Interesting Facts about Sierra Leone and its Civil War

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Sierra Leone is a country located towards the north-west side of the African continent. The capital of the country is Freetown, which was founded for former repatriated slaves in 1787. Till 1961, it was a part of the British colonial empire. Post-independence, democracy became the order of the day.

However, a civil war started in 1991 that continued for a decade to ravage the country’s resources. Democracy was reinstated, but the country still has a long way to go in order to recover from the war’s aftermath. Here are some of the facts about Sierra Leone.

  • Four languages are officially recognised in Sierra Leone- Krio, Mende, Temne and English. Most of the citizens are Muslims, while some are Christians or have their indigenous beliefs.

  • The literacy rate among the citizens is shockingly low at 31% while the life expectancy rate is 43 years. The GDP per capita is only $500.

  • The major exports of Sierra Leone are diamonds, rutile, coffee and cacao. Industries comprise mainly of diamond mining, processing textile and beverages and petroleum refineries.

  • Sierra Leone has varied terrain with mangrove forests, forested hills and mountains on the eastern side. It has a long coastal line of 405kms along the Atlantic Ocean.

  • The average rainfall received by the coastal side of Sierra Leone is 195 inches which makes it one of the wettest areas along the western coast of Africa.

  • The Sierra Leone civil war broke out in 1991 when the former army chief Foday Sankoh and his party the RUF or Revolutionary United Front started capturing bordering Liberia. They went on a rampage to overthrow the government headed by President Momoh. Several thousands of Sierra Leone citizens were amputated, and women were raped during this period.

  • In 1999, UN peacekeeping forces were deployed to the country, to bring back normalcy. Several hundred UN peacekeepers were abducted. The United Kingdom decided to intervene around this time and despatched 800 paratroopers to rescue British citizens who were held hostage. When some of the paratroopers were abducted, the British sent a larger regiment to take control of the situation.

  • In 2002, after 10 long years, the war ended with the disarmament of rebels by 17,000 UN peacekeepers and foreign troops. Elections were held, and Kabbah won in a landslide victory.

  • In 2012, the first elections were held without any intervention from the UN peacekeeping forces.

  • The rebellion and subsequent civil war in Sierra Leone is believed to have been funded using blood diamonds or diamonds mined in a war zone to fund insurgencies and rebellions.

  • The war trial courts set up by the United Nations, found the Liberian leader Charles Taylor the perpetrator behind crimes committed in Sierra Leone during the civil war period.

  • Post the civil war, the country is trying very hard to reshape its economy. Unemployment, low literacy levels and lack of health sanitations are one of the major problems.

  • The government of Sierra Leone is trying to develop the coastal areas as tourist destinations, quite similar to what Gambia has done. The government is also trying to convince investors that the diamonds being mined are conflict free and blood diamonds are now a thing of the past.

Sierra Leone, much like its neighbours Guinea and Liberia, is recovering from the damages caused by civil war. Nevertheless, with proper policies undertaken, Sierra Leone will be on the path of growth soon.

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