroma, the Minister of Interior and former head of the Civil Defense Force, Hinga Norman, and several others. Norman was arrested when the indictments were announced, while Bockarie and Koroma remained at large (presumably in Liberia). On May 5th Bockarie was killed in Liberia, probably on orders from President Charles Taylor, who expected to be indicted by the Special Court and feared Bockarie's testimony. Several weeks later word filtered out of Liberia that Johnny Paul Koroma had been killed, as well, although his death remains unconfirmed. In June the Special Court announced Taylor's indictment. Sankoh died in prison in Freetown on July 29th from a heart attack. He had been ailing for some time.

In August, 2003 President Kabbah testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his role during the civil war. Instead of acting in a statesman-like, unifying manner, he answered questions in a partisan, defensive style. He blamed the international community for ignoring Sierra Leone during much of the civil war, without acknowledging its assistance in the late 1990's that ended the fighting.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president and a multi-party system of government. Civil rights and religious freedom are respected. A critical press continues to operate, although the government has intervened for alleged inaccurate reporting.

The judicial system continues to function for civil cases but is severely handicapped by shortages of resources and qualified personnel. It is comprised of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and a High Court with judges appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission with the approval of Parliament. There also are magistrate and local courts and from these appeals lie to the superior courts of judicature. The 1991 constitution created an ombudsman responsible for looking into complaints of abuses and capricious acts on the part of public officials. In 2000 the Government of Sierra Leone promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act to combat corruption, which is endemic. As of October 2003, the Government of Sierra Leone had prosecuted only two high-level cases.

The basic unit of local government generally is the chiefdom, headed by a paramount chief and council of elders. There also is an elected council and mayor in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 9/13/2005

President: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH
Vice President: Solomon BEREWA
Min. of Agriculture & Food Security: Sama Sahr MONDEH
Min. of Country Planning, Forestry, Environment, & Social Welfare: Alfred Bobson SESAY
Min. of Defense: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH
Min. of Development & Economic Planning: Mohamed B. DARAMY
Min. of Education, Science, & Technology: Alpha T. WURIE
Min. of Energy & Power: Lloyd DURING
Min. of Finance: John BENJAMIN
Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Momodu KOROMA
Min. of Health & Sanitation: Agnes TAYLOR-LEWIS, Dr.
Min. of Information & Broadcasting: Septimus KAIKAI
Min. of Internal Affairs: Pascal EGBENDA
Min. of Justice: Eke Ahmed HALLOWAY
Min. of Labor, Industrial Relations, & Social Security: Alpha TIMBO
Min. of Local Government & Community Development: Sidikie BRIMA
Min. of Marine Resources: Chernor JALLOH
Min. of Mineral Resources: Mohamed Swarray DEEN
Min. of Political & Parliamentary Affairs: George Banda THOMAS
Min. of Social Welfare, Gender, & Children's Affairs: Shirley Yema GBUJAMA
Min. of Tourism: Okere ADAMS
Min. of Trade & Industry: Kadi SESAY
Min. of Transport & Communications: Prince A. HARDING
Min. of Works, Housing, & Technical Maintenance: Caiser J. BOIMA
Min. of Youth & Sport: Dennis BRIGHT
Min. of State for Eastern Region: Sahr Randolph FILLIE-FABOE
Min. of State for Northern Region: Alex Alie KARGBO
Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Foday YUMKELLA
Min. of State for Southern Region: S. U. M. JAH
Attorney General: Eke Ahmed HALLOWAY
Governor, Central Bank: James ROGERS
Ambassador to the US: Ibrahim M. KAMARA
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Joe Robert PEMAGBI

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.


ECONOMY

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on the mining sector in general, and diamonds in particular, for its economic base. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of Sierra Leone's formal economy was destroyed in the country's civil war. Since the cessation of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Full recovery to pre-war economic levels will require hundreds of millions of additional dollars and many more years of serious effort by the Government of Sierra Leone and donor governments. Much of Sierra Leone's recovery will depend on the success of Government of Sierra Leone efforts to limit official corruption, which many feel was the chief culprit for the country's descent into civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. Despite the fact that most Sierra Leoneans derive their livelihood from it, agriculture accounts for only 42% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. Also, the government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone's principal foreign exchange earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in this resource, the country has historically struggled to manage its exploitation and export. Annual production estimates range between $250-300 million. However, only a portion of that passes through formal export channels (1999: $1.2 million; 2000: $7 million; 2001: $26 million; 2002: $42 million; 2003: $76 million; 2004: $127 million). The balance is smuggled out, where it is used for money laundering and the financing of other illicit activities. Recent efforts on the part of the country to improve the management of the export trade have met with some success. In October 2000, a new UN-approved export certification system for exporting diamonds from Sierra Leone was put into place that led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the Government of Sierra Leone created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of US and European investors, began commercial mining operations near Bonthe in early 1979. Sierra Rutile was then the largest nonpetroleum U.S. investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million for the country in 1990. The company and the Government of Sierra Leone concluded a new agreement on the terms of the company's concession in Sierra Leone in 1990. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995. In 2003 OPIC agreed to a $25 million guarantee to Sierra Rutile to assist with the re-start of operations, which are expected to resume soon.

Since independence, the Government of Sierra Leone has encouraged foreign investment, although the business climate has been hampered by a shortage of foreign exchange, corruption, and uncertainty resulting from civil conflicts. Investors are protected by an agreement that allows for arbitration under the 1965 World Bank Convention. Legislation provides for transfer of interest, dividends, and capital.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With Liberia and Guinea, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union, primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration. However, the MRU has so far been inactive because of domestic problems and internal and cross-border conflicts in all three countries. The future of the MRU depends on the ability of its members to deal with the fallout from these internal and regional problems.

Sierra Leone continues to rely on significant amounts of foreign assistance, principally from multilateral donors. The bilateral donors include the United States, Italy, and Germany, the largest being the United Kingdom and the European Union.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with the Republics of the former Soviet Union as well as with China, Libya and Iran.

Sierra Leone is a member of the UN and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Mano River Union (MRU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Sierra Leone began with missionary activities in the 19th century. In 1959, the U.S. opened a consulate in Freetown and elevated it to embassy status when Sierra Leone became independent in 1961.

U.S.-Sierra Leone relations today are cordial, with ethnic ties between groups in the two countries receiving increasing historical interest. Many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States.

In fiscal year 2003, total U.S. aid to Sierra Leone in all categories was about $60 million, primarily for relief and basic economic development. U.S. aid also stresses restoration of peace, democracy and human rights, health education, particularly combating HIV/AIDS, and human resources development.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

FREETOWN (E) Address: Siaka Stevens St., Freetown; APO/FPO: 2160 Freetown Pl, Washington, DC 20521-2160; Phone: 232-22-226481; Fax: 232-22-225471; Workweek: M-T 0745-1700, F 0745-1245; Website: http://freetown.usembassy.gov.

AMB:Thomas N. Hull III
AMB OMS:Mary Kay Beckwith
DCM:James A. Stewart
DCM OMS:Kathy Cavanagh
POL/ECO:Rachael T. Doherty
CON:Rachael T. Doherty
MGT:Salvatore Piazza
AFSA:Salvatore Piazza
AID:Christine M. Sheckler
DAO:Patricia Parris
DEA:Sam Gaye-Res Lagos
ECO:Rachael T. Doherty
EEO:Kathy Cavanagh
FMO:Salvatore Piazza
GSO:Jennifer Bah
ICASS Chair:Christine Sheckler
IMO:Joseph J. Hromatka
ISSO:Joseph J. Hromatka
PAO:Brenda C. Soya
RSO:Ezio Veloso
State ICASS:Rachael T. Doherty
Last Updated: 12/23/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 5, 2006

Country Description:

Sierra Leone is an impoverished, developing country in western Africa that is emerging from a ten-year civil war. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based dialect, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are primitive or nonexistent.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport and visa are required. Visas upon landing are available for American citizens for $100 upon arrival at Freetown's Lungi Airport. However, for ease of travel, visitors are strongly recommended to obtain visas in advance. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever. The Embassy of Sierra Leone is located at 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261. The Embassy does not maintain a current website; however, current visa information can be found at the London Sierra Leone High Commission's website at http://www.slhc-uk.org.uk/. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security:

Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of the civil war in 2001. Government forces have taken over responsibility for security throughout the country from United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). The UNAMSIL peace-keeping mission, that once had a peak staffing of 17,000, is scheduled to end in December 2005 and be replaced by UNIOSIL, a peace-building mission. As UNAMSIL has drawn down, Sierra Leone police and army forces have filled in behind, but without the capacity for equivalent performance. Security incidents are increasing as a result. The Sierra Leonean police are working to improve the professionalism, capabilities, and training of their modest force, but fall short of American standards in response time, communications, and specialty skills.

Areas outside of Freetown lack most basic services. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially when traveling beyond the capital. Road conditions are hazardous and serious vehicle accidents are common. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent. There are occasional unauthorized roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers might be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not speak English, especially outside of Freetown, it can be difficult for foreigners to communicate their identity. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone, except in the Eastern Province near Liberia. Travel to this area is reviewed on a case-by-case basis

In the past year, there have been security incidents related to public demonstrations. Widespread discontent with high prices for basic commodities, lack of basic services, and fuel shortages can potentially spawn public demonstrations that may turn violent. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times. There are no known terrorist groups officially operating in the country.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The continued poor state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for most people in Sierra Leone have led many individuals or small groups to turn to crime. There has been an increase in homicide, armed robberies, and residential burglaries. Petty crime and pick pocketing of wallets, cell phones, and passports are very common. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all. Police investigative response rarely provides substantive support to victims. U.S. citizens and other expatriates have experienced harassment, blackmail, and shakedowns when dealing with Sierra Leonean officials. Corruption and incompetence remain serious problems at all levels within the government of Sierra Leone. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid being the victims of crime.

Business fraud is rampant and the perpetrators often target foreigners, including Americans. Schemes previously associated with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Sierra Leone, and pose a danger of grave financial loss. Typically these scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually e-mails) from strangers who promise quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of "advance fees" to be paid, such as fees for legal documents or taxes. Of course, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer's claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorization that drains their accounts, incurs large debts against their credit, and takes their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should carefully check and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. One possible clue to a scam is the telephone number: legitimate businesses provide fixed line numbers, while scams typically use only cell phones.

It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams. The Department of State's brochure Advance Fee Business Scams is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1216.html.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards in Freetown and are almost nonexistent for all but the most minor treatment outside of the capital. Persons with medical conditions that may require treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterile equipment is not a given, and treatment is unreliable. Pharmacies in Sierra Leone rarely carry simple over-the-counter medication, antibiotics, allergy remedies, or malaria prophylaxis. In addition, many local medicines are of low quality. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and the administration of improper drugs have been reported. There is an emergency hospital in Goderich, near Freetown, but the road to the hospital is difficult to traverse, especially during the rainy season. There is no ambulance service in Sierra Leone, and trauma care is extremely limited. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Sierra Leone. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sierra Leone is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Most main roads in Freetown are narrow and paved but have potholes; extremely narrow unpaved side streets are generally navigable. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved and are generally passable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. However, certain stretches of mapped road are often impassable during the rainy season, which usually lasts from May to September. During the rainy season, add several hours to travel time between Freetown and outlying areas. There is a major road repair and resurfacing program going on throughout the country that is slowly improving the quality of roads. Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, unsafe, and not recommended. U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public transportation except for taxis that operate in conjunction with an approved hotel and that are rented on a daily basis.

Many vehicles on the road in Sierra Leone are unsafe and accidents resulting from the poor condition of these vehicles, including multi-vehicle accidents, are common. Many drivers on the road in Sierra Leone are inexperienced and often drive without proper license or training. Serious accidents are common, especially outside of Freetown, where the relative lack of traffic allows for greater speeds. The chance of being involved in an accident increases greatly when traveling at night, and Embassy officials are not authorized to travel outside of major cities at night.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra Leone's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SN Brussels, Bellview, and Astraeus airlines operate flights from Brussels and London to Freetown's Lungi International Airport. Other regional airlines service the airport, but are not always reliable. While SN Brussels and Astraeus flights are exempt, a $30 airport tax is levied on outbound regional flights. It is not uncommon for regional airlines to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in and must be prepared to handle alternate ticketing and/or increased food and lodging expenses.

Lungi airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. There are helicopter, ferry, and hovercraft services in connection with most major flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, the hovercraft suffers frequent breakdowns and the ferry service has frequent delays. Also, the ferry terminal is located in East Freetown, which is periodically off limits to Embassy personnel. Paramount Helicopter service, at a cost of $50 each way, is available, but is used sparingly by Embassy personnel for safety reasons.

Special Circumstances:

Sierra Leone is a cash economy; however, a new anti-money laundering law passed in July 2005 prohibits importing more than $10,000 in cash except through a financial institution. Travelers are advised not to use credit cards in Sierra Leone because very few facilities accept them and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATMs connected to international networks. Travelers' checks are not easy to cash and are not usually accepted as payment; however, there is an American Express travel office in Freetown. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is dangerous because criminals may "mark" such people for future attack and there is the risk of receiving counterfeit currency.

Sierra Leone's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the export of gems and precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. American travelers have encountered serious difficulties when trying to depart Sierra Leone with such items, even if the traveler initially brought them into the country. All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State and only the government of Sierra Leone can issue mining licenses. The legal authority for the issuance of licenses is vested in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Failure to comply with relevant legislation can lead to serious criminal penalties. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources: The Director of Mines, Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, Fifth Floor, Youyi Building, Brookfields, Freetown, Sierra Leone; tel. (232-22) 240-420 or 240-176; fax (232-22) 240-574.

Corruption is widespread in Sierra Leone, including among government officials. Although the Anti-Corruption commission has stepped up efforts to combat official corruption, travelers requesting service from government officials at any level may be asked for bribes. You should report corrupt government officials to the Anti-Corruption Commission at one of the following locations: The Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, 3 Gloucester Street, Freetown; 14a Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown; 37 Kissy Town Road, Bo, Southern Province; Independence Square, Rogbaneh Road, Makeni; tel. (232-22) 229-984 or 227-100 or 221-701; fax (232-22) 221-900; email: [email protected] and [email protected]; www.anticorruptionsl.org/anonymous.html and www.anticorruptionsl.org.

You must obtain official permission to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities. Areas where photography is prohibited may not be clearly marked or defined. People sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission before taking someone's picture.

U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance to depart the country. The U.S. Embassy has very limited ability to assist dual U.S.-Sierra Leonean nationals because local authorities do not recognize dual nationality and view such individuals solely as Sierra Leonean citizens.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sierra Leonean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sierra Leone are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Sierra Leone's judiciary is underfunded and overburdened, and offenders often must endure lengthy pre-trial or pre-hearing delays and detention. Arbitrary arrests can occur and sometimes U.S. citizens have been arrested at the request of business partners who alleged the citizen owed them money. There have also been cases of U.S. citizens falsely accused and arrested for crimes just before their scheduled departure. This is often done in the hope of extorting money from the American citizen who wants to "clear" the charges so that s/he will be allowed to depart the country.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

A significant number of American prospective adoptive parents have found that Sierra Leonean children offered for adoption are not orphans under U.S. immigration law, which has ultimately resulted in denials of U.S. immigrant visas for children they adopt in Sierra Leonean courts. Please refer to the Sierra Leone adoption flyer at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_1475.html for more information.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sierra Leone. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets; tel. (232-22) 225-481; fax (232) (22) 225-471. The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at http://freetown.usembassy.gov/.

International Adoption

April 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child in Sierra Leone and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

Adoptive parents are required to travel to Sierra Leone to attend the court hearing for the adoption. The old practice of waiving personal appearance of adoptive parents has now ended.

Immigrant visas for Sierra Leonean citizens, including adopted orphans are issued at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Due to a high rate of document and adoption fraud in Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal carefully scrutinizes all immigrant visa petitions. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone will conduct field investigations into the circumstances surrounding the adoption as warranted. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar will return all immigrant visa petitions (I-600s) to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if, after an investigation, the relevant adoption court orders are determined to be fraudulent and/or the prospective adopted children are determined not to be orphans under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Patterns of Immigration of Adopted Orphans to the U.S.:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans from Sierra Leone:

Fiscal Year: Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
FY 2004: 39
FY 2003: 56
FY 2002: 32
FY 2001: 8
FY 2000: 23
FY 1999: 28

Adoption Authority in Sierra Leone:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Sierra Leone is the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs. All petitions for adoptions are filed in the High Court, which issues an adoption court order (a document granting adoption if all legal requirements are met).

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents:

Any adult may adopt children. There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.

Residential Requirements:

At least one adopting parent must travel to Sierra Leone to attend the court hearing for the adoption. In these cases, the High Court of Sierra Leone grants legal custody or leave to adopt to the adopting parents and permission for the child to immigrate to the United States for eventual adoption in a State court.

Time Frame:

There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court's processing of adoptions.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local solicitors (attorneys). There are no registered adoption agencies in Sierra Leone. There are organizations registered as non-governmental organizations (NGO) or private voluntary organizations (PVO) that provide assistance to children and facilitate international adoptions. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.

Adoption Fees in Sierra Leone:

Official government fees associated with adoptions in Sierra Leone are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees normally are less than $10 USD. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but the adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney.

Adoption Procedures:

Most adoptive parents go through an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Sierra Leone prior to going through the adoption process. The organization in Sierra Leone must be registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs, and with the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning.

If the adoptive parents do not want to go through a local organization, they should write to the Chief Social Development Officer indicating their name and address and period of relationship between them and the child. Under any scenario, the presence of at least one of the adoptive parents in court during adoption proceedings is now mandatory. In other words, anyone adopting a Sierra Leonean child must make at least one trip to Sierra Leone to appear before the judge. The old practice of waiving personal appearance of adoptive parents has ended.

A petition for the adoption must be filed with the High Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence, and marital status of the petitioners. The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners' desire to adopt the child, and the child's change of name, should also be contained in the petition. The Court will also require written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents is required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent. If the child is 16 years of age or older, only the child must consent to the adoption. Please note that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not consider a person who is 16 years old or older a "child" and therefore they will be ineligible to immigrate to the United States.

Following the filing of the petition, the Court serves notice on all interested parties and orders an investigation by an investigator, who is appointed by the Court. A written report of the investigation must be filed with the Court within 30 days of issuance of the investigation order. Upon receipt of the investigation, the Court schedules the hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. The petitioners and children are required to attend the hearing. The court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause, but this must be stated in the order of adoption. Again, at least one adopting parent must appear in person under current practice. All hearings are confidential and held in closed court. The Court must be satisfied that the "moral and temporal interests" of the child will be served by the adoption. Upon this showing, the court either issues a full and final adoption, or leave to adopt. There are no fixed time-lines or constraints on the Court's processing adoptions.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Documents Required for Adoption in Sierra Leone:

There are no documents required by the laws concerning adoption. Normal paperwork such as a passport and birth certificate may be needed as required by the court in a case-by-case basis.

  • Petition for Adoption (drafted by an attorney);
  • Written consent of the biological parents;
  • Affidavits (including marriage certificate, bank account and occupation and salary structure) concerning adoptive parents for filing in High Court.

Authenticating U.S. Documents to be Used Abroad:

Sierra Leone is not a party of the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents, so the Legalization Convention "apostille" certificate should not be used for documents to be presented in Sierra Leone. Instead, the "chain authentication method" will be used to authenticate documents for Sierra Leone. Visit the State Department website at travel.state.gov for additional information about authentication procedures.

Sierra Leone Embassy and Consulate in the United States:

1701 19th Street, NW,
Washington DC 20009
Telephone: (202) 939-9261
Fax: (202) 483-1793

Sierra Leone also has a consulate in New York City.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone:

Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Telephone 232 22 226 481 ext 285, 207, 205
E-mail: [email protected]

Mailing Address:
U.S. Embassy
Consular Section
2160 Freetown Place
Washington, DC 20521-2160

Int'l Mailing Address:
Consular Section
American Embassy
P O Box 50
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy
Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Additional Information:

Specific questions about adoption in Sierra Leone may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone.

General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.

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SIERRA LEONE

Republic of Sierra Leone

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Sierra Leone is located in West Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, with an area of 71,740 square kilometers (27,925 square miles) and a total coastline of 402 kilometers (250 miles). The country shares a border with Guinea in the north and east and with Liberia in the southeast. In comparative terms, Sierra Leone is in area about half the size of the U.S. state of Illinois. Freetown, the capital city, is located in the western part of the country.

POPULATION.

The population of Sierra Leone was estimated in 2000 to be roughly 5.2 million. Exact figures for the country are impossible to find because a civil war has ravaged the country since 1991. Since the beginning of the war, it is estimated that some 2.5 million people have been displaced as refugees, mostly to Guinea and Liberia. Sierra Leone has an annual population growth rate of 3.6 percent, a birth rate of 45.6 per 1,000, and a death rate of 19.58 per 1,000, according to 2000 estimates.

Most of the population (99 percent) is of indigenous African descent. There are roughly 18 different native African ethnic groups. The largest, the Mendes and the Temnes, each make up roughly 30 percent of the entire population. The other groups account for about 39 percent, with the Krio (or Creole), Lebanese, and Indians making up about 1 percent. The Krio are descendants of freed slaves from Britain, North America, the Caribbean and re-captives from slave ships, who were settled in Freetown when it became a British colony in 1808.

Although English is the official language, it is only spoken by government officials and a limited number of educated Sierra Leoneans. Mende and Temne are spoken in the south and north, respectively. Krio, a mix of English and African languages, is spoken by the Krio, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the population. Although a small percentage of the population speaks Krio, the language is understood by an estimated 95 percent of the population, according to the World Factbook.

The population of Freetown was estimated at over 1.2 million in 1994. Many rural people fled to the city to escape the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) that is responsible for a campaign of terror involving hundreds of random amputations (cutting off of hands, legs, ears, etc.), rapes, murders, and lootings.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Sierra Leone is an extremely impoverished country with an economy primarily based on agriculture and mining. Although the country is richly endowed with natural resources and mineralsespecially diamondsa decade-long civil conflict has brought most production to a near standstill. Sierra Leone has large areas of fertile land, but the vast majority of farmers engage only in subsistence farming . Of the cash crop agricultural production that continues during the internal conflict, the most significant products are palm kernels, palm oil, cocoa and coffee, and food crops including rice (the main food crop), cassava, corn, millet, and peanuts.

Sierra Leone has vast deposits of diamonds, gold, ru-tile, and bauxite. Diamonds make up the country's principal export. However, diamonds have become more of a curse than a blessing for Sierra Leone. The civil war that has been raging for the past 10 years has mainly been a struggle for control of the diamond fields. Illicit diamond mining has provided money for the rebels to continue the war, and has made it difficult to realize peace in the country.

The country's economy has been steadily declining since the 1960s, with severe stagnation and recession since the early 1980s. Between 1980 and 1990, the World Bank put the country's average GDP growth rate at 0.6 percent, decreasing to-3.3 percent between 1990 and 1996, and falling to-3.6 percent in 1996. The civil war is the main reason for the steady decline. Although a brief ceasefire in the late 1990s brought hope to the economy, the resumption of fighting by 1999 caused more damage to the country. The World Factbook estimated that gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity was US$2.7 billion in 2000. The disruption of the war has reduced Sierra Leone to one of the poorest countries in the world.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Sierra Leone gained its independence on 27 April 1961 as a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth. When its first leader, Sir Milton Margai, passed away in 1964, the competitive political struggles between the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) led by Albert Margai, and the All People's Congress (APC) led by Siaka Stevens, heightened the ethnic cleavages (divisions) within the country. Since independence, the recurrent political divide has been expressed regionally in the Krio descendants of the original Freetown settlers and the indigenous people of the hinterland (interior of the country); the Temne-dominated northern province and the Mende-dominated region of the southeast; an economically powerful immigrant Lebanese and Afro-Lebanese group and the indigenes; and a traditional group of native rulers and a modern, mostly urban, Western-educated elite.

The SLPP held power until the general elections of 1967, which were won by the APC. The 1967 coup d'état (take-over of the government), however, prevented the APC from governing until April 1968 when a counter-coup restored civilian rule. In 1971, Sierra Leone was proclaimed a republic and a new republican constitution was adopted in which the head of state, Siaka Stevens, became executive president. In a new constitution adopted in 1978, Sierra Leone became a 1-party state, although it had been in practice a 1-party state as far back as 1973. In 1985, Siaka Stevens handed over power to the commander of the armed forces, Major-General Joseph Momoh.

As president, Joseph Momoh initially announced sweeping reforms. He also implemented IMF donor prescriptions (policies and regulations) aimed at privatization , attracting foreign investments, and urging more efficient domestic revenue collection. He worked with the IMF to resume stabilization (efforts to strengthen the economy) programs that had been interrupted during the Siaka Stevens regime. Other changes targeted the export of gold, diamonds, and fish products, which severely undermined the privileged position of Lebanese and Afro-Lebanese merchants who had long monopolized these economic activities. For example, foreign firms like LIAT Construction and Finance Corporation were given the authority to redirect production and profits through the formal (legal) economy to the benefit of the entire nation. The Lebanese population and politicians engaged in private mining of diamonds were discouraged from doing so through tougher restrictions and laws. Tougher laws such as longer prison sentences and stiff fines were also passed to curb smuggling of minerals, as well as more vigorous searches by customs officers at airports and at border crossings. The aim was to increase revenue collection by the government, and end the dominance of the informal (illegal) economy of smuggling, corruption, and private mining of minerals by influential groups in the country.

During the early years of President Momoh's tenure, he seemed to have ensured government control of the economy, especially in the area of diamonds. For example, in 1986-87, official diamond exports were 280 percent higher than 1985-86 figures. Similarly, foreign reserve holdings of the Bank of Sierra Leone rose to $7.6 million by the end of 1986, from a mere $196,000 in November 1985 when Momoh assumed the presidency.

The sweeping economic reforms angered the influential business community and resulted in an attempted coup in March 1987. Perhaps due to the fear of another coup attempt, the enforcement of drastic economic reforms slowed down after March 1987. A financial crisis in the 1980s, coupled with misrule and government corruption, as well as the difficulties caused by the effects of a civil war in neighboring Liberia, led to a coup d'état in April 1992. The coup was led by a group of young army officers, who selected 27-year old Captain Valentine Strasser to be the head of state. Captain Strasser led the country's Military Supreme Council of State until he was deposed in January 1996 because of his opposition to national elections that would hand over power to a civilian government.

Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP won the elections held in February 1996 and set about forming a government of national unity. Another coup in 1997 overthrew the elected government, which went into exile in Guinea. The rebels then controlled the country until 1998, when the elected government was returned to power with the help of armed forces from Nigeria. Although a peace agreement was signed between the warring parties in 1999, fighting continues between the government and the rebels.

Corruption at all levels has destroyed the effectiveness of taxation in Sierra Leone. Individuals with strong ties to politicians often evade taxationthey end up not paying taxes either because they bribe the tax officials or threaten them with loss of their jobs. The strong political, economic, and ethnic ties based on favoritism, bribery, and corruption, among top members of the ruling political party use up state resources and thereby deprive the bureaucracies of funds for national development. According to William Reno in his book Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone, President Stevens is said to have used up to 70 percent of state revenues for "preferred (untaxed) concessions in diamond mining areas to political allies who were essential to his effort to resist local demands for greater revenue allocations."

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

The civil war has disrupted any improvements to the country's infrastructure for nearly a decade. The road system is in serious need of repair, as the lack of resources has led to neglect. The small railway system is used very infrequently because the mines it leads to have been closed. Air transport in Sierra Leone is focused on the International Airport at Lungi, which, prior to the war, served many airlines, such as KLM, British Airways, and the regional airlines.

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Sierra Leone 4 253 13 0.0 0 0.5 N/A 0.14 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Cote d'Ivoire 17 164 70 0.0 6 N/A 3.6 0.25 20
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Electricity supply is very unreliable in Freetown. There are constant outages as the old generators break down. However, it is estimated that the nearly-completed Bumbuna hydroelectric power project will be capable of providing electricity to most of the country. Its completion is dependent on the end of the war.

Sierra Leone's ports have provided important access to trade. The Port of Freetown has been an important center of trade for many countries. The natural harbor at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River is one of the world's finest; it affords 21 square kilometers (8 square miles) of anchorage for large ships. Bonthe and Pepel are 2 additional ports used in the export of goods.

The telephone system in Sierra Leone is not an advanced or extensive system. In 1997, Sierra Leone had roughly 17,000 main telephone lines in use, and in 1999 there were 650 mobile telephones. The telephone system was enhanced by a satellite earth station which offered up to 70 channels. Despite the limited resources available, Sierra Leone has made considerable progress in expanding its links with neighboring countries through the Pan-African Telecommunications Network (PANAFTEL) since independence. External services are handled by Sierra Leone External Telecommunications Services (SLET).

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Sierra Leone, since the mid-1980s, has been considered by the United Nations as the country most seriously affected by adverse economic conditions. Sierra Leone is virtually a failed state characterized by a severe decline in educational, health, transportation, and other services.

The private sector dominates the country's free market economy, with subsistence agriculture contributing the most. Agriculture made up the greatest portion of GDP in 1999: 43 percent, according to the World Fact-book. The country could be self-sufficient in foodstuffs, but the destabilizing effects of the civil war has driven most farmers of cash crops from the land.

Diamond mining is the nation's most important source of foreign currency, but its percentage contribution to total foreign earnings has declined from 65 percent in the mid-1970s to less than 20 percent in the 1990s. The decline is the result of a combination of smuggling, unfavorable prices for developing country commodities, depletion of resources, and the effects of the war. The World Factbook reported that industry contributed 26 percent of GDP in 1999 and services contributed 31 percent.

AGRICULTURE

Since over 60 percent of the population of Sierra Leone is usually engaged in agriculture, during the 1970s efforts were made by the government to increase productivity in food crops and achieve self-sufficiency, especially in rice production. However, the government's emphasis on cash crops, and overall poor agricultural planning tends to relegate agriculture to a secondary role. Rice accounts for approximately 40 percent of the value of the output of food crops. Other food crops include cassava, millet, sorghum, peanuts, beans, and corn, among others. Livestock (cattle, goats, and sheep) and fishing are also of importance to the economy.

According to Background to Sierra Leone, a 1980 publication of the Sierra Leone government, agricultural development was a priority in the 1970s. Accordingly, the government launched a series of Integrated Agricultural Development Projects (IADPs) aimed at maximizing agricultural production in individual regions of the country. The projects included a detailed study of a region's agricultural need and potential, as well as assistance to small farmers. Farmers were encouraged to use fertilizers and equipment together with advice on improved methods of cultivation. However, the economic dislocation of the 1980s, coupled with the war of the 1990s, have effectively undermined progress in agricultural development. Little has been done to improve the sector at the beginning of 2000.

INDUSTRY

MINING. Sierra Leone is endowed with many mineral resources. Prospects for minerals began in 1926 and reserves of iron, gold, diamonds, platinum, chromite, bauxite, and rutile (a titanium ore) were quickly found. The first diamond was discovered in 1930 and mining began 2 years later. Bauxite mining began in 1963 and reserves are estimated at nearly 50 million tons with a high alumina content of 55 to 56 percent. Exploitation of the estimated 170 million tons of rutile started in 1967. The country has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. At the height of production in the 1970s, Sierra Leone was ranked as the fourth largest producer of gem diamonds in the world.

The country's civil unrest has caused serious problems in the mining sector. All mining permissions have been suspended since January 2000. Although diamonds and rutile have historically played major roles in Sierra Leone's economy, the war has caused legitimate mining production to virtually cease and has increased smuggling of diamonds from the country. In addition, the exploration of potentially valuable amounts of gold and bauxite in the country has been interrupted.

MANUFACTURING.

Sierra Leone's manufacturing sector is one of the smallest in all of Africa. Manufacturing industries are very few and still in a stage of infancy in Sierra Leone due to the lack of financial support available during the civil strife. The manufacturing businesses are mainly raw materials processors and light manufacturers for the domestic market. Items processed are mostly palm kernels and rice. Other manufacturing industries produce a variety of goods including salt, knitwear and other clothing, paint, oxygen, plastic footwear, nails, soap and cosmetics, and a wide range of furniture. Sierra Leone also has a refinery for imported petroleum. The continuing trouble in this sector is indicated in the small number of new manufacturing businesses that opened recently. In 1998, only 0.5 percent of the country's new businesses were involved in manufacturing or construction, according to the Sierra Leone News Agency.

SERVICES

TOURISM.

Prior to the outbreak of the war in 1991, serious tourist development took place. The center of attraction was the Cape Sierra district bordered by Lumley Beach. Many modern hotels catered to the tourist population. In 1978, the Bintumani Hotel was built, equipped with 300 beds and a conference center. The Cape Sierra Hotel and the Mammy Yoko Hotel are also located in the Lumley Beach area. Within the city, the main hotels are Brookfields and the Paramount. However, many of these hotels have been damaged by the war or have been transformed as lodgings for soldiers.

Sierra Leone is also home to historic Bunce Island, once a slave trading post. Freetown itself is part of the Freetown Peninsula endowed with unspoiled beaches, nature trails, and historic buildings. The number of tourists has been dramatically reduced because of the war.

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

Sierra Leone was chosen as the site for the West African Clearing House, which was established in Freetown in 1975. Banking was first introduced to the country in 1898 by the then Bank of West Africa, which later became the Standard Bank of Sierra Leone. It was followed in 1917 by Barclays. The nation's first indigenous commercial bank, the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Ltd., was opened in 1973 and is entirely government-owned. Sierra Leone's banking system is supervised by the Bank of Sierra Leone, which serves as the central bank and therefore controls, maintains, and regulates the nation's money supply and foreign reserves.

Of major importance to the nation's economic growth is the National Development Bank, founded in 1968. Its function is to provide finance in the form of loans or equity capital to many development projects in agriculture, agro-based industry, and industry. However, the ongoing civil strife, especially the 1997 coup d'état that toppled the civilian government of President Tejan Kabbah, seriously dislocated these financial services. Barclays Bank, for example, ceased operations in the country, and the Treasury Building was severely damaged by fire.

RETAIL.

Sierra Leone is a land of petty traders and street hawkers . Many indigenous people engage in retail with items as varied as food commodities, clothing, and building materials, among others. According to Background to Sierra Leone, over 8 percent of the country's working population is engaged in retail and wholesale distribution.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Over the years, the value of Sierra Leone's exports has steadily declined as the value of imports has risen, forcing the country to bear the burden of an increasing trade deficit . In 1998 exports were valued at $17 million, and imports totaled $92 million. The World Fact-book estimated that exports had increased to US$65

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Sierra Leone
Exports Imports
1975 .118 .185
1980 .224 .427
1985 .130 .151
1990 .138 .149
1995 .025 .135
1998 N/A .095
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

million and imports to US$145 million by 2000. Chief trading partners for exports are the United States, Britain, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. Leading sources for imports are the United States, Britain, Italy, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and Germany. Despite some successful efforts to increase the output of agricultural productivity and diversify exports, Sierra Leone's balance of visible trade has still been unfavorable. The balance of trade has also suffered from an increase in short-term debts, and the deterioration of terms of trade related to the sharp increases in the price of petroleum products and manufactured goods from the industrial world. These increases exceeded those of agricultural produce, diamonds, and bauxite.

Prior to the war, the domestic market was favored by the growing tourist trade, while the policy of non-discriminatory tariffs served the interests of consumers by keeping prices relatively low. The National Trading Company set up in 1971 with government financial assistance, also ensured the maintenance of competitive prices on the home market, and the promotion of indigenous enterprise in commerce.

MONEY

The value of the leone has been declining since the early 1980s. The leone was formerly linked to the pound sterling. Its value is now determined largely by the export earnings of the country. Since the country does not earn a great deal from its external trade, the IMF and the World Bank constantly encourage the country to reduce government spending in order to maintain a balanced budget. The Sierra Leone economy has undergone several IMF economic and financial policies aimed at improving the value of the leone in relation to other currencies of the world. A stronger leone is supposed to translate into a stronger economy. However, the outcome has often been high inflation (a weak currency in terms of exchange rates ) and a great deal of leone fluctuations, mostly downwards.

Exchange rates: Sierra Leone
leones (Le) per US$1
Jan 2001 1,653.39
2000 2,092.13
1999 1,804.20
1998 1,563.62
1997 981.48
1996 920.73
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Sierra Leone 316 320 279 279 150
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Sierra Leone, like many developing states, is a land of gaping inequalities where national income is concerned. According to The World Development Report, 1999-2000, in 1989 the richest 10 percent of the population had 43.6 percent of the national income, whilst the poorest 20 percent of the population had 1.1 percent of the national income. The access to national income and resources tends to be heavily weighted in favor of ruling party leaders, cabinet ministers, and those with political ties to the president.

According to Earl Conteh-Morgan and Mac Dixon-Fyle, authors of Sierra Leone at the End of the Twentieth Century, by the mid-1980s, the level of poverty in the country was such that "state hospitals and clinics suffered heavily through a lack of supplies, modern equipment, and motivated employees. This sector also suffered nonpayment of inadequate government salaries. The consequence was that many officials were forced to corruption diverting drugs and medical equipment or putting them into private use." In other words, Sierra Leone, by the mid-1980s was already a failed state. Central government ministers and bureaucracies simply centralized and monopolized important functions, and thereby public revenues. In the process, they deprived the local authorities of adequate revenues and responsibilities necessary

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Sierra Leone
Lowest 10% 0.5
Lowest 20% 1.1
Second 20% 2.0
Third 20% 9.8
Fourth 20% 23.7
Highest 20% 63.4
Highest 10% 43.6
Survey year: 1989
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Sierra Leone 47 9 9 3 13 8 12
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Liberia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

to nurture grassroots local development and a democratic culture. The lack of funds and the continued centralization of authority by the central government meant that such basic but necessary functions as garbage collection, maintenance of public toilets, and supervision and maintenance of public markets, were eventually abandoned. Even Freetown, the capital, suffered a decrease in the scope of service deliveries. In the 1980s, it was described by many observers as increasingly developing into overgrown and overcrowded shantytowns with crumbling buildings, open drains, and deteriorating, chaotic roads.

By the late 1980s and long before the eruption of civil strife, political and economic deterioration in Sierra Leone had become extreme. Between 1980 and 1985 incomes per capita declined by an average of roughly 6 percent per annum. The inflation rate reached 80 percent by the end of the 1980s. Loss of morale and significant economic deprivation was the consequence for government workers, teachers, and others dependent on government salaries. Often deprived of salaries for months on end, many resorted to informal economic activities as a way to supplement their meager or nonexistent incomes. The most popular form of economic activity became petty trading for the mass of people, and the more influential obtained import licenses and involved their relatives in trading activities. Private vehicles were often used for commercial purposes, either as taxis or to transport goods.

Deterioration and dilapidation was not just confined to the roads and streets, but were found in the classrooms as well. Teachers lacked even chalk for writing on the board. Windows, roofs, and furniture not only deteriorated, but were, in many schools, absent. As a result, the quality of education decreased substantially from the primary level to college. The consequence for higher education has been a massive brain drain of lecturers and school teachers to neighboring African states, to international organizations, and to the West.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Since the early 1980s, the Sierra Leone labor force has been shrinking due to a combination of factors such as worsening economic conditions that affected most developing countries in the 1980s, the decline in the price of raw materials in the world market, misrule in the form of embezzlement of funds by government officials, and the effects of IMF conditions such as the freeze on hiring and the laying off of thousands of civil servants, in order to reduce the size of government.

In 1981, before the downward slide into massive unemployment, the country had an estimated 1.369 million workers with most found in agriculture (65 percent), followed by industry (19 percent), and services (16 percent). However, in 1985 there were only 65,000 wage earners. The struggle for good working conditions by trade union activists has been an integral part of relations between government and labor. Trade unionism began in Sierra Leone as early as 1914 with the formation of a union among temporary customs workers. In 1971 an act of Parliament guaranteed the right of workers to industrial action upon due notification. According to law, minimum pay rates and maximum hours should be regulated every 2 years and the government is committed to upholding the right of workers to form unions and bargain for better pay and good working conditions. Politicians have often undermined the effectiveness of labor unions through co-optation of the leadersbribing the leaders, or enticing them with better job offers, so that they drop their demands for pay raises and better working conditions. In the early 1980s, for example, both the leaders of the Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC), and the president of the Sierra Leone Teachers' Union (SLTU) were appointed members of parliament in order to separate them from the unions, which would, in turn, end their activism. Working conditions are still far from ideal. Government employees get meager salaries, and often go unpaid for several months. The uncertainty of government jobs means that many workers engage in petty trading in order to survive.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1495. Portuguese establish a fort on the site of modern Freetown, a base for traders in gold, ivory, pepper, and slaves.

1672. British Royal African Company establishes 2 trading depots, 1 on Bunce Island and 1 on York Island.

1787. The first settlers (freed slaves) arrive from Britain and establish a self-governing "Province of Freedom."

1808. Freetown becomes a British colony.

1896. The British impose a protectorate on the hinter-land of the country (the interior of the country was declared an overseas territory of the British Crown).

1926. Prospecting for minerals starts, and by 1930 employs over 16,000 workers.

1949. Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) set up to exert government control over agricultural marketing and production.

1960. Development of Industries Act passes as a result of the government's construction of the Wellington Industrial Estate in the suburbs of Freetown.

1961. Sierra Leone becomes an independent nation within the British Commonwealth.

1963. Central Bank of Sierra Leone set up.

1971. Sierra Leone becomes a republic, casting off the last vestige of colonialism, with Siaka Stevens as the first executive president.

1978. Sierra Leone becomes a republican 1-party state on 14 June 1978, with the All People's Congress (APC) as the sole party.

1980s. The continent-wide African economic crisis affects Sierra Leone, adversely resulting in high inflation and chronic unemployment.

1991. The internal economic dislocation (massive unemployment and high inflation), coupled with the spillover of the Liberian civil war, plunges Sierra Leone into civil strife perpetuated by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.

1999. The RUF and the Sierra Leone government sign the Lome Peace Accord that allows the deployment of over 12,000 UN peacekeeping troops in the country.

2000. Despite the peace accord, internal fighting continues.

FUTURE TRENDS

Sierra Leone entered the last decade of the 20th century as a failed state, culminating in the outbreak of civil strife in 1991. The anarchy has resulted in massive suffering, displacement of people, and deaths in the hundreds of thousands. However, if the Lome Peace Accord is successfully implemented and future governments manage the mineral and agricultural wealth of the country wisely, Sierra Leone could become another Singapore. Britain is currently engaged in training a new army and a new police force for the country. Although the United Nations' peacekeeping operation has experienced some difficulties, including some of their troops being taken hostage by rebels, it is still hoped that the peacekeeping mission will help to bring an end to the civil strife.

DEPENDENCIES

Sierra Leone has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Background to Sierra Leone. Freetown: State House, 1980.

Conteh-Morgan, Earl, and Mac Dixon-Fyle. Sierra Leone at the End of the Twentieth Century: History, Politics, and Society. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Human Rights Watch. <http://www.hrw.org>. Accessed December 2000.

Reno, William. Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Sierra Leone News Agency (SLNA). Business Page: Trade and Industry Overview. <http://www.sierra-leone.gov.sl/business/trade_overview1.htm>. Accessed October 2001.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Background Paper on Refugees and Asylum Seekers From Sierra Leone. Geneva: UNHCR, 1998.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed October 2001.

Earl Conteh-Morgan

CAPITAL:

Freetown.

MONETARY UNIT:

Leone (Le). One leone equals 100 cents. Leone notes are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000. Coins are in denominations of Le50 and 100.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$2.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$65 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$145 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

views updated

SIERRA LEONE

Republic of Sierra Leone

Major City:
Freetown

Other Cities:
Bo, Kenema, Makeni

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Sierra Leone. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

SIERRA LEONE means "The Lion Mountains," translated from the Portuguese. The name was given by Portuguese navigator Pedro da Cintra in 1462 to describe the spectacular mountain crests rising 3,000 feet from the sea on the peninsula where Freetown was later established.

The colony at Freetown was founded in 1787 by British philanthropists as a haven for about 400 freed slaves. These settlers were later joined by blacks from the New World; many were American slaves who fought with the British during the Revolutionary War. Other settlers were Africans freed by the British Navy from slave ships captured on the open seas. These "recaptives" came from nearly every ethnic group on or near the Atlantic coast of the African continent, and occasionally from beyond. Thus, the colony was a major melting pot in which European, North American, and West Indian influences mixed with those of various African cultures. This mixture eventually amalgamated into a single society collectively known as Creole.

The settlement became a British crown colony in 1808. Four years before the turn of the 20th century, the British Government declared a protectorate over the hinterland area, and defined the frontiers with Guinea and Liberia. During the 1950s people from all over the country rushed to diamond-producing areas to look for wealth. These efforts helped to spread the wealth throughout the country as never before.

Sierra Leone became independent in 1961, and a republic in 1971. Today it is a nation where modern Western features blend with historic Creole and tribal cultures. This aggregation of Western, African and Victorian English cultures results in a society that is comfortably familiar yet delightfully foreign to the Westerner, while the vibrancy and conviviality of the people make a stay here stimulating and enjoyable.

MAJOR CITY

Freetown

Historic Freetown, with its busy port and unspoiled beaches, is a picturesque city. It is situated on the slopes of wooded hillsunusual on the west coast of Africaand overlooks one of the world's most magnificent harbors. From 1808 to 1874, Freetown was the capital of British West Africa.

The city's architecture is a combination of modern buildings and those of 19th-century style, typified in small, wood-gabled and latticed houses. At the hub of the city is the great Cotton Tree, already a landmark when the first Creole settlers arrived in 1787. Freetown is located at the northern tip of the country's Western Province, four miles from the mouth of the Sierra Leone River. It has a population of approximately 1 million.

For a city of its size in Africa, Freetown is unexpectedly Western in character. There are several good hotels, an international airport offering a variety of services, a university, a sports stadium, churches, six large grocery stores, car-rental facilities, several banks, and 15 foreign embassies.

Education

An American school was opened in September 1986 to serve the needs of Freetown's international community. The American International School of Freetown (AISF) is a private, coeducational, day school offering an educational program from pre-kindergarten through grade eight to students of all nationalities. It is housed in a modern, air conditioned building of eight classrooms, a 6,000-volume library, and two administrative offices.

A.I.S.F. follows a modified American curriculum stressing the mastery of basic skills, art and science, and the fostering of basic creativity. Critical thinking is emphasized, and the small classroom size allows the school to respond flexibly to individual needs. Although the school serves a diverse international student body, the curriculum is essentially U.S. based, and most of the texts and materials are published in the U.S. Extracurricular activities include gymnastics, swimming, school newspaper, and various field trips. The school year is divided into two semesters. It begins in early September and ends in mid-June. Holidays are scheduled at Christmas and Easter. Space is limited, particularly in the two nursery classes, which accept students once they have reached their third birthday. Prospective parents are advised to contact the school in advance. The mailing address of the American International School is c/o U.S. Embassy, Walpole Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone. U.S. mail may be addressed in care of U.S. EmbassyFreetown, Sierra Leone, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-2160.

There is no adequate provision for education of children beyond grade eight. Expatriates generally send their children to boarding schools for secondary education, either in Europe or the U.S. No schools are equipped to meet special educational needs. Tutors have been found in the past among the missionary of American community to assist children with reading problems or to give limited outside instruction.

Several American families send their children to the French School, which has grades kindergarten through six. This small school, run by a local board of parents and teachers, follows the French national curriculum. Children under the age of seven may enter the school with no French language ability; older children are required to have some prior knowledge of the language.

Additionally, there is the small primary school located at the Fourah Bay College, offering somewhat comparable standards of education to those of the British primary system, and the large Lebanese-sup-ported school which, while primarily focused on the Lebanese community's educational requirements, maintains a curriculum which follows the U.K. standard of primary and secondary education. Both schools are multinational in character, with the Lebanese school more formally structured.

These schools often have waiting lists. Tentative reservations can be made for incoming children, but it is usually more satisfactory to wait until after arrival to make final placement decisions. The caliber of schools fluctuates with staff changes, and the "best" school varies according to the individual child and family.

Few foreign children attend Freetown secondary (high) schools. Those who do find the experience more valid cross-culturally than academically. Admission to secondary school (usually at age 11, but sometimes as early as 10) is based on results of the Selective Entrance Examination given every March to all students in primary classes six and seven. However, foreign students who have not taken the exam can apply for direct admission. Most secondary schools have five forms (through the British Ordinary Level Examination), although a few offer the sixth form (Advanced Level Examination).

Some junior and senior high school expatriates have used correspondence work from the Calvert School (grades seven and eight) and the University of Nebraska (grades nine and above). This has been satisfactory academically, but of mixed benefit socially. The expatriate peer group is always small, and sometimes nonexistent, and it is difficult to make friends with local teenagers outside of a classroom situation. Boarding schools are strongly advised for this age group.

Piano teachers are available in Freetown although pianos are scarce. Because of the climate, it is best not to bring a piano or string instrument to Sierra Leone; if shipped, it should be tropicalized beforehand. Ballet lessons for young girls are given at the International School, and karate lessons are given for boys. French lessons are offered at the Alliance Française; adults can also take courses at Fourah Bay College, either on a special or full-time basis.

The Kabala Rupp Memorial School, a coeducational, boarding, church-related institution, is located in the northern town of Kabala. Founded in 1957, the school is sponsored by the American Wesleyan Mission, the Missionary Church, Inc., and United Brethren in Christ. The U.S. curriculum for grades one through nine is taught by a staff of American teachers to a student body comprised mostly of Americans. Facilities include four buildings, three classrooms, an auditorium, covered play area, playing field, cafeteria, dormitory, and a 3,000-volume library. The mailing address of the Kabala Rupp Memorial School is Box 28, Kabala, Sierra Leone, West Africa. U.S. mail may be addressed in care of The Missionary Church, 3901 South Wayne Avenue, Fort Wayne, IN, 46807, U.S.A.

Recreation

Freetown offers increasingly better recreational opportunities as new facilities are added. The Siaka Stevens Stadium, named for the country's former president, is one of Africa's largest sports complexes, and is a center for a variety of activities. Tennis, squash, and golf all are popular in the area. The Freetown Golf Club has a 12-hole course with sand greens (playable most of the year), squash and tennis courts, and a modest clubhouse. The Hill Station Club has tennis courts, and an active social program. At the Aqua Sports Club, there is a marina, a saltwater pool, squash courts, and a clubhouse and bar. Membership is required at these clubs, but fees are reasonable.

Some hunting is done in Sierra Leone. Bush fowl and guinea fowl, plentiful within 30 miles of Freetown, are usually hunted during the rainy season. Duck and geese are abundant in swamps about 80 miles from the city, and are usually taken by jump shooting from dugouts. Very little big game is found in the immediate Freetown area, but 150 or 200 miles up-country several varieties of African antelope, wild pig, bush cows (West African water buffalo) and, occasionally, hippos and elephants can be found. However, most big game is protected by law. Field clothing in camouflage patterns is prohibited by regulation. Bird hunters should bring briar-resistant clothing and snake-proof boots.

Fishing is available in and near Freetown. Saltwater species include barracuda, cobia, red snapper, Atlantic jack, Spanish mackerel, and grouper. The freshwater angler may find tigerfish, catfish, and several subspecies of tilapia. Most salt-water fish are taken by trolling lures. This necessitates the use of a boat; however, no charter boat facilities are offered in Sierra Leone. The experienced surf-caster should do well on the coast. Catches, however, have declined somewhat in recent years because of heavy fishing of coastal waters by international groups.

The Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, developed with the assistance of Peace Corps volunteers, offers an opportunity to view a wide variety of primates and other tropical rain-forest wildlife in their native habitat. Located seven hours from Freetown, it provides accommodations and an educational and relaxing break. The Outamba Kilimi National Park at Koto, far in the northern part of Sierra Leone, has hippos, numerous tropical birds, elephant sightings, and monkeys. It is a one-day trip from Freetown and has tent accommodations for visitors.

Sierra Leone's picturesque and uncrowded beaches offer the greatest recreational diversion. Many are within easy driving distance of Freetown. Since occasional strong currents and undertow occur, precautions should be taken while swimming. Sharks and barracuda are seldom seen. The rivers in Sierra Leone are unsafe for swimming because of parasitic organisms. A few sites exist for interested deep-sea divers and snorklers. Waterskiing is also popular.

The beaches, tropical vegetation, and varied tribal groupings provide an unending supply of colorful subjects for those interested in photography, painting, or sketching. Discretion should be used, however, since some tribes still maintain taboos against being photographed. Both color and black-and-white film, although expensive, are available for most cameras, including Polaroid. Black-and-white film is developed locally, but color film must be sent to the U.S. or England.

A number of places of interest outside Freetown are accessible by car. The 60-mile trip around the peninsula is a pleasant drive, fringed by some of the world's most picturesque and unspoiled beaches. The drive passes through several colorful Creole villages with British names, as well as typical fishing villages at Baw Baw and Tokeh. Two tourist resorts, catering primarily to European tourists are located within an hour's drive from Freetown and provide a relaxing change of pace for a weekend stay or Sunday luncheon.

Bunce Island, an 18th century English slave fort with remarkably intact ruins, is located 20 miles from Freetown, a 90-minute boat trip up the Sierra Leone River. This fort, is gaining interest in the U.S. since researchers have discovered that many Americans along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts had origins in Sierra Leone. Other boat trips of longer duration, to the Bananas Islands and Turtle Islands, are available through local travel agencies.

Roads from Freetown to the up-country towns of Makeni, Yengema, Bo, and Kenema are generally good, although not always properly maintained. The Port Loko district, about 80 miles northeast, is a scenic, forested area, higher in elevation than Freetown, and affords a refreshing change in climate. Woodworking is done in the Kenema district, another heavily forested area about 200 miles from Freetown. Makeni, in the northern district, is a center for crafts.

The diamond mines at Yengema in the Eastern Province may be visited by invitation of the National Diamond Mining Company; a government permit is needed. Most of the alluvial mines are located along small streams in the scrub forest.

Although none of these areas provide a radical scenic or climatic change, they are interesting and readily accessible. Other inviting sights, such as the Bintumani Mountains, the Bumbuna and Bikongo Falls, and the Kabala area, are not comfortably reached by car. Travel on unpaved roads is easier at the beginning of the rainy season, when the dust has settled; it is most difficult at the height of the rainy season. Government-operated ferries, not always in service, transport vehicles across up-country rivers.

Adequate hotel accommodations are practically nonexistent, so upcountry travelers should arrange to stay with government officers, missionaries, or Peace Corps volunteers. At Sierra Leone government rest camps, such as the one at Shenge, an old port and pirate hideaway about a six-hour drive from Freetown, one must be completely self-sufficient. This includes carrying boiled, filtered water, food, a kerosene lamp and stove, mosquito nets, a cot, bedding, dishes, and utensils.

Driving time from Freetown to Monrovia, Liberia, is about 10 hours in the dry season. Flying time to Monrovia is only 45 minutes, but transport to and from the airports at either end increases the total travel time to six hours. It is possible to drive to Conakry, Guinea, in six hours during the dry season.

Entertainment

Air-conditioned movie theaters in Freetown feature some American films, although they may be three or more years old. Videocassette recorders are popular in the foreign community. There are several video clubs in Freetown that rent tapes in both VHS and Beta formats. Many Americans receive tapes from family and friends in the U.S. Spectator events are limited to soccer games and native dancing fests. The Sierra Leone Military Forces also occasionally present colorful ceremonies.

The Paramount, Cape Sierra, Bintumani, and Mammy Yoko hotel restaurants are regularly patronized by Americans. Three other restaurants at Lumley Beachthe Atlantic, the Lighthouse, and the Palm Beachoffer good food and dancing to live or recorded music. Two casinos at Lumley feature roulette, blackjack, and slot machines. A small Chinese restaurant, located between the city and Lumley Beach, is popular, as is the Provilac Restaurant which has weekly buffets featuring Sierra Leonean dishes.

Social life in Freetown is generally relaxed and informal, and usually centers on home entertainment. Newcomers quickly meet the community through business contacts, membership in clubs, and social functions in homes. Protocol is taken seriously by some diplomats or older Creoles, whose social framework is traditional British, and it is advisable to familiarize oneself with patterns of handshaking, verbal greeting, and deference. Americans are often seen as too abrupt by Sierra Leoneans. Business is conducted only after a short exchange of greetings and talk of a more relaxed nature has preceded it.

Freetown has branches of the International Rotary and Lions Clubs.

OTHER CITIES

BO , just over 100 miles southeast of the capital, is the commercial center of the interior, with a population of about 81,000. The trading of ginger, palm oil and kernels, coffee, cocoa, and rice is important to the economy; goods are transported to Freetown mostly by road. The city has a number of educational centers, including teacher-training colleges, as well as the largest hospital outside of Freetown.

Located in southeastern Sierra Leone, KENEMA is home to the country's timber industry and an important market town for the Mende people. Alluvial diamond mining is an important industry Kenema. Areas surrounding Kenema produce coffee, cocoa, and palm kernels and oil. Kenema is the site of a government library, schools, and several private hospitals. The city's estimated population is 71,000.

MAKENI is situated in central Sierra Leone, less than 100 miles north of the capital. It is a trade center for the Temne people. The main crops sent to Freetown are rice, palm oil, and kernels. Known for its Gara tie-dyeing, Makeni has a church, government schools, a teacher's college, and a hospital. The population is about 106,000.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Sierra Leone is nearly circular in shape, and has an area of 27,925 square miles (about the size of South Carolina). It is located on the southwestern part of the great bulge of West Africa, between the seventh and 10th parallels north of the equator. It is bordered on the north and east by the Republic of Guinea, on the south by the Republic of Liberia, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

Three main topographical regions run northwest to southeast, roughly parallel with the coast: a belt of mangrove swamps and beaches; an area of low plains covered with secondary forest and cultivated crops; and an easternmost region of high plateaus and mountains, some rising as high as 6,000 feet. The mountainous peninsula on which Freetown, the capital, is located comprises a fourth, distinct geographical region. It is the only place on the West African coast where mountains rise near the sea and where the beaches are both exceptionally beautiful and generally safe for swimming.

The climate is tropical, with both rainy and dry seasons, constantly high temperatures, and almost constant high humidity. The rainy season extends from May to November, but is heaviest between July and September, when over half of the annual rainfall occurs. In Freetown, rainfall is as much as 150 inches; inland areas receive less. The beginning and end of the rainy season is marked by frequent strong electrical storms, similar to those occurring during the hot summer months of the eastern United States. Coastal temperatures during the rainy season range from a daily high of about 80°F to a nightly low of about 76°F. Most Westerners reside in the hills above the city, where a constant breeze makes for comfortable living and encourages outdoor entertaining.

Relative humidity in Freetown rarely falls below 80 percent, except when the harmattan reaches the coast. This current of dry, dusty air flows from the Sahara Desert toward the south and west, usually reaching Sierra Leone in December. The harmattan brings Freetown its best weather; during this season, temperatures reach about 90°F during the day and fall to about 74°F at night.

Because of the climate, insects abound and mildew can be a problem. Flies, ants, and cockroaches are occasional nuisances, but lizards are also plentiful and help to keep the others in check. Numerous snakes exist, some of them poisonous. Precautions must be taken against mildew and corrosion and, during the dry season, against the bothersome red laterite dust.

Population

Sierra Leone's population is estimated at 5.4 million, with an increase of 3.6 percent per annum. Density averages about 121 per square mile: the highest densities of several hundred per square mile are in the western area of the country; the lowest, of about 25 per square mile, are in the remote northern and eastern sections. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone in 2001 was 43 years for males, 49 years for females. Freetown, with 1 million people, is the capital, the commercial and educational center, and the only large city.

The African population consists of 20 ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs. The two largest groups (the Mende in the south and the Temne in the north) are about equal in number and make up approximately 60 percent of the country's population. The 54,000 descendants of the original settlers make up the Creole society, mostly settled in the Freetown area. Their language, Krio, is the lingua franca of Sierra Leone, although the Mende and Temne tongues are also widely spoken. English is the official language.

Followed by 60 percent of the population, Islam is the predominant religion of the country, with animism and Christianity (both Protestant and Roman Catholic) following. Both Islam and Christianity retain perceptible overtones of indigenous animist beliefs. Islam is strongest in the Northern Province; Christianity, even though numerically small, is influential in southern regions and the Freetown area, where missions have been active for over 100 years.

Many Creole customs, which derive from Victorian England, are easily identifiable with those of Western cultures. Tribal customs, however, differ greatly from cultural patterns encountered in the U.S. Secret organizations, such as the women's Bundu or Sande and the men's Poro societies, still play a dominant role in tribal life.

Women in rural areas often wear only a cloth or lappa tied around their waists; children are commonly scantily clothed and occasionally naked. Strong extended family structures are frequently comprised of several wives and their relations.

The Lebanese and the Indian communities are mainly merchants. European and American residents are scattered throughout the country.

Government

After World War II, self-government was gradually established in Sierra Leone, leading to complete independence on April 27, 1961. The following September, Sierra Leone became the 100th member of the United Nations. The first general elections with universal franchise were held in May 1962.

Under the constitution brought into effect on Independence Day, Sierra Leone adopted a parliamentary form of government. Executive authority was vested in Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, who was queen of Sierra Leone and represented by a governor-general.

In April 1971, the country adopted a republican constitution with an executive president, but retained membership in the British Commonwealth. Executive authority is exercised by the president. The unicameral parliament consists of 127 authorized seats, 105 of which are filled by elected representatives of constituencies and 22 by paramount chiefs elected by fellow paramount chiefs in each district. The president is authorized to appoint up to seven members.

A separate judiciary system includes a Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, High Court, magistrates' courts, and local courts having jurisdiction in certain customary (tribal) law cases.

The Freetown peninsula, which together with Sherbro Island comprised the former colony, is now called the Western Province. Freetown has one of the oldest civic governments in Western form in all of Africa south of the Sahara. The rest of the country, formerly known as the Protectorate, is divided into three provinces, the Northern, Southern, and Eastern. These provinces are made up of 12 districts comprising 146 chiefdoms, where paramount chiefs and a council of elders constitute the basic unit of government.

Major Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh was elected president in January 1986. In May 1992, mutinous army troops staged a military coup. Momoh was overthrown and fled to neighboring Guinea. Captain Valentine Strasser took control of the government, promising a return to civilian rule.

In 1996 Strasser was overthrown by Julius Maada Brio. Elections in February 1996 resulted in the installation of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as president following a runoff vote. However, his government was overthrown in a coup led by Major Johnny Paul Koromah in May 1997. The president was reinstated in 1998 and was reelected in 2002.

The flag of Sierra Leone is made up of green, white, and blue horizontal bands.

Arts, Science, Education

The country's intellectual life centers around the University of Sierra Leone. The university's Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827 by Anglican missionaries and situated on Mount Aureol high above Freetown, is the oldest English-language college in West Africa, and still attracts students from Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and other countries to study alongside students from the growing number of Sierra Leonean secondary schools. The curriculum includes liberal arts, education, theology, law, economics, engineering, and pure and applied sciences. The university includes three institutesthe Institute of African Studies, the Institute of Public Administration and Management, and the Institute of Library Science.

Njala University College is the second part of the University of Sierra Leone. It is an agricultural and educational institution formed on the U.S. land-grant college principle, and is located 130 miles from Freetown at Njala. In addition, Sierra Leone has several teacher training colleges, the most notable of which is Milton Margai Teachers College, just outside of Freetown.

Choral, drama, and music groups in Freetown produce occasional plays (both in English and in Krio) and give recitals. A National Dance Troupe presents high-quality traditional dancing performances. The small National Museum displays local artifacts, and the Sierra Leone Artists Association promotes the sale and exhibition of local art work. Weaving, carving, and gara cloth (tie-dyed fabric) are the principal artistic media of the people.

Commerce and Industry

Sierra Leone's economic and social infrastructure is not well developed. The economy remains primarily agricultural although minerals, particularly diamonds, account for roughly 70 percent of all exports. In recent years, serious balance-of-payments and budget deficits have stifled economic growth. The Sierra Leonean economy has been saddled with high unemployment, large trade deficits, and a growing dependence on foreign aid. The value of the national currency has declined and wages are extremely low.

Agriculture accounts for over 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs over 70 percent of the labor force. Most agricultural production is of a subsistence nature. Rice is the staple food crop, but a significant percentage is imported. Other important food corps are cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, sorghum, and corn. Palm kernels and oil, coffee, and cocoa are Sierra Leone's primary cash corps and major sources of export earnings.

Because of the value and quality of Sierra Leone's diamond resources, the mining sector has traditionally played a central role in the economy. The profitability of the country's diamond resources is hampered by the depletion of reserves and illegal smuggling. Sierra Leone also has the world's largest deposits of rutile, a mineral used to manufacture paints and alloys. Most reserves of rutile are located in the southwestern part of the country. Large bauxite reserves are also known to exist in the northeast.

Sierra Leone's industrial sector is small and underdeveloped. Industrial capacity is limited mainly to the manufacturing of cigarettes, paint, beverages, plastic footwear, and textiles.

Minerals, such as diamonds, rutile, and bauxite, make up the bulk of Sierra Leone's exports. Coffee and cocoa are also valuable export commodities. The Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States, Germany, and other European Community (EC) countries are the primary recipients of Sierra Leone's exports. Sierra Leone imports capital goods, foodstuffs, petroleum and related products, transport equipment, machinery, and light industrial goods. These imports are provided by the United States, EC countries, Japan, China, and Nigeria.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The country receives foreign financial assistance from China, Germany, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Community, the United States, and Great Britain.

The Chamber of Commerce of Sierra Leone is located in Freetown; the address is P.O. Box 502.

Transportation

International air service to Europe is provided by British Airways, KLM, and UTA. As of May 1990, British Airways flew to London twice a week, KLM to Amsterdam once a week, and UTA to Paris twice a week. Provincial Air Services provide charter helicopter services to many parts of the country, but rates are high. In-country travel is by road, as railroad and airline carrier service is no longer available.

The Road Transport Corporation operates bus service within the capital city, although it is not often used by official Americans or U.S. visitors because of overcrowding. Many taxis also operate in Freetown, but they are hard to get since they cannot be summoned by telephone; because cabs are unmetered, fares should be agreed upon beforehand. Fares outside the city are high. Taxis invariably pick up several passengers on any given trip and are, therefore, always crowded. Taxis are seldom used at night by expatriates (for safety reasons).

A car is a necessity for those living in Freetown, but American-made vehicles are not recommended. Acceptable servicing exists for most British cars and some other makes, such as Peugeot, Renault, Fiat, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Honda, and Nissan. Spare parts, however, are often scarce and always expensive. Mobil, Texaco, Shell, and British Petroleum gasolines are sold at American-style stations.

In the capital, the streets are narrow and congested with pedestrians; there are no sidewalks. Driving is on the right.

Communications

Facilities for telephone communications in Sierra Leone are adequate. A computerized central system has been installed which should improve telecommunications considerably. International calls to the U.S. can be made at the Sierra Leone External

Telecommunications but take time, since the number of overseas lines is limited.

Local liability insurance can be arranged and is required for personally owned vehicles. It is not expensive, but coverage is very limited. Comprehensive insurance is also available but costly. Telegraphic communications are usually reliable, although the delivery of telegrams is sometimes delayed. Airmail from the U.S. takes from five days to two weeks to reach Freetown, and occasional delays are experienced.

Sierra Leone has the oldest radio broadcasting service in English-speaking West Africa. The government-owned Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service operates a number of radio stations broadcasting in English, Krio, Limba, Mende, and Tenme. However, these stations are on the air infrequently due to power failures and the lack of spare parts for broadcasting equipment. A shortwave radio is necessary to receive international broadcasts. Radio reception in Freetown is generally good.

Commercial television service is limited. Sierra Leone uses the European system for its television broadcasts. American television sets receive the visual, but not the audio portion of the signal. However, with a small radio having a TV audio band, the voice signal comes in. This is cheaper than conversion in the European system. Many American expatriates bring a VCR and a supply of videotapes with them to Sierra Leone.

The government-owned Daily Mail is the main newspaper. It is published daily, but gives very little coverage to international news events. The Paris edition of the International Herald Tribune is available by subscription and usually arrives a month late. Current copies of the international edition of Newsweek are sold locally.

Books, especially paperbacks, the majority of which are published in the U.K., are available in quantity from a number of sources. Several libraries (USIS, British Council, and the Freetown city libraries) have reasonable collections.

Health

Freetown's four large hospitalsConnaught General, Princess Christian Maternity, Children's, and Hill Stationas well as several small private hospitals and nursing homes, offer minimum facilities. None is satisfactory in size, equipment, hygienic standards, or staff. The level of nursing care is below that of institutions in the U.S. Many medical problems require evacuation to Europe or the U.S. for treatment. Several well-qualified physicians and dentists practice in Freetown, although the absence of basic diagnostic and treatment facilities presents a considerable handicap for them.

Water shortages sometimes occur in Freetown. During the dry season, water supply and pressure may be irregular if the level in local reservoirs drops below normal. Although the water is treated with chlorine, it should be boiled about 20 minutes before using; all drinking water must also be filtered.

For most of Freetown, the sewage disposal system is below standard. Open drainage ditches running throughout town are breeding places for insects, and cause unsightly flooding when outlets are plugged or covered by debris. Many residences have septic tanks, but most of the population use pit latrines.

Irregular garbage collection and disposal; inadequate laws governing inspection, storage, and sale of food; and the lack of health and sanitation consciousness by most cooks and stewards are health hazards to Westerners. Vigilance and constant attention to good hygiene practices are strongly advised.

Major communicable diseases are malaria, measles, typhoid, hepatitis, intestinal diseases, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, cholera, and lassa fever. During the rainy season, children may be particularly susceptible to fungus or other skin disorders. Intestinal upsets are common.

Those moving to Sierra Leone should begin taking malaria suppressants three weeks prior to arrival, and continue taking them weekly for the duration of the stay. One should also obtain a gamma globulin injection against hepatitis as well as inoculations against cholera, yellow fever, typhoid fever, tetanus, polio, and rabies. Because rabies is prevalent in Sierra Leone, pets should also be vaccinated against the disease.

All locally purchased vegetables should be either cooked or disinfected, if they cannot be peeled. Taking vitamin tablets as a daily supplement is a common practice. All clothes, bedding, and towels must be machine dried or ironed to avoid tumba-fly infestation. Mosquito netting for homes, especially where young children reside. Not only is malaria a concern, but bites that are scratched become infected easily in the tropical climate.

Clothing and Services

Being neatly, smartly, and appropriately dressed is important to Sierra Leoneans, and they expect it of others. Ready-made clothing sold locally is European in style; limited in selection, size, and quality; and also very expensive. Local tailoring is good and generally moderate in cost. Shoe repair is crude but functional.

In selecting a wardrobe, one should remember that the temperature range is narrow, and seasonal change minimal. Offices, however, are air-conditioned and can be cool. Clothing appropriate for Washington, DC summers is generally right for Freetown. Washable fabrics are preferable. Local dry-cleaning is not recommended. Garments that cannot be washed or that require special handling should be kept to a minimum. Laundry is done at home. Cotton or predominantly cotton blends are more absorbent and not as hot as synthetics. Knits are good for traveling and office wear, but are generally too warm for regular street wear.

The hot weather requires frequent changes and consequent laundering of clothes. This, plus the lack of seasonal variation and a fairly limited social orbit, makes a variety of clothes important. Some warm clothing will be needed for travel out of the area in cold months. A light sweater or shawl is handy for cool evenings, and some rain gear is also useful. Umbrellas can be bought locally.

Men wear wash-and-wear clothing throughout the year. Short-sleeved shirts are generally worn in the office. Social life is informal (often no coat or tie is necessary), but official affairs require a dark suit and long-sleeved shirt.

Women need a variety of cotton dresses for daytime, and washable long dresses for the numerous social activities in Freetown. Because evenings can be cool, and home and restaurants air-conditioned, some dresses should have sleeves, jackets, or stoles. Shorts and slacks are worn for sports activities and at home, but less often downtown or in the office. Gala African dresses are purchased locally and are popular for evening wear, but should only be relied on to augment an evening wardrobe. Sierra Leonean women wear hats and hosiery for formal daytime occasions, including church, but Western women normally do not wear hats. Hosiery is a matter of personal choice. Maternity clothes are not available in Freetown.

Children usually wear shorts or jeans, but party clothes are sometimes needed. School uniforms are made locally. Clothing for babies and young children is extremely limited here, and the items are more expensive than in the U.S. Shoes must be worn at all times when outdoors to protect feet from worms and bacteria that can enter the body through small cuts or abrasions. Children generally wear tennis shoes and sandals.

Tomatoes, sweet peppers, green beans, cabbages, green squash, pumpkins, radishes, parsley, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, potatoes, and onions are seasonally available. A variety of greens (spinach substitutes), okra, sweet potatoes, and small tomatoes are sold year round in outdoor markets. Imported vegetables are available, but at very high prices. Good local tropical fruits such as bananas, oranges, pineapples, limes, grapefruit, avocados, mangoes, and papaya are seasonally available in abundance. Purchasing fruits and vegetables from street vendors involves considerable bargaining.

Local beef, lamb, and pork are sometimes used by Americans. Beef is not aged and most of it is tough, but the fillet is tender and reasonably priced. Lamb is both expensive and fatty. Pork is better tasting than in the U.S. and trichinosis is not known in Sierra Leone. However, pork should be cooked well as a precaution. Local poultry is acceptable, but expensive. Fresh and locally frozen fish are perhaps the best bargains in Freetown. Fresh and frozen shrimp and lobster are also good. Lobster, squid, barracuda, sole, and snapper are among the local favorites. Eggs, although more expensive than in the U.S., can be bought most of the year. Fresh milk or cream is not available, but good powdered or canned milk is. Imported sterilized milk sealed in cartons (three-month shelf life without refrigeration) is also available.

Freetown's supermarkets stock a surprising variety of canned goods, cereals, nuts, and pastas, all of which are imported. However, these products are several times the U.S. price, availability is never certain, and the length of time that they have been sitting on grocers shelves in tropical heat is unknown.

Tailoring, shoe repair, and dry cleaning are below American standards, although of acceptable quality. Freetown has a few barbers and beauty salons that give acceptable haircuts, permanents, manicures, and facials. Some local electricians work on radios and stereos, but spare parts for American-made items are not readily obtainable.

Domestic Help

As in most places in Africa, household servants are usually male. Most families hire one person to serve as a steward, with responsibility to clean and perhaps help with cooking. Families with small children may hire a nanny. Generally, household help do not live in the home, but live-in nannies can be found.

Most domestics require close supervision. Uniforms are provided by the employer. Each servant should have a physical examination and X-ray when hired; periodic checkupsare advisable. Salaries are generally low.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

January 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar.(2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

Apr. 19 Republic Day

Apr. 27 Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day

Hijra New Year*

Id al-Adah*

Ramadan*

Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid an Nabi*

*variable

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

The Department of State warns against travel to Sierra Leone and advises all U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Sierra Leone, particularly in the areas south and east of Bo and Kenema, and to defer all travel to the area along the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia. There are reports in these areas of banditry and incursions by rebels from Liberia, and there have been clashes between these rebels and the Sierra Leonean military. Travel at night should be avoided, and travelers to the affected areas can expect to encounter road-blocks and vehicle searches by Sierra Leonean security forces. Travel outside the capital is dangerous because of armed military groups.

Several African and international airlines provide service to and from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Persons arriving in Sierra Leone must have valid passports, visas, and current health certificates with records of inoculations against yellow fever and cholera. Injections to prevent hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, and polio also are strongly recommended, as are malaria suppressants.

Pets may be brought into the country with an international certificate of good health, obtained from a veterinarian. Proof of rabies vaccination and proper health certificates are required. There is no quarantine period.

The Government of Sierra Leone will permit importation of 50 rounds of ammunition for each registered firearm, with no limitation on the number of firearms. More than what is considered a reasonable quantity, however (one pistol, one rifle, one shotgun), must be approved. Only guns designated as suitable for sporting purposes are allowed; no military or police models can be imported.

The following denominations have places of worship in Sierra Leone: Anglican, Church of Christ, Evangelical United Brethren, Pentecostal, Bahai Faith, Methodist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Samaria West African Methodist, and Seventh-Day Adventist. Non-denomi-national Protestant services are held weekly at St. Augustine's Anglican Chapel, Hill Station. Freetown has no synagogue. Most services are conducted in English.

The time in Sierra Leone is Greenwich Mean Time.

The monetary unit is the Leone, which is divided into 100 cents. The symbols used are "Le" for Leone, and "c" for cents. The Bank of Sierra Leone, a central bank with no commercial facilities, manages the currency. There are several commercial institutions, including the Standard Bank of Sierra Leone, Ltd; Barclay's Bank Sierra Leone, Ltd; and the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Ltd.

All weights and measures conform to British standards.

The U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone is located at the corner of Siaka Stevens and Walpole Streets, Freetown (across from the city's historic Cotton Tree); telephone: 232 (22) 226-481; FAX: 232 (22) 225-471.

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Alie, Joe A.D. A New History of Sierra Leone. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Bell, L.V. Mental and Social Disorder in Sub-Saharan Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Kallon, Kelfala Morana. The Economics of Sierra Leonean Entrepreneurship. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990.

Milsome, John. Sierra Leone. Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World Series. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Weeks, John. Development Strategy & the Economy of Sierra Leone. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Wyse, Akintola J.G. H.C. Bankole-Bright and Politics in Colonial Sierra Leone, 1919-1958. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

. Krio of Sierra Leone. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

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Sierra Leone

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Sierra Leone
Region: Africa
Population: 5,232,624
Language(s): English, Mende, Temne, Krio
Literacy Rate: 31.4%
Number of Primary Schools: 1,795
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 367,426
  Secondary: 102,474
  Higher: 4,742
Teachers: Primary: 10,850
  Secondary: 5,969
  Higher: 600

History & Background

Sierra Leone, a relatively tiny country on the west coast of Africa, totals 28,000 square miles, or 71,470 square kilometers. A 1994 population estimate puts the country at 4.2 million people (53 percent female, 47 percent male). Sierra Leone is bounded on the west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean, on the northwest, north, and northeast by Guinea, and on the east and southeast by Liberia.

It was a Portuguese sailor, Pedro da Cintra who, on a visit to this land in 1462, named the place he saw as Serra Lyoa (lion range or lion mountain). On approaching the mountainous peninsula, Pedro da Cintra saw the mountains poised like lions. The name Serra Lyoa gradually acquired its present form, Sierra Leone. What is known as Sierra Leone today came into being only in 1896. Before 1896, the name only referred to the mountainous peninsula and its adjacent islands.

Sierra Leone has witnessed a series of external invasions and influences that make it what it is today. Before the advent of Europeans and other groups, the people of this land lived in small communities. Even before Portuguese traders began to appear on the west coast of Africa in the mid-fifteenth century, many of these small communities had already established themselves in certain parts of the country. The Baga, Bullom, Krim, and Vai were communities that had established themselves on the coast before the Portuguese arrived. The Temne and the Loko lived in the northwest, and the Limba lived further to the north; the Kissi and the Kono lived in the East. It would seem that these various groups lived in isolation from one another and that internal migration was minimal. The first of the external influences came from European traders, soon to be followed by the Mane, a group of Mandespeaking peoples. In the seventeenth century, black Muslim groups started to infiltrate the country from the north. By the close of the nineteenth century, Islam had become the religion of many Sierra Leoneans.

As the first Europeans to visit the west coast of Sierra Leone, and indeed Africa, the Portuguese became the pioneers of the trade between Europe and West Africa. Sierra Leone and Portugal traded in goods, for example, exchanging kitchen utensils for ivory or gold. This normal trade was soon to be replaced by the most inhumane trade in human history, the Atlantic slave trade. The need for labor on the New World plantations (the Americas) triggered the buying and selling of humans, and Sierra Leone became an important center in this trade. The Portuguese, and later other EuropeansEnglish, French, Dutch, Danishsought slaves in Sierra Leone to ship to the plantations of the New World. During the Atlantic slave trade, certain islands and places on the Sierra Leone coast became important slave centers. Bunce Island, located on the Sierra Leone river was one of those important centers. Slaves taken from Sierra Leone were taken to South Carolina in North America. Since slaves from this country were known to be rice planters, it was good business for anyone to bring slaves from Sierra Leone. Research has shown that descendants of slaves taken from Sierra Leone and its environs today live in the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia. They constitute a distinctive group called the Gullah, and their language is mutually intelligible with the Krio language, Sierra Leone's lingua franca. They have preserved much of their Sierra Leonean culture, songs, stories, and names (Alie).

In 1786, the Abolitionists, including a leading member of the British parliament, William Wilberforce, founded the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The consequences of the anti-slavery movement led to the establishment of the Sierra Leone Colony. Many of the freed slaves were languishing in Canada and England and needed a place to live their new lives. Freetown, now the capital of Sierra Leone, was chosen as the new world for the freed slaves. On April 8, 1787, the first group of freed slaves left for Freetown to found what became the Sierra Leone Colony. Later, other groupsNova Scotians, maroons, and recaptiveswere also settled in Freetown. As a British Colony, Freetown's street names were given British names to affirm the settlement's close connection to Britain. The colony's currency of dollars and cents was changed to pounds, shillings, and pence. Postal services were established between the colony, Europe, and West Indies. It was inevitable that a British form of education would be introduced in the colony. In 1814 when governor Charles MacCarthy became the colony's governor, he pushed for education and religion, which he thought would bring the colonists within the pale of Western Civilization.

The Church Missionary Society (CMS), a Church of England institution, was then to play a key role in bringing western type education to Sierra Leone. Through the influence of people like William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton, and Zachary Macaulay, the CMS sent its first missionaries in 1804. In 1816, the British government and the CMS entered into an agreement that obligated the government to build churches, schools, and parsonages, while the CMS was to staff villages with ministers and school masters. By 1824, some 2,460 children were receiving education in the colony schools. But the colonial government was not pleased with the kind of education provided by the CMS; it was said to be too bookish. The CMS was also accused of discriminating against those of different religions. After 1824, the British government decided to assume control of the colony schools in order to raise standards and open the schools to every child. To produce local teachers and missionaries, Fourah Bay College was established in 1827. In the meantime CMS decided to start and run their own schools. By 1841, the CMS, WMS (Wesleyan Methodist Society), and the British government each had fourteen primary schools to their credit. A total of 8,000 pupils of the colony's population of 40,000 attended these schools.

In 1845, the CMS founded the Grammar School to provide religion and general education for boys. A separate department was created to train professional primary school teachers. Both Fourah Bay College and Grammar School were the first of their kinds in Sub-Saharan Africa and attracted students from all over West Africa. The CMS female counterpart was also opened in 1845 and was renamed Annie Walsh Memorial School in 1849. The Wesleyan Methodist Society opened the Methodist Boys High School and Methodist Girls High School in 1874 and 1880, respectively. Many more schools were opened after these. The language of instruction was English, and the structure of education was basically British.

Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961. After independence, Sierra Leoneans maintained both the content and structure of the British education they inherited. English was declared the official language of the country; it was to be the language of instruction in schools, colleges and university, and of the media and administration. Besides having Sierra Leoneans heading most of the institutions, no major substantial changes were made to the structure and content of education handed down by the colonial administration. Although the standards were high especially up to a decade after independence, it became clear that the curricula at the various levels of the educational structure did not meet the current needs of Sierra Leone.

In 1994, through a decree, (Decree No. 4) the military government, National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), established the National Commission for Basic Education to support the new educational system, dubbed, 6-3-3-4. The new system grew out of a desire to make the educational system answerable to the needs of the country.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The constitutional foundation on which the new educational structure is anchored can be found in Decree No. 4 of 1994, which established the National Commission for Basic Education. The military government, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), which was in power in 1994, designed a wide-ranging National Education Action Plan to support basic education reform that aims to provide basic education for the majority of the population, as well as to enhance the participation of women and girls in the process of education.

According to the guiding principles, objectives, and strategies for education in Sierra Leone outlined in the New Education Policy publication, the control of education shall continue to be in accordance with the existing Education Act. The general aim of education operates within the framework of the Constitution and other international agreements on education to which Sierra Leone is a signatory or with which Sierra Leone is in agreement. The general aim of education in Sierra Leone is the integral development of the individual with the aim of building a free, just, and peace-loving society with a sustainable and dynamic economy. The rationale behind the new policies can be found in the following principles:

  1. Every child shall be encouraged to have between one and three years of preparation at nursery school or kindergarten.
  2. Each child shall start formal education at the age of six years.
  3. Basic formal education shall last for nine years. It shall ultimately be free and compulsory.
  4. Formal education shall be broad-based with practical programs that lead to skills acquisition.

Educational SystemOverview


The standard of education in Sierra Leone before and immediately after independence was one of the best around the world. With the University of Sierra Leone established in 1827, Sierra Leone was dubbed, "Athens of West Africa." But that educational system fell on hard times. Over a long period of neglect, the country witnessed an erosion of standards in its educational system. From 1970 to 1985, the average growth rate for primary school enrollment was slightly more than 6.0 percent, while that for secondary school enrollment was just over 6.5 percent. From 1985 to 1990, the average annual growth rate for primary school enrollment fell to 2.0 percent, while that for secondary school enrollment fell to 1.6 percent. Besides these enrollment concerns, the outputs of institutions at the technical/vocational and teacher education levels had also been found wanting.

In the pre-1993 educational system, preschool (ages 1 to 5) was optional and was run by private institutions. Primary school children (ages 5 to 12) started class 1 at age 5 and finished class 7 at age 12. It was a seven-year program at the end of which the pupil was to take an external examination called the Common Entrance, later renamed the Selective Entrance Examination. The exam was used to determine who would enter secondary school and who would not. Ages for secondary school were 12 to 17 or 19 years. At the end of the first five years of secondary school, the student was to take the General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE Ordinary Level) to determine who would enter Sixth Form, college or university, and who would not. Those who failed, depending on the grades they made, would repeat the exams, enter primary teacher colleges or technical/vocational institutions, or join the workforce. Those who passed the exam would either enter the Sixth Form, where they would spend two years preparing for university, or enter university at the preliminary level. At the end of the Sixth Form, students were to take the Advanced Level Examination. Those who passed this exam would enter university at the intermediate (first year) level, skipping the preliminary level. Those who failed would enter university at the preliminary level.

Technical/vocational institutes (one, two, or three years) were designed to give opportunities to those who did not make it at the purely academic arena to learn trades. However, these institutes were seriously neglected and so collapsed. Teacher colleges (three years) trained teachers for primary and secondary schools. They offered a three-year program after secondary school, especially for those who did not meet the requirements for universities. The Milton Margai Teachers College trained teachers for secondary schools; it was a three-year program for those who passed a minimum of four subjects at the GCE Ordinary Level examination. Successful candidates were offered the Higher Teachers Certificate (HTC) upon graduation. The university level (three or four years) was represented by The University of Sierra Leone. By 1993 it had three constituent colleges: Fourah Bay College; Njala University College; and College of Medicine, Allied Health Sciences. The university also had the Institute of Public Administration (IPAM) and the Institute of Education.

The new system of education articulates seven major objectives for education in Sierra Leone: The system is to provide broad-based education for children from class 1 to junior secondary school through the creation of relevant curricula and teaching/learning resources. Through a well-reasoned development of incentives, cost-recovery measures, scholarships, and work study programs, access to basic education (especially for girls) will be increased. Another major objective is to improve the quality and relevance of education. Technical and vocational education is to be expanded within the formal and nonformal sectors of education. An important objective is seeking to increase opportunities for the acquisition of literacy, numeracy, and technical and vocational skills within the formal and nonformal sectors of education. The new system also aims to provide equity in education by enforcing the policy of nondiscrimination in all schools, as well as ensuring the similarity of standards and quality of education for all children regardless of where they attend school. The final major objective is to develop in children relevant skills, attitudes, and values that will enable them to be effective and responsible citizens.


The New System of Education: In the new 6-3-3-4 system of education, the first six years consist of primary education followed by three years of junior secondary education for all primary school graduates. This 6-3 block (a total of 9 years) makes up the formal part of basic education. At the end of junior secondary school, students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) which, together with their continuous assessment profiles, determines whether they will continue their education at general or specialist senior secondary schools or proceed to technical and vocational schools of varying course content and duration.

Students in senior secondary school, at the end of their program, take the international Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) in competition with other students in English-speaking West Africa. The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is responsible for conducting this examination. Students who pass this exam and meet the requirements of the University of Sierra Leone may continue their formal education for four years for a first degree. Students in junior secondary school who are in technical and vocational tracks may, upon graduation, enter the workforce or continue their formal education in a technical/vocational institute. In the effort to properly monitor the standard and quality of education, and improve retention, the new system has introduced continuous assessment. This system of continuous assessment also facilitates effective guidance and counseling of students, besides being part of their terminal examination grades in the various examinations at different levels.

The concept of basic education in the new educational structure includes the provision of facilities for all citizens to be literate and numerate, as well as to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable them to earn a good living, improve their social and health circumstances, be patriotic citizens of Sierra Leone, and understand the complexities and opportunities of the modern world. The basic education programs include nonformal education for dropouts from school and children and adults who did not have the opportunity to go to school. Also to compensate for the chronic neglect of women's education, the new system will encourage positive discrimination in favor of women in basic education.

The new structure of education also encompasses a new role for national languages. Unlike the old system, the new system allows four national languagesKrio, Mende, Temne, and Limbato be taught throughout the school system, teacher colleges, and universities. English remains the medium of instruction throughout the system starting from class three. French is compulsory at the primary and junior secondary school levels, but it is optional at the senior secondary level. Arabic is optional at both junior and senior secondary levels. Also, there is provision for the establishment of a National Institute of Sierra Leonean Languages whose function will be to promote the development and use of Sierra Leonean languages as a whole both within the educational system and in the community at large.

The new system also makes room for the training of education sector personnel so as to effectively implement the 6-3-3-4 reform plan. It is important that the new system expresses the need to include educational planners, curriculum researchers and developers, teacher trainers, inspectors, adult educators, school broadcasters, subject specialists, and computer specialists in a comprehensive policy for professional development. Training of these personnel can be internal or external; in some cases distance learning will be utilized. The coordination of educational services will also be improved. The Department of Education shall be restructured and decentralized to allow for efficiency; in such an arrangement, the headquarters can concentrate on policy development and monitoring policy implementation.


Preprimary & Primary Education


The new structure of Sierra Leone's educational system embraces a preprimary (nursery) education. The new statutory age for a child to enter primary school is six years. Children between the ages of three and six acquire preprimary education. The main objective of this nursery education is to prepare children for primary education. However, preprimary education can be formal or informal. The formal nursery education is believed to enlarge and enrich children's use of language to further their socialization into the values and mores of their society. Because it is not considered a right in the country, preprimary education is given in private schools in the capital, Freetown, and in other large towns in the country. The government pays the salaries of serving teachers in these schools and controls the private preschools through the Nursery Schools Association and the Inspectorate Division of the Department of Education.

The new 6-3-3-4 system allocates six years to primary schooling. It is the first step in the system that the child follows from ages 6 to 12. As part of the nine-year cycle of formal basic education, primary education is not terminal. In the new system, all primary schools are controlled by the Department of Education. To open a new primary school, the Inspectorate Division must inspect the new school to ensure compliance with specified minimum national standards before being allowed to operate. However, private proprietors, missionary bodies, local governments, or such institutions as large businesses or university colleges are allowed to continue to operate primary schools for the children and wards of their workers. The student-teacher ratio is set at 40:1. At this level, emphasis is placed on the communicative competence of the children and their ability to manipulate figures. In classes one, two, and three, the medium of instruction is the child's community language, while English is the medium of instruction in the higher classes. The study of Sierra Leone forms a significant part of the child's education so that the child will have a sound basic grasp of the facts of the country and its relationship to the world. Natural sciences and social studies receive considerable attention at this level. Continuous assessment of students has been introduced into the new system. At the end of class six, the last class of the primary school education, the student's continuous assessment record card is to be submitted to the principal of the junior secondary school into which the student is accepted after taking the National Primary School Examination (NPSE). This exam, taken at the end of class six, is an external examination conducted by the West African Exams Council. It tests the whole range of the student's competence.


Secondary Education


Under the new system, secondary education is divided into junior and senior secondary schooling. After six years of primary schooling, the student spends three years in junior secondary school and another three years in senior secondary school. Junior secondary school (JSS) is the final part of formal basic education. It provides a broad-based general education to students between the ages of 12 and 15 years that will enable them to enter senior secondary school, vocational and technical education, or the workforce. The courses offered at this level are divided into core subjects, which are compulsory for all JSS students, and electives, which are chosen for study by the students with the help of their guidance counselors and parents.

Some of the aims of junior secondary education are to introduce subjects encouraging the development of nationally desired and marketable skills and the provision of training in community awareness and community responsibility. At the end of junior secondary school, students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), conducted by the West African Examinations Council. Continuous assessment forms part of each student's final grade.

Senior secondary school (SSS) is the final stage of the secondary school education; it is a three-year program for students between the ages of 15 and 18 who have completed the JSS course and obtained the required BECE grades. This level contains an element of specialization, preparing the student for university education or a professional school or any other postsecondary institution. There are two kinds of senior secondary schoolsgeneral and specialist. The general secondary school operates a comprehensive curriculum, while the specialist secondary school caters to students whose interests and aptitudes are for such specialized subject areas as science and mathematics, technology, liberal arts, and business studies. In general, students at this level are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects and some optional subjects. At the end of senior secondary school, a student takes the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE). A student's grade at this examination, together with the student's continuous assessment grade, determines the student's final grade for this level.

Higher Education

Higher education refers to all formal education received after the completion of secondary schooling. In Sierra Leone, higher education comprises the following:

  • The University of Sierra Leone with its constituent colleges and institutes
  • The Open University
  • Polytechnics
  • Teachers Colleges
  • Technical/Vocational Institutes
  • Professional schools such as the National School of Nursing and the School of Hotels and Tourism.

In the new system, higher education is expected to help in the realization of the objectives of the new 6-3-3-4 system, such as the rapid enhancement of literacy in Sierra Leone and the improvement of educational opportunities for women and girls. Higher education also is expected to assist with the inclusion of new subjects that enhance a proper and positive understanding of Sierra Leone, including such subjects as indigenous languages and Sierra Leone studies.


The University: The university of Sierra Leone has, throughout the years, suffered from chronic neglect. It has been struggling for quality and relevance. The new system still entrusts the university with the responsibility of producing the high-caliber, top-level manpower needs of the country. It is hoped that the implementation of the White Paper on Kwame Report will take care of the problems that have paralyzed the university over the years. Fourah Bay College (FBC) continues to provide education in pure and applied sciences with special emphasis on professional career development in engineering, technology, law, arts, and behavioral sciences. Njala University College (NUC), continues to promote the sciences, agriculture, home economics, environmental science, and education. The new system endorses the introduction of forestry and veterinary science at Njala University College. The Institute of Public Administration and Management is to be upgraded to degree awarding status with a mandate to offer courses for professional qualifications such as the ACCA. Additionally, the College of Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) strengthens and promotes the medical profession and allied health sciences.


Technical/Vocational Education: The new 6-3-3-4 system greatly favors technical and vocational education. This kind of education does not only serve school leavers but also older adults as well. The technical/vocational component of higher education is designed to grapple with the shortage of skilled manpower. Some of the objectives of technical/vocational education are to increase the number of indigenous, skilled, lower middle-level, blue collar workers; to produce a more literate, numerate, middle-level workforce to enhance national development; to encourage women and girls to participate in national development through the acquisition of technical and vocational skills; and to create the conducive environment for the development of appropriate indigenous technology.

There are three levels of the technical/vocational educational structure. In level one, the student spends three years leading to the technical/vocational certificate (T/V certificate) stage three, or two years leading to the T/V certificate stage two, or one year leading to the T/V certificate stage one. In level two, the student spends two years leading to the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) after obtaining the T/V certificate stage three. In level three, the student spends two years leading to the Higher National Diploma (HND) after obtaining the OND. The polytechnics offer the HND as their highest qualification; the technical/vocational institutes offer the OND and HNC as their highest qualification, and the trade/technical/vocational centers offer the T/V certificate stages one to three. The community education/animation centers offer courses to early school leavers and adult learners, which qualify them for entry into technical/vocational centers.


Professional Education: Professional schools such as the School of Nursing; the Hotel and Tourism Training Center; the Institute of Library, Archive, and Information Studies; and the Law School are entrusted with the responsibility to train professionals.


Private Institutions: Private institutions have always been a significant part of Sierra Leone's education system. Unlike government/public institutions, private institutions do not receive assistance from public funds. The establishment and maintenance of private institutions is guaranteed in part 11, section 3 (c) of the Education Act No. 63 of 1964. The new system upholds the existence of private institutions as long as no child is discriminated against by the private institution on the grounds of race, creed, or religion. The new system endorses the principle of partnership in the provision of education. Although not funded with public funds, private institutions are expected to follow the prescribed national curriculum with specific reference to Sierra Leonean languages, Sierra Leone studies, and life skills subjects. They are also subject to regular and systematic inspection by the Department of Education Inspectorate staff. Students in these institutions are allowed to take the NPSE, BECE, and SSSCE. The new system stipulates that at least 25 percent of the teaching staff in a private institution shall be Sierra Leoneans.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The old organizational and managerial structure of education in Sierra Leone has been inadequate to meet the social, economic, technological, and other challenges of the time. The new system, therefore, seeks to embark on a systematic reform and reorganization of the management and administration of education at all levels. After a thorough review of the entire situation, the new structure will be decentralized and professionalized. Matters relating to administrative and service matters will be decentralized to the regional and district education authorities as appropriate. A directorate system also has been put into place. The director general and chief advisor to the secretary of state is the professional and administrative head of the Department of Education. Separate directorates are responsible for planning, educational programs, educational services, resources-personnel and finance, and support services. The Director of Education (Inspectorate) is responsible for coordinating the daily administration of education at the regional and district levels.

Public funding of education for the past quarter of a century saw a drastic decline partly because of the downturn in the national economy and the neglect of education by various governments. In the new system, all possible sources of funding for education, internal and external, will be harnessed. The new system advocates increasing central government funding to education with more support to basic education and external assistance to primary education through investment. Another means of funding education will be through work study programs and loan schemes. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will be encouraged to finance specific programs, segments, projects, or activities. Also, private individuals, youth organizations, local bodies, professionals, and other groups will be encouraged to participate in the funding of education in the country. For the efficient management of educational finances, the Department of Education has set up a directorate for resources.

An autonomous National Curriculum Research and Development Center will deal with curriculum research, development, and evaluation, as well as with the development of materials and textbook production. Some of the aims of this national body are to conduct research and situational analyses that provide detailed information about the educational process and the criteria for such changes in the curriculum as may be necessary to initiate, promote, and develop new curricula in consonance with research findings, as well as to articulate the objectives of the approved educational structure/system.


Nonformal Education

Sierra Leone is one of the countries with the highest illiteracy rates in the world. The New Education Policy for Sierra Leone maintains that 69.3 percent of the male population is illiterate, while 80.0 percent of the female population is illiterate. Part of the function of the National Commission for Basic Education is to coordinate adult and nonformal education. "A significant percentage of 6- to 16-year-olds are not attending school and there is a high rate of school dropouts. With a population growth rate of approximately 2.6 percent a year, the literacy rate cannot improve significantly without a massive and urgent intervention by the government" (New Education Policy ). The nonformal component of the new system aims at accelerating adult literacy.

The Department of Education, the Basic Education Commission, and the Adult Education Committee will work together to implement a language policy to facilitate the use of English and indigenous languages in literacy and nonformal education classes. These bodies, among other things, will also ensure that by the year 2020, animation centers/community education centers are established in every district and attached to all teacher training colleges. The new system also envisages a situation whereby the enrollment and retention of female students will be encouraged by making their primary education free and compulsory, as well as making it possible for young mothers to be re-admitted into the formal system of education. The National Education Action Plan (NEAP) clearly specifies that in nonformal and adult education, the focus is on women and girls with particular attention to rural folk, street children, the disabled, and the disadvantaged. A Materials Development Department is in place to provide materials for literacy classes.


Teaching Profession

The training of qualified teachers is of paramount importance to the success of the new system. Adequate provisions must be made to educate and train high-quality teachers. To address these ends, institutions have been restructured by way of mergers; courses and programs also have been revised or are being revised. The new system ensures that all teachers are given courses for teaching nonformal and adult education classes and for teaching Sierra Leonean languages, for guidance counseling and continuous assessment, and for basic skills in handling disabled students. Unlike past practices, in the new system, the Department of Education shall, through the Teaching Service Commission, license teachers to teach in Sierra Leone whether their certificate has been issued by an institution in Sierra Leone or by some other recognized body outside Sierra Leone (New Education Policy).

Teacher Training Colleges: Teacher training colleges train teachers for the preprimary and primary levels. At the end of the program, candidates qualify for the Teachers Certificate (TC) and the Higher Teachers Certificate (HTC). Training colleges will, under the new system, also offer HTC courses for the junior secondary level. In the past, students in teacher training colleges spent three years to complete their course; the new system has reduced that to two years.


Milton Margai Teachers College: The Milton Margai Teachers College has been renamed Milton Margai College of Education (MMCE). Recently, a technology focus has been added to this college, so it is being renamed Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET). In the past this institution was not affiliated to the university, and it produced teachers for secondary school. Now it is affiliated to the University of Sierra Leone and has been upgraded to a degree-awarding status in selected subjects. However, the college will continue its HTC program, which has been shortened to two years instead of three. The college now offers the B.Ed degree. Those who hold the HTC, and have taught for at least two years after the HTC, can spend two years to obtain the B.Ed degree. The Diploma in Education course, originally offered by Fourah Bay College, shall be transferred to MMCET, as will the present staff of the Department of Education at Fourah Bay College.


The Institute of Education: Previously an independent institution, this institute, under the new system, shall be attached to the Faculty of Education at Njala with redefined functions and mandates. The institute continues to certify TC and HTC teachers of MMCET and other teacher colleges. The institute trains education administrators and runs higher degree courses in education. It also will have specialized functions for educational research and in-service training for primary and secondary school teachers and managers of schools.

Summary


No doubt, education in Sierra Leone has suffered tremendously both from systemic neglect and the ravages of a horrendous rebel war. Also, the old system was inadequate to meet the present needs of the country. The new system of education is, therefore, a welcome idea. The new system has a great deal of potential, which, if properly harnessed, will uplift the country.

The study of Sierra Leone and its languages and cultures will generate enormous knowledge about the Sierra Leonean society in general, as well as offer the opportunity to understand the philosophical, epistemological, scientific, and cultural underpinnings of the society, from which national development can spring. Building a body of knowledge about the country can foster self pride and patriotism. Also, the emphasis on the education of women is a giant step in the march towards progress; educating the women will tremendously increase the country's literacy rate, as well as its quality of life.

While schools and colleges sluggishly continue to operate in Freetown and Bo, schools and colleges in the rest of the country have been effectively shut down for many years now because of the rebel war. In effect only a very small percent of school-age children actually attend school. Even those who do often experience frequent interruptions. Thus, the positive ideas in the new system can only be fully realized if peace and stability return to that country. Because of the decade old war, it has been difficult to garner reliable statistics about education in Sierra Leone. Most institutions operate in make-shift locations in the capital of Freetown.

Another problem facing the new system is the dearth of qualified personnel to enhance the realization of the new 6-3-3-4 system. Most educated Sierra Leoneans have left the country to safer havens, so there is a dearth of teachers schools that are full of unqualified teachers. While the new system is promising, the conducive environment for the realization of its policies is absent.


Bibliography

Alie, J.A.D. A New History of Sierra Leone. London: Macmillan, 1990.


Framework of a National Plan of Action for Sierra Leone of Basic Education for All by the Year 2000, June 1991.


Sierra Leone Government. New Education Policy For Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education, 1995.


Sheikh Umarr Kamarah

views updated

SIERRA LEONE

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
Republic of Sierra Leone


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 71,740 sq. km. (29,925 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Cities: Capital—Freetown (est. 550, 000). Provincial Capitals—Southern Province, Bo; Eastern Province, Kenema; Northern Province, Makeni.

Terrain: Three areas—mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills along the immediate interior, and a mountainous plateau in the interior.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sierra Leonean(s).

Population: (2002 est., no census since 1989) 4.9 million.

Annual growth rate: (2001 est.) 2.4%.

Ethnic groups: Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Krio 1%, balance spread over 15 other tribal groups, and a small Lebanese community.

Religions: (est.) Muslim 60%, Christian 30%, animist 10%.

Languages: English, Krio, Temne, Mende, and 15 other indigenous languages.

Education: (2001) Literacy—36%.

Health: Life expectancy (2001 est.)—34.5 yrs. Access to safe water—57%. Infant mortality rate—182/1,000. Under five mortality—316/1,000.

Work force: Agriculture—67%; industry—15%; services—18%.


Government

Type: Republic with a democratically elected President and Parliament.

Independence: From Britain, April 27, 1961.

Constitution: October 1, 1991

Political parties: Thirteen political parties contested the 1996 elections. There are now 22 registered political parties. Major parties—All People's Congress (APC), Democratic Center Party (DCP), National Unity Party (NUP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), United National People's Party (UNPP).


Economy

GDP: (2002 est.) $836 million.

GDP growth rate: 6.6%.

GDP per capita income: $171.

Avg, annual inflation rate: -3.2%.

Natural resources: Diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, platinum and chromite.

Agriculture: Products—coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm kernels, cassava, bananas, citrus, peanuts, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables. Land—30% potentially arable, 8% cultivated.

Industry: Types—diamonds, bauxite, and rutile mining; forestry; beverages; cigarettes; construction goods; tourism.

Trade: (2002 est.) Exports—$72.5 million: rutile, diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa, fishes. Major markets—U.S., Belgium, Spain, U.K. and other west European nations. Imports—$190 million: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuel and lubricants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building materials, light consumer goods, used clothing, textiles.



PEOPLE

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country.


In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.



HISTORY

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable.


In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa.


Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans—or Krio as they came to be called—were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.


In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well. 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.

The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The indigenous people mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Krio domination. Most of the 20th century history of the colony was peaceful, however, and independence was achieved without violence. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister. He became Prime Minister after successful completion of constitutional talks in London in 1960. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton's Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general election under universal adult franchise in May 1962. Upon Sir Milton's death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, succeeded him as Prime Minister.


In closely contested elections in March 1967, the All Peoples Congress (APC) won a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Accordingly, the Governor General (representing the British Monarch) declared Siaka Stevens—APC leader and Mayor of Freetown—as the new Prime Minister. Within a few hours, Stevens and Margai were placed under house arrest by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), on grounds that the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house. Another group of officers soon staged another coup, only to be later ousted in a third coup, the "sergeants' revolt," and Stevens at last, in April 1968, assumed the office of Prime Minister under the restored constitution. Siaka Stevens remained as head of state until 1985. Under his rule, in 1978, the constitution was amended and all political parties, other than the ruling APC, were banned.


In August 1985, the APC named military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh, Steven's own choice, as the party candidate to succeed Stevens. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In October 1991 Momoh had the constitution amended once again, re-establishing a multi-party system. Under Momoh, APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power. Earlier in 1991, in March, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono district and pushing the Sierra Leone army pack towards Freetown. On April 29, 1992, a group of young military officers, led by Capt. Valentine Strasser, launched a military coup, which sent Momoh into exile in Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority in Sierra Leone.

The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh government in repelling the RUF. More and more country fell to RUF fighters, so that by 1995 they held much of the countryside and were on the doorsteps of Freetown. To retrieve the situation, 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.


As a result of popular demand and mounting international pressure, the NPRC agreed to hand over power to a civilian government via presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held in April 1996. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a diplomat who had worked at the UN for more than 20 years, won the presidential election. Because of the prevailing war conditions, parliamentary elections were conducted, for the first time, under the system of proportional representation. Thirteen political parties participated, with the SLPP winning 27 seats, UNPP 17, PDP 12, APC 5 and DCP 3.


The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew President Kabbah on May 25, 1997, and invited the RUF to join the government. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of President Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. On January 6, 1999, the RUF launched another attempt to overthrow the government. Fighting reached parts of Freetown, leaving thousands dead and wounded. ECOMOG forces drove by the RUF attack several weeks later.


With the assistance of the international community, President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh negotiated the Lome Peace Agreement, which was signed on July 7, 1999. The accord made Sankoh Vice President and gave other RUF members positions in the government. Lome called for an international peacekeeping force run initially by both ECOMOG and the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999, with an initial force of 6,000. ECOMOG forces departed in April 2000. Almost immediately, however, the RUF began to violate the agreement, most notably by holding hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel hostage and capturing their arms and ammunition in the first half of 2000. On May 8, 2000, members of the RUF shot and killed as many as 20 people demonstrating against the RUF violations outside Sankoh's house in Freetown. As a result, Sankoh and other senior members of the RUF were arrested and the group was stripped of its positions in government.


After the events of May 2000, a new cease-fire was necessary to reinvigorate the peace process. This agreement was signed in Abuja in November of that year. However, DDR did not resume, and fighting continued. In late 2000, Guinean forces entered Sierra Leone to attack RUF bases from which attacks had been launched against Liberian dissidents in Guinea. A second Abuja Agreement, in May 2001, set the stage for a resumption of DDR on a wide scale and a significant reduction
in hostilities. As disarmament has progressed, the government began to reassert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, some 72,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. On January 18, 2002 President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.


In May 2002 President Kabbah and his party, the SLPP, won landslide victories in the presidential and legislative elections. Kabbah was reelected for a five year term. The RUF political wing, the RUFP, failed to win a single seat in parliament. The elections were marked by irregularities and allegations of fraud, but not to a degree to significantly affect the outcome.

On July 28th, 2002 the British withdrew a 200-man military contingent that had been in country since the summer of 2000, leaving behind a 140-strong military training team to work to professionalize the Sierra Leone army. The Lome Accord called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and facilitate genuine reconciliation. Subsequently, the Sierra Leonean government asked the UN for help to establish to help set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone, which would try those who "bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law with in the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996." Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court began operating in the summer of 2002.


In November 2002, UNAMSIL began a gradual reduction from a peak level of 17,500 personnel. Under pressure from the British, the withdrawal slowed, so that by October 2003 the UNAMSIL contingent still stood at 12,000 men. The withdrawal plan, however, calls for a full withdrawal, contingent on the security environment, by the end of 2004.


On January 13, 2003 a small group of armed men tried unsuccessfully to break into an armory in Freetown. Former AFRC-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, went into hiding, after being linked to the raid. In March the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its first indictments for war crimes during the civil war. Foday Sankoh, already in custody, was indicted, along with notorious RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, Johnny Paul Koroma, the Minister of Interior and former head of the Civil Defense Force, Hinga Norman, and several others. Norman was arrested when the indictments were announced, while Bockarie and Koroma remained at large (presumably in Liberia). On May 5th Bockarie was killed in Liberia, probably on orders from President Charles Taylor, who expected to be indicted by the Special Court and feared Bockarie's testimony. Several weeks later word filtered out of Liberia that Johnny Paul Koroma had been killed, as well, although his death remains unconfirmed. In June the Special Court announced Taylor's indictment. Sankoh died in prison in Freetown on July 29th from a heart attack. He had been ailing for some time.

In August, 2003 President Kabbah testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his role during the civil war. Instead of acting in a statesman-like, unifying manner, he answered questions in a partisan, defensive style. He blamed the international community for ignoring Sierra Leone during much of the civil war, without acknowledging its assistance in the late 1990's that ended the fighting.



GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president and a multi-party system of government. Civil rights and religious freedom are respected. A critical press continues to operate, although the government has intervened for alleged inaccurate reporting.


The judicial system continues to function for civil cases but is severely handicapped by shortages of resources and qualified personnel. It is comprised of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and a High Court with judges appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission with the approval of Parliament. There also are magistrate and local courts and from these appeals lie to the superior courts of judicature. The 1991 constitution created an ombudsman responsible for looking into complaints of abuses and capricious acts on the part of public officials. In 2000 the GOSL promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act to combat corruption, which is endemic. As of October 2003, the GOSL had prosecuted only two high-level cases.


The basic unit of local government generally is the chiefdom, headed by a paramount chief and council of elders. There also is an elected council and mayor in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 12/27/02


President: Kabbah, Ahmad Tejan

Vice President: Berewa, Solomon

Min. of Agriculture & Food Security: Mondeh, Sama Sahr, Dr.

Min. of Country Planning, Forestry, Environment, & Social Welfare: Sesay, Alfred Bobson

Min. of Defense: Kabbah, Ahmad Tejan

Min. of Development & Economic Planning: Daramy, Mohamed B.

Min. of Education, Science & Technology: Wurie, Alpha T., Dr.

Min. of Energy & Power: Grant, Emmanuel

Min. of Finance: Dauda, Joseph

Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Koroma, Momodu

Min. of Health & Sanitation: Taylor-Lewis, Agnes, Dr.

Min. of Information & Broadcasting: Kaikai, Septimus

Min. of Internal Affairs: Norman, Sam Hinga

Min. of Justice: Halloway, Eke Ahmed

Min. of Labor, & Industrial Relations, & Social Security: Timbo, Alpha

Min. of Local Government & Community Development: Brima, Sidikie

Min. of Marine Resources: Adams, Okere

Min. of Mineral Resources: Deen, Mohamed Swarray, Alhaji

Min. of Political & Parliamentary Affairs: Thomas, George Banda

Min. of Social Welfare, Gender, & Children's Affairs: Gbujama, Shirley Yema

Min. of Trade & Industry: Sesay, Kadi, Dr.

Min. of Transport & Communications: Harding, Prince A., Dr.

Min. of Works, Housing, & Technical Maintenance: Boima, Caiser J., Dr.

Min. of Youth & Sport: Bright, Dennis, Dr.

Min. of State for Eastern Region: Fillie-Faboe, Sahr Randolph

Min. of State for Northern Region: Kargbo, Alex Alie

Min. of State for Presidential Affairs: Yumkella, Foday

Min. of State for Southern Region: Jah, S. U. M.

Attorney General: Halloway, Eke Ahmed

Ambassador to the US: Kamara, Ibrahim M.

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.



ECONOMY

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on the mining sector in general, and diamonds in particular, for its economic base. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. By the 1990's economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of Sierra Leone's formal economy was destroyed in the country's civil war. Since the cessation of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Full recovery to pre-war economic levels will require hundreds of millions of additional dollars and many more years of serious effort by the GOSL and donor governments. Much of Sierra Leone's recovery will depend on the success of GOSL efforts to limit official corruption, which many feel was the chief culprit for the country's descent into civil war. A key indicator of success will be the effectiveness of government management of its diamond sector.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. Despite the fact that most Sierra Leoneans derive their livelihood from it, agriculture accounts for only 42% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. Al so, the government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Mineral exports remain Sierra Leone's principal foreign exchange earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in this resource, the country has historically struggled to manage its exploitation and export. Annual production estimates range between $250-300 million. However, only a portion of that passes through formal export channels (1999: $1.2 million; 2000: $7 million; 2001: $26 million; 2002: $42 million; 2003: projections $60 million). The balance is smuggled out, where it is used for money laundering and the financing of other illicit activities. Recent efforts on the part of the country to improve the management of the export trade have met with some success. In October 2000, a new UN-approved export certification system for exporting diamonds from Sierra Leone was put into place that led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the Government of Sierra Leone created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of US and European investors, began commercial mining operations near Bonthe in early 1979. Sierra Rutile was then the largest nonpetroleum U.S. investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million for the country in 1990. The company and the Government of Sierra Leone concluded a new agreement on the terms of the company's concession in Sierra Leone in 1990. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995. In 2003 OPIC agreed to a $25 million loan to Sierra Rutile to assist with the restart of operations, now scheduled for early 2004.

Since independence, the Government of Sierra Leone has encouraged foreign investment, although the business climate has been hampered by a shortage of foreign exchange, corruption, and uncertainty resulting from civil conflicts. Investors are protected by an agreement that allows for arbitration under the 1965 World Bank Convention. Legislation provides for transfer of interest, dividends, and capital.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With Liberia and Guinea, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) customs union, primarily designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration. However, the MRU has so far been inactive because of domestic problems and internal and cross-border conflicts in all three countries. The future of the MRU depends on the ability of its members to deal with the fallout from these internal and regional problems.

Sierra Leone continues to rely on significant amounts of foreign assistance, principally from multilateral donors. The bilateral donors include the United States, Italy, and Germany, the largest being the United Kingdom and the European Union.



FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sierra Leone has maintained cordial relations with the West, in particular with the United Kingdom. It also maintains diplomatic relations with the Republics of the former Soviet Union as well as with China, Libya and Iran.

Sierra Leone is a member of the UN and its specialized agencies, the Commonwealth, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Mano River Union (MRU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


U.S.-SIERRA LEONE RELATIONS

U.S. relations with Sierra Leone began with missionary activities in the 19th century. In 1959, the U.S. opened a consulate in Freetown and elevated it to embassy status when Sierra Leone became independent in 1961.

U.S.-Sierra Leone relations today are cordial, with ethnicties between groups in the two countries receiving increasing historical interest. Many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States.

In fiscal year 2003, total U.S. aid to Sierra Leone in all categories was about $60 million, primarily for relief and basic economic development. U.S. aid also stresses restoration of peace, democracy and human rights, health education, particularly combating HIV/AIDS, and human resources development.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Freetown (E), corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Sts., Tel [232] (22) 226-481 through 226-485, AMB Tel 226-155, DCM Tel 227-192, Fax 225-471.

AMB: Peter R. Chaveas
AMB OMS: Mary L. Dubose
DCM: Larry E. Andre, Jr.
POL/ECO/CON:Brennan M. Gilmore
MGT: Salvatore Piazza
RSO: Michael Bishop
IPO: Vella Mbenna
AID: Julie Koenen-Grant
LAB: Robert Wholey (res. Wash., D.C.)
DAO: LTC William Godbout
IRS: Stanley Beesley (res. London)
FAA: Edward Jones (res. Dakar)
DEA: Andre Kellum (res. Lagos)
FFP: Kathrin Lauer
OFDA: Stefanie Sobol


Last Modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
July 7, 2003


Country Description: Sierra Leone is a developing country in western Africa that is emerging from a ten-year civil war. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based dialect, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are primitive or non-existent.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required and the visa must be obtained in advance. Landing visas, previously available, have been discontinued. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) containing evidence of vaccination against yellow fever upon arrival at airport. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Sierra Leone, 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance for departure from Sierra Leone. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist dual U.S.-Sierra Leonean nationals is extremely limited because Sierra Leonean authorities do not recognize dual nationality and view such individuals as solely Sierra Leonean citizens.

Safety and Security: Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly in the past year. The nationwide state of emergency and curfew have been lifted. In January 2002, disarmament by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civil Defense Force (CDF) was declared complete. Government forces have deployed around the country, including into areas previously held by the RUF, and the behavior of both the police and army has improved markedly following extensive international training efforts. However, government forces do not yet exercise complete authority. A large contingent of peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) assists the government in providing security. Peaceful, successful, nationwide elections were held in May 2002.

Areas outside of Freetown lack many basic services. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially when traveling outside of the capital. Embassy employees are free to travel in the Western Area (Freetown peninsula), the Northern Province, and the Southern Province, with the exception of the area between the Moa River and the border with Liberia. Travel elsewhere is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. There are occasional unauthorized roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers will be asked to pay for safe passage. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not speak English, it can be difficult for a foreigner to communicate his or her identity.

In July 2002, the suspicious death of a local money changer following a business transaction resulted in demonstrations by an angry mob in Freetown. In the past year, there have been other periodic, isolated security incidents due to police operations to reclaim land from illegal occupants and to clear streets of petty traders and vendors. U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

The U.S. Embassy in Freetown currently provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens. See the below section on Registration/Embassy Location for more information.


Crime: The continued poor state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for many in Sierra Leone has led many individuals or small groups to turn to criminal activity. Armed robberies and burglaries of residences have occurred more frequently since the lifting of the curfew in early 2002. In addition, requests for payments at military roadblocks are common. Petty crime and theft of wallets and passports are also very common. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid being the victims of crimes.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Business Fraud: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Sierra Leone. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Sierra Leone. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense-if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Sierra Leone should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, single copies of the Department of State's brochure, "Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria," are available at no charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. This brochure and an accompanying booklet entitled "Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud" are also available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards. Persons with medical conditions that may require treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment and administration of improper drugs have been reported.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/iht.

Because malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Sierra Leone, travelers should take prophylaxis against malaria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on appropriate anti-malaria prophylaxis has a greatly reduced chance of contracting malaria. If an individual manifests symptoms reflective of malaria, it is imperative that a blood test be conducted. If malaria is diagnosed, the treating physician must be made fully aware of medicines taken for prophylaxis before any treatment is begun. Treatment for malaria should not commence without a full discussion of side effects and drug interactions—but treatment should not be delayed and blood smears should be read on the day taken and, if positive, treatment started that same day. Plasmodium falci parum malaria can be fatal within a few days. For additional information on malaria, visit the Centers for Disease Control malaria travel section http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sierra Leone is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Most main roads in Freetown are paved but have potholes; unpaved side streets are generally navigable. There is a major road resurfacing and repair program ongoing in Freetown that is slowly improving the quality of roads in the city. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved, but passable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, sometimes unsafe, and generally not recommended. U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public transportation except for taxis that work in conjunction with an approved hotel.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.


Air Travel: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra Leone's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

The airline SN Brussels operates twice weekly flights to Lungi International Airport. The national airline, Sierra National Airways, operates chartered European aircraft twice a week between London and Lungi. Some regional airlines service the airport, but are unreliable. It is not uncommon for the airlines to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in, and should be prepared to handle alternate ticketing and/or increased food and lodging expenses.

The airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. Helicopters and ferries are available in connection with most major regional flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, due to concerns about safety and maintenance of the helicopters, United States Government employees are currently authorized to use only the Pan African Helicopter Service and the ferry service.


Photography Restrictions: Permission is required to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities. Areas where photography is prohibited may not be clearly marked or defined. Individuals sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission before taking pictures.


Customs Restrictions: Sierra Leone's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Sierra Leone of gems and precious minerals such as diamonds and gold. American travelers have encountered serious difficulties when trying to depart with such items, even if the items were brought into the country by the traveler initially.

All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State and only the government of Sierra Leone can issue mining licenses. The legal authority for the issuance of licenses is vested in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Failure to comply with relevant legislation can lead to serious criminal penalties. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources as follows:


The Director of Mines
Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources
Fifth Floor
Youyi Building
Brookfields, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Tel: 232-22-240420 or 240176
Fax: 232-22-240574


For general information on customs restrictions, contact the Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington, DC (see Entry Requirements section above for contact information).


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sierra Leonean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sierra Leone are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


Currency: Sierra Leone is effectively a cash-only economy. Very few facilities accept credit cards, and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATM machines connected to international networks. Travelers checks are not easy to cash and are not usually accepted as payment. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is risky. Criminals may "mark" such people for future attack and there is a risk of being provided counterfeit currency.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.


Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Sierra Leone. The Embassy is located at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, tel (232)(22) 226-481, fax (232)(22) 225-471. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown currently provides only limited consular services to U.S. citizens, including emergency services, and some passport services. The U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, tel (224) 41-15-20/21/23, fax (224) 41-15-22, provides other routine consular services to American citizens.

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Sierra Leone

Culture Name

Sierra Leonean

Alternative Names

The Republic of Sierra Leone

Orientation

Identification. The name "Sierra Leone" dates back to 1462, when Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, sailing down the West African coast, saw the tall mountains rising up on what is now the Freetown Peninsula and called them the "Lion Mountains," or "Serra Lyoa." Successive visits by English sailors and later British colonization modified the name to "Sierra Leone." Despite distinctive regional variations in language and local traditions, Sierra Leoneans today are united by many factors, such as their shared lingua franca Krio, widespread membership in men's and women's social associations and societies, and even sporting events, especially when the national football (soccer) team plays. At the same time, a worsening domestic economy, declining infrastructure, and deteriorating health conditions have prevented the country's progress, and have to some extent hindered the development of a strong sense of collective pride or shared national identification, especially in the rural areas outside the capital city.

Location and Geography. Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, north of the equator. With a land area of 27,699 square miles (71,740 square kilometers), it is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina. Sierra Leone is bounded by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

There are a wide variety of ecological and agricultural zones to which people have adapted. Starting in the west, Sierra Leone has some 250 miles (400 kilometers) of coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. This is followed by low-lying mangrove swamps, rain-forested plains and farmland, and finally a mountainous plateau in the east, where Mount Bintumani rises to 6,390 feet (1,948 meters). The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, followed by the dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert. The capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the world's third largest natural harbor. This prime location historically made Sierra Leone the center of trade and colonial administration in the region.

Demography. The population of Sierra Leone is 4.7 million people, the majority being children and youth. The population had been increasing at just over 2 percent per year, though this has declined somewhat since civil conflict began in 1991. Thirty-six percent of the people live in urban areas. The average woman bears six children during her lifetime. There are also numerous Sierra Leoneans living and working abroad, especially in England and the United States. They generate active discussion concerning events in their country, and provide an important source of resources for their families at home.

Linguistic Affiliation. Different reports list between fifteen and twenty different ethnic groups. This is a discrepancy not so much as to whether a certain group of people "exists" or not, but whether local dialects once spoken continue to be mutually distinct in the face of population expansion, intermarriage, and migration. For example, the two largest ethnic groups, the Temne and Mende, each comprise about 30 percent of the total population, and have come to "absorb" many of their less populous neighbors. For instance, Loko people will admit to being heavily culturally influenced by the Temne people surrounding them, the Krim and the Gola by the Mende, and so on. In addition, there are a number of people of Lebanese descent, whose ancestors fled Turkish persecution in Lebanon in the late nineteenth century. While each ethnic group speaks its own language, the majority of people speak either Mende, Temne, or Krio. The official language spoken in schools and government administration is English, a product of British colonial influence. It is not unusual for a child growing up to learn four different languagesthat of their parent's ethnic group, a neighboring group, Krio, and English.

Symbolism. To some extent symbolic imagery is regionally basedpeople from the western area often associate the tall cotton tree, white sandy beaches, or the large natural harbor with home; people from the east often think of coffee and cocoa plantations. Yet the palm tree and the rice grain are the national symbols par excellence, immortalized in currency, song, and folklore, and valued for their central and staple contributions to everyday life. Different species of palms contribute to cooking oil, thatch roofs, fermented wine, soap, fruits, and nuts. Perhaps the only thing more important than the palm tree is rice, the staple food, usually eaten every day. It is often hard for outsiders to grasp the centrality of rice to daily existence in Sierra Leone. Mende people, for example, have over 20 different words to describe rice in its variant forms, such as separate words for "sweet rice," "pounded rice," and "the rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot upon cooking."

History and Ethnic Relations

Archaeological evidence suggests that people have occupied Sierra Leone for at least twenty-five hundred years, and early migrations, expeditions, and wars gave the country its diverse cultural and ethnic mosaic. Traders and missionaries, especially from the north, were instrumental in spreading knowledge of tools, education, and Islam. The emergence of a modern national identity, however, did not begin until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Bunce Island, off the coast of Freetown, became one of the centers of the West African slave trade. Over two thousand slaves per year were channeled through this port, thus increasing the incidence of warfare and violence among the local population. The slaves were especially valued off the coast of South Carolina on rice plantations, where it was discovered they had considerable agricultural expertise.

There are between fifteen and twenty ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, depending on one's linguistic tendency to "lump" or "split" groups of people speaking different dialects. Relations have been generally cordial among them, and Sierra Leone has largely avoided the racial tension characteristic of other parts of the world. In the recent conflict, for instance, one family may have children fighting for opposing sides, a fact which makes the violence difficult, as well as deeply and personally felt. When ethnic problems do arise, they often do so around the time of national elections, when politicians become accused of catering to the desires of one particular constituency (usually their own ethnic group) in order to gain votes.

Emergence of the Nation. When the slave trade began to be outlawed near the close of the eighteenth century, Sierra Leone became a resettlement site for freed slaves from England and the Americas, thus the name of the capital, "Freetown." English philanthropists, concerned about the welfare of unemployed blacks on the streets of London, pushed a "benevolent" movement to round them all up and take them back to Africa to settle, where they could begin life anew. Other migrants had been ex-slaves from America who had fought for the British during the Revolutionary War. The English loss had forced them to move to Canada, where they were not entirely welcome. Still others were ex-slaves who had revolted and were living freely in the mountains of Jamaica, until the British conquered the area and deported them to Nova Scotia, from where they emigrated en masse to Sierra Leone. Finally, from the time when the English officially outlawed the slave trade in 1807 up until the 1860s, the British navy policed the West African coast for trading ships, would intercept them, and release their human cargoes in Freetown, in what became a rapidly expanding settlement.

In 1808 Sierra Leone became a British crown colony, ruled under a colonial governor. The British administration favored a policy of "indirect rule" whereby they relied on slightly reorganized indigenous institutions to implement colonial policies and maintain order. Rulers who had been "kings" and "queens" became instead "paramount chiefs," some of them appointed by the administration, and then forced into a subordinate relationship. This allowed the crown to organize labor forces for timber cutting or mining, to grow cash crops for export, or to send work expeditions to plantations as far away as the Congo. Sierra Leoneans did not passively accept such manipulations. The 1898 "Hut Tax rebellion" occurred as a response to British attempts to impose an annual tax on all houses in the country. The Temne and Mende people especially refused to pay, attacking and looting trading stations, and killing policemen, missionaries, and all those suspected of assisting the colonial government.

Pressures to end colonialism had as much to do with Britain's weakened position following World War II as it did with the pan-African demands for autonomy. Sierra Leone became an independent, sovereign state on 27 April 1961 with Milton Margai as its prime minister. Ten years later, on 19 April 1971, the country became a republic, with an elected president as the head of state.

National Identity. National identity has been influenced by several factors. Besides the common experiences shared under colonialism or since independence, one of the most important has been the development of the regional lingua franca Krio, a language that unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. Another has been the near universal membership, across ethnic lines, in men's and women's social organizations, especially Poro among the men, and Bundu,or Sande, among the women.

Ethnic Relations. There are between fifteen and twenty ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, depending on one's linguistic tendency to "lump" or "split" groups of people speaking different dialects. Relations have generally been good between them, and Sierra Leone has largely avoided the racial tension characteristic of other parts of the world. When problems do arise, they often originate at the time of national elections, with politicians being accused of catering to the desires of one particular constituency (usually their own ethnic group) in order to gain votes.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Around the capital, Freetown, the architecture of the houses is somewhat unique. Often wood and clapboard in structure, they are noticeably influenced by Krio and colonial English styles. Also in Freetown, large buildings have become a source of national pride, especially the government State House and the national football stadium, which is a central gathering place for many large events.

Outside of Freetown, the "traditional" house in Sierra Leone is a clay and earth structure, built with a thatch roof. Construction can either be "wattle and daub" (wattle is the frame of a group of poles secured by the intertwining of twigs and vines; this frame is then "daubed" or plastered with soft earth to cover it), or clay and earth blocks, which are dried and hardened in the sun. These construction techniques have the advantage of allowing the house to stay relatively cool inside during the season of hot and dry months. Modern materials are now often incorporated into building techniques, especially zinc sheets for roofs and cement to cover floors and walls. While making the interior of the house considerably less cool during the heat, these materials do allow for more permanent structures needing less maintenance.

Houses are either round or rectangular, and typically offer a veranda, a central parlor, and two or three interior rooms. These may function as bedrooms or food storage areas, or both. More well-to-do people may cluster a group of houses together into a "compound," sometimes walled off, to separate it from the rest of the village. Kitchens are often located outside the main house, and may be open structures supporting only a roof, as adequate ventilation is needed to maintain the cooking fire. During the sunny days, however, the kitchen is often wherever a woman moves her "three stones," the large rocks that support a pot, underneath which is built a stick fire. This same area during cool harmattan evenings then becomes a place where children gather to hear stories told from their elders. During the rainy season, however, it is not unusual to see a woman move her pots inside the parlor of the main house to get away from the damp.

Older towns and villages are "traditional" in that there are no gridlike "streets" per se, and the houses appear in irregular and sometimes densely packed clumps. More recently constructed areas that have sprung up since the expansion of trade and commerce tend to be organized along railroad lines or streets, and are thus more linear in their order. Depending on the size, almost any village will include shops or market areas, a centralized public court space, a church and/or mosque, a school, wells, and latrines. Near the outside of the village is typically a cemetery, and at either edge of town a carefully defined "Poro" or "Bundu" bush, one area strictly off-limits for women, the other area offlimits for men.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. For almost all Sierra Leoneans, rice is the staple food, consumed at virtually every meal. A Sierra Leonean will often say, without any exaggeration, "If I haven't eaten rice today, then I haven't eaten!" Other things are of course eatena wide variety of fruits, seafood, potatoes, cassava, etc.but these are often considered to be just "snacks" and not "real food." Real food is rice, prepared numerous ways, and topped with a variety of sauces made from some combination of potato leaves, cassava leaves, hot peppers, peanuts, beans, okra, fish, beef, chicken, eggplant, onions, and tomatoes. Bones, particularly chicken bones, are a delicacy, because their brittle nature makes the sweet marrow inside easily accessible.

Along the street one can find snacks such as fresh mangoes, oranges, pineapple, or papaya, fried plantains, potato or cassava chunks with pepper sauce, small bags of popcorn or peanuts, bread, roasted corn, or skewers of grilled meat or shrimp. Local bars in some towns and villages will also sell poyo the sweet, lightly fermented palm wine tapped from the high tops of palm trees. Poyo bars can be areas of lively informal debate and conversation among men.

Sometimes villages, and sometimes families within villages, will have specific taboos or proscriptions against eating certain foods. These are usually attributed to a law handed down from someone's ancestor, perhaps the founder of the village. The taboo can be a restriction against certain kind of meat or a certain oil, or even against food prepared a certain way. Violation is usually seen as a risky proposition, and can incur the ill feelings of would-be guardians either living or dead.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Almost all ceremonial occasions such as weddings, funerals, initiations, and memorial services demand the preparation of large platters of rice, distributed to guests until they are full. Depending on the occasion, a portion may also be offered to the ancestors, to honor their memory. Another common practice in this sense is to pour liquor in the ancestors' honor in the corners of a house. Other food traditions vary with region or religion: Mende Muslims, for instance, will mark a burial ceremony with lehweh, a ball of rice flour mixed with water and sugar, served with a kola nut on top.

Kola nuts are highly valued in and of themselves, and are often associated with greetings, diplomacy, provisions of respect, religious rites, and initiation ceremonies. High in caffeine concentration, they are also used as a stimulant, a clothing dye, and even in the preparation of medicines.

Basic Economy. Subsistence agriculture comprises the mainstay of the rural Sierra Leonean economy. Cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, peanuts, and tobacco are also important, as are small-scale marketing and commodity trade. Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds, bauxite, and gold, but the national economy receives little of the benefits that could come from the official export of these items, due to mismanagement, widespread smuggling, and corruption.

Land Tenure and Property. All the territory of an administrative chiefdom is technically held by the paramount chief. Underneath this authority, older families who can prove descent from a village founder then control the land close to their home. An elder male of the lineage usually administers land to those who request a plot to farm. This is most often to members of his extended family, but may include strangers who provide a gift of respect, and usually some portion of the ensuing harvest.

Commercial Activities. Sierra Leone's economy is largely informal, with small-scale marketing and trading of basic commodities, especially cloth, cigarettes, shoes, pots and pans, and mats. Women particularly dominate the market trade in foodstuffs.

Major Industries. Food processing (especially of flour, oil, rice, and fish) is one of the major industrial activities in Sierra Leone. Mining was for years the dominant industry, especially of rutile, bauxite, and diamonds. Also, because of Sierra Leone's beautiful beaches and "exotic" wildlife (hippos, chimpanzees, and monkeys), the tourist industry once thrived. Since the beginning of the 1991 conflict, however, official mining and tourism have stopped.

Trade. Besides the cash crops listed above, illegally smuggled diamonds have become a dominant item of trade. High in value only to foreign countries, they have played a major part in subsidizing the rebellion that has spread across Sierra Leone. International marketers who bought them came to recognize their own role in inadvertently funding the conflict, and publicly renounced any dealing in Sierra Leonean diamonds. Yet small and easily concealed, Sierra Leonean diamonds are now simply carried across national borders where they are sold to the same international marketers as "Liberian" or "Guinean" in origin.

Division of Labor. Like most big cities, Sierra Leone's urban areas offer a variety of occupational specialties, especially in small-scale trading, government, and industry. Downturns in the national economy, however, have made full-time salaried jobs extremely hard to procure, especially if one's family is not well connected. Village-level occupations are dominated by farming, but include traders, hunters, midwives, marketers, religious specialists, educators, policemen, and blacksmiths. Young men aged eighteen to twenty-nine are often attracted to mining jobs and the idea of "striking it rich," but the poor and exploitative conditions of the work often make their ventures short or seasonal, lasting between a few months and several years.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Sierra Leonean society is in some ways a stratified one. The traditional elite families are those who can trace descent (usually through the father's line) to a warrior or hunter who first settled in the area. These families then control and administer land, a valuable asset in a subsistence society, which puts them in an advantageous relationship to non-landholders. People who want to acquire the right to farm must show respect to an elder from this family (usually, but not always, a male), who may then grant them use of the land.

Colonial administrators in some ways exacerbated these differences between people, by favoring those elite families who supported their agenda with urban employment opportunities, political appointments, and education.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Some Sierra Leoneans will claim that one of the most persistent and negative impacts of colonialism was to pass along a taste for Western values and European goods, and the belief that anything African is relatively inferior. Thus one indicator of a high social status is the accumulation and display of Western accoutrements: Western clothing, English speech, satellite television, and Mercedes-Benz cars (or increasingly, sport-utility vehicles).

Political Life

Government. Under the terms of the constitution, executive power is vested in the president, who is directly elected by the people. The president appoints a cabinet of ministers, responsible for various government departments. There is also multiparty legislative power vested in an eighty-member Parliament, whose members are elected to five-year terms. Paramount chiefs serve in "District Councils," which in turn elect representatives to the legislature. Finally, there is a system of courts with a chief justice as head.

Leadership and Political Officials. Sierra Leone's political customs are often referred to as "patrimonial," in that elected officials become "patrons" to their voter base, the "clients." Clients expect patrons to share some of the benefits or entitlements of their office, and in return give them electoral support. This system became somewhat strained in the last thirty years of the twentieth century, as widespread political corruption drained many resources that would otherwise have been distributed. Yet in general, Sierra Leoneans respect almost any high-ranking official, regardless of political affiliation. Deference may be shown upon meeting with a slight bow, formal speech, and supporting the right arm with the left when shaking hands.

Social Problems and Control. In March 1991, an attack on a small southern village by a group of armed Sierra Leoneans, Liberians, and Burkinabes calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) began what has become a nine-year civil conflict. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives, and almost all of the population has at one time been displaced, either within or across national boundaries. Though initially supported by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, the RUF later claimed its own populist political reform agenda to end corruption, reduce reliance on foreign aid, and usher in peace between all ethnic groups. Dramatic violence waged against innocent civilians, however, and the failure of government actionsincluding genuine political reforms and concessions granted to the RUFto produce a consistent peace, has fueled popular skepticism about the legitimacy of RUF claims. Unlike conflicts in Europe or other parts of Africa, the Sierra Leone war has largely avoided ethnic divisiveness. Most analysts attribute the current violence to a mixture of war-inspired, socially marginalized youth fighting continued exclusion, and increased criminal control over the highly profitable, illicit diamond trade.

A problematic legacy of the war will certainly be the large number of guns and light weapons that have entered Sierra Leone since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Kalashnikov rifles, usually channeled into Sierra Leone by foreign arms merchants, can be bought for several dollars. Their widespread prevalence coupled with the intense poverty of the country is a virtual guarantee that extortion, highway banditry, and attacks on civilians will remain a dire social problem for years to come.

Military Activity. Sierra Leone's military is currently attempting reorganization. There are an estimated forty-five thousand total combatants that previously made up the different factions of the warex-Sierra Leone army soldiers, civilian militias, and RUF rebels. Few of these have followed up on agreements made to disarm and return to civilian life. Nigeria maintains some troop presence in the country, and a force of over ten thousand United Nations peacekeepers is currently in place, although their mandate has proven somewhat limited.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Steady economic decline coupled with rising international debt has severely limited Sierra Leone's ability to provide basic social welfare programs to its citizens. Smuggling, corruption, worldwide recession, and a large informal economy have all posed real problems to official attempts to remedy the situation. Structural adjustment policies by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have often further exacerbated these problems by increasing the income disparity between people, and orienting the economy toward the repayment of loans rather than the subsidization of basic public services.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The state's declining ability to meet basic health, education, and welfare needs has meant a corresponding increase in the number and activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. There are a wide variety of local and international NGOs who compete for funding from international donors in order to implement projects in economic and infrastructural development, health and sanitation, agriculture, and education. Most of their programs are "vertical," so called because they are designed and funded by external agencies according to Western priorities. Since 1991, international relief agencies have become an even bigger presence, bringing aid to Sierra Leonean refugees and internally displaced people who have fled the violence surrounding their homes.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women are the backbone of Sierra Leonean labor. Men do the physically intense work of clearing fields and plowing swamps, but planting, harvesting, weeding, gathering wood, cooking, cleaning, marketing, and child care are duties often shouldered by women. Young children, especially girls, are encouraged to help their parents with minor household chores and farm work, and early in life take pride in their ability to contribute to the welfare of the household.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The relative status of women is a bit paradoxical. On the surface, they seem to have low statuswomen technically live under the authority of the men they marry, have fewer legal rights, less formal education, and lower literacy rates. Yet in reality, women's relationship to men is more complementary than subordinate, due mostly to the considerable power and solidarity gained through the collective formed by the near universal membership in the women's Bundu or Sande societies.

Though some have pointed out that the women's societies stratify as much as they unify, others have noted how they provide substantial resources and skills that allow women to independently manage problems and control their lives. A society can, for example, autonomously determine laws that regulate proper social conduct and relations between genders, with codes as binding for men as they are for women. A girl's initiation gives her womanly status, allowing her to marry and bear children, activities which help her gain further prestige. A less tangible but important benefit is that society membership often enshrouds women with a certain mystique that confounds men, who become unable to explain the "womanly knowledge" and secrets over which the society presides.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. For all Sierra Leoneans, marriage is a mark of adult maturity and brings considerable prestige to both bride and groom. Specific customs vary by ethnic group and socioeconomic status, but usually begin when a man is able to assemble enough brideprice (often a mixture of money and fine cloth) to give to the prospective bride and her family. He may be able to amass this himself, but often has to ask his father and his father's brothers for support. Almost all marriages used to be arranged between families, sometimes while the girl was still quite young. Increasingly, "love marriages" are more common, especially among those who have been to school.

Domestic Unit. The basic household structure is an extended family, organized for the majority of people around the farm and its rice production. Many households are polygynous, where a husband may have more than one wife; the first or "senior" wife usually has some authority over "junior" wives, such as in training and organizing them into a functional unit. Monogamy is also common, especially among urban and Christian families. Sierra Leoneans love children, and larger households tend to have more prestige. Having many children is in fact an investment of sorts, which, though initially expensive to maintain, eventually allows a family to accumulate wealth by creating a large and diverse labor pool, by gaining brideprice for its daughters, and by strategically marrying off children to create new alliances with other families.

Inheritance. Inheritance laws most often favor the male heirs. Upon the death of a male household head, rights of inheritance usually pass first to his eldest living brother. This is most often land and personal property, but may even include the deceased's wives, if they are willing, and any young children. If there are no living brothers, inheritance passes to the eldest adult son. There are exceptions to this, most notably among the coastal Sherbro women, who may be heads of households, village chiefs, or even lineage heads; it is not unusual in these circumstances for women to become trustees of land or property.

Kin Groups. Kinship networks are extremely important in everyday matters, in that one is obligated to assist one's family members throughout life. The majority of people are patrilineal, and so sons (and sometimes daughters) usually obtain rights to land through their father's side. Kin groups also play an important part in hearing legal cases and settling disputes before they are referred to a neutral third party. Thus, upon marriage, a man and a woman may each prefer to settle near their own kin, as this confers them distinct political and economic advantages. Though rights and responsibilities exist on both sides of one's family, maternal uncles are often particularly important figures, offering both obligations and entitlements to an individual.

Socialization

Infant Care. Mothers carry infants close to them at all times, strapped to their backs by a brightly colored cloth or lappa. Babies are breast-fed on demand, often for well over a year, although solid foods, usually rice pap, may be introduced at a young age. Both the extended family and the community share responsibility in rearing infants and children. It is not even unusual for a mother to "give" her child to a trusted friend or relative, though she of course would still play an active part in the child's life.

Child Rearing and Education. Providing they can afford school fees, most parents will try to send their children to at least several years of formal schooling. This is often Western-style education, although Arabic schools are an option in many areas. Outside the formal system, the men's and women's societies have historically provided important instruction for proper behaviorboys may learn the arts of proper male social conduct, including conflict mediation and forest survival; girls similarly learn crucial social, household, and childbearing skills to prepare them for womanhood. Traditionally this instruction could last more than a year; increasingly, however, pressures from school and urban environments have shortened this time to a month or less.

Higher Education. Many schools outside Freetown (both primary and secondary) have been closed since the beginning of the 1991 conflict. There has thus arisen some social concern over what the effects may be of a generation raised without access to formal education. This is one advantage recognized by refugees who have crossed over into Guinea and Liberiarelief agencies usually provide free schooling for refugee children and youth.

Etiquette

Sierra Leoneans as a rule are extremely polite and manner-conscious. Much attention is given, especially in urban areas, to one's neatness of dress and style of presentation. Courteous and eloquent greetings are a way of life. Elders are especially respected. The "good" host is always a giving host, one who will call any passerby to join in a meal by a wholehearted, "Come, let's eat." It is polite as a guest to leave some food on the plate, thanking the host profusely for his or her generosity.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Reports often list Sierra Leoneans as 60 percent Muslim, 10 percent Christian, and 30 percent "indigenous believers." These kinds of numbers often mask the degree to which religious beliefs in Sierra Leone may be flexible and accommodating. One can go to a Christian church on Sunday, for example, and still make a sacrifice to one's ancestors for good fortune. Likewise, Muslim rituals may appear to dominate in some areas, yet these can become mixed with indigenous ideas or customs.

Religious Practitioners. Besides Muslim and Christian holy leaders, there are a number of indigenous religious practitioners who are able to mediate with the spirit world. These include diviners, healers, men's and women's society elders, and witchcraft specialists.

Rituals and Holy Places. Churches, mosques, and society clearings in the forest or town occupy central positions in Sierra Leonean religious life and serve as focal points for organizing religious activities, especially toward God or ancestral spirits. Water is often considered especially important and many religious rituals take place near the edges of lakes, rivers, or streams.

Death and the Afterlife. Specific burial customs may vary by region or religion, yet practically all of them encompass a firm conviction in the existence of God and the spirit world, and especially in the abilities of one's deceased ancestors to intervene in the activities of everyday life. Sacrifices, ritual remembrances, and prayer are made in order enlist ancestors' support and good favor.

Medicine and Health Care

The United Nations estimates that Sierra Leone has the highest death rate in the world, and the second highest infant morality rate (195 out of every 1,000 infants die within a year of birth). Life expectancy at birth in 1995 was only 34.1 years, down significantly from previously improving figures.

Even factoring in war-related violence, malaria is still the number one health threat. Schistosomiasis, bloody diarrhea, tetanus, measles, and polio are also endemic in some areas. Access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, especially in the rural countryside, is limited.

Medical facilities are extremely strained and are continuing to decline, especially since the 1991 conflict began. Yet even before this, the centrally organized national health service reached only an estimated 35 percent of the population, with less than 1 percent of annual government expenditures being allocated to health care. There are also an array of widely used indigenous practitioners, including midwives, broken-bone specialists, herbalists, society leaders, and Muslim-based ritual specialists.

Secular Celebrations

Outside of the major Muslim and Christian holidays, Sierra Leoneans also celebrate New Year's Day (1 January), National Independence Day (27 April), Labor Day (1 May), and National Day (9 August).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Government funding for the arts has been extremely limited and most artists are self-supported.

Literature. There are rich and lively traditions of storytelling across Sierra Leone. The most famous storytellers (sometimes endearingly called "liars") can manage to earn a living from their trade, though mostly these traditions are informal affairs, and start when children gather around an elder under the full moon once the evening chores are done. There are also critically acclaimed Sierra Leonean novels, such as The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, by Syl Cheney-Coker (Heinmann Books).

Graphic Arts. Among the graphic arts practiced in Sierra Leone are woodcarving, tie-dyeing, batik-printing, textile and fabric design, and basket making.

Performance Arts. A few famous Sierra Leonean musicians have gained widespread appeal both at home and abroad, such as "S. E. Rogers," "Calendar," "Dr. Oloh," and "Salliah." There is even a national dance troupe that travels around the world. To a large extent, however, participation in the arts is widely diffused and informal; dancing, painting, singing, storytelling, tie-dying, weaving, and drumming are widely practiced skills, the learning for which is often begun in childhood.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Fourah Bay College (now the University of Sierra Leone) was the first university in West Africa, and was historically one of the centers for African scholars of law, medicine, and education. Its operation is currently severely strained, however, from inadequate funds, decaying infrastructure, and poorly paid professors. Several teachers' colleges around the country have similarly become either strained or closed, especially since the 1991 conflict.

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M. Douglas Henry