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Short History of Sierra Leone




 Sierra Leone is a small, beautiful tropical country in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean between Guinea and Liberia.  Freetown is its capital.  It is about 28,000 square miles in size with a population of six million.  It is primarily agricultural with rich natural resources such as raw diamonds, chrome, bauxite, and iron ore.  Unfortunately, it also is known as the land featured in the popular movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connally, and the Discovery channel movie-length documentary Blood Diamonds.   


As a British colony it was home in the 1700-1800s to three island holding areas for shipping slaves to America.  The major city and capitol, Freetown, later developed as an experiment in repatriation of former slaves. 


Sierra Leone received its freedom in 1961.  The official language is English, but the common language is a patois of English and native languages called Krio.  In remote villages, because English is taught in the schools, perhaps a third of Sierra Leoneans can speak it, along with their own tribal language.

Sierra Leone is first- or second-lowest from year to year on the UN Human Development Index, partly because of its terrible 1990s civil conflicts funded largely by its raw "blood diamonds."   The conflict began when the nearby Liberian civil war spilled over into eastern Sierra Leone and its raw diamond fields.  The diamonds were sold for weapons, child soldiers were commonly used by all sides in both countries, and the rebels in Sierra Leone chopped off the hands and arms of over twenty thousand of people as a method of waging war.  80% of citizens also were displaced and sixty to ninety thousand killed.  


A Sierra Leone rebel group then formed--partly in response to a self-serving,

unrepresentative government in Freetown and partly in response to the wealth of the diamond fields.  The rebels began a 12-year civil war embracing almost all of the country and several competing forces.  This destabilized the economy, political and cultural





life, and resources throughout the nation.  Many villages were burned, often repeatedly.  A majority of the population hid in the bushes or lived in refugee camps for many years while heavily armed rebels and government fighters--often "child soldiers" as young as 8-10 years old--pillaged the countryside.


In 2001, however, at the invitation of the Sierra Leonean government in Freetown, the United Nations and British soldiers arrived and ended the fighting in a few months.  In

2002 the government held peaceful democratic elections.  President Kabbah--who had been briefly elected for several months in the mid-1990s--won once again.  In 2007 in new elections, the opposing party's candidate won a firm majority with a peaceful turnover of power.

With successful democratic elections and governance, Sierra Leone has proven it is once again ready to establish a new prosperity.  Travel there has been safe for several years.  Sierra Leoneans give outsiders warm welcomes as the capital, towns, and farming villages slowly rebuild with help from several countries.  



Most recent revision of this page: 14 Sept. 2010

First publication of Web site as, 15 Aug. 2005; as, 15 June 2010.

Written content & page design unless otherwise noted: Richard Jewell.

Photos unless otherwise noted are 2004-10 by R. Jewell and other members of OneVillage Partners. 

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Questions, suggestions, comments, & requests for site links: Contact Richard Jewell.
This web site is an educational site for the benefit of the students of Inver Hills College and other students everywhere.


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