Sierra Leone Overview

In this paper, I will talk about Sierra Leone. An extremely poor country with the second worst HDI in the world. Together presenting its history, its general and social data, its map, its subdivisions … And the socioeconomic situation of the country today and the reason for that situation.

Sierra Leone History

Discovered by the Portuguese navigator Pedro de Sintra in 1460, Sierra Leone was then inhabited by the Temnes. Sierra Leone’s name derives from the similarity that the mountain, seen from the sea, acquired with a lioness seen from afar. In addition, thundering in the rainy season resembled the animal’s roar. The first economic activity introduced by the Portuguese was even the slave trade, obtained in negotiation with that people. Even today, buildings built by the Portuguese remain.

According to, Sierra Leone was created in 1787 to be a colony and receive slaves emancipated by the British after independence from the United States.

The non-native Africans, known as krios, were placed by the British crown in the top posts of the administration, so that in the 1950s, Sierra Leone proclaimed its loyalty to the Queen, while the rest of the colonies tried to seek their independence.

In 1968, after successive coups d’état, Siaka Stevens, of the Congress of All Peoples (APC), declared Sierra Leone an independent republic and a one-party state. His presidency lasted 17 years, and, in the midst of a serious crisis, he was followed by General Joseph Saidu Momoh.

Sierra Leone really aroused the interest of Europeans only when the diamond was discovered in 1930. Until two years after its independence, only whites explored the stone. Since the mines were nationalized, there has been no more peace.

Since 1961, the date of its independence, Sierra Leone has been alternating civilian, military and violent coups. The country, among the poorest in the world, despite the diamond deposits in the hands of foreigners, has little interest in the great European powers and has been left adrift: it is not worth sending armies, in this generalized climate of violence and poverty, in exchange for nothing.

The current conflict started with the overthrow of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah by United Revolutionary Front rebels, led by Foday Sankoh, currently in prison. Invoking the legality of the Kabbah election, Nigeria and other countries sent an intervention force that brought the former president back to the government and expelled the rebels from the city in February 1998. In December of the same year, the rebels, many of whom they are teenagers, Freetown resumed: in the first half of the fighting alone, there were more than 10,000 deaths. Then, government forces managed to improve their own situation, but chaos continues.

During the day, government forces prevail, at night, teenage guerrillas, having nothing to lose but their own lives and led by adult guerrillas, indulge in killing and rape: they cut off arms and legs, cut off the wombs of women. pregnant women, throw victims into the sea or abandon corpses in the streets as food for vultures. There is no longer any authority in that country that follows the trajectory of other African countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi and Angola, sadly remembered for the savagery of ethnic killings, and it is difficult to foresee a solution to the conflict. The guerrillas demand the release of their leader, but the government does not seem willing to give in.

Economic Base

Mining predominates, as Sierra Leone is rich in minerals such as: diamond, gold, titanium dioxide, iron, platinum and bauxite. Extractive activities are largely managed by foreign society and diamond mining is usually done with slave labor.

In addition to minerals, there are the country’s agricultural potential, with excellent soil and plenty of water, an abundance of sea resources, and tropical beaches of great natural beauty.

General data

  • Official name: Republic of Sierra Leone (Republic of Sierra Leone).
  • Official language: English, Creole, Mende, Limba, Temne.
  • Capital: Freetown
  • Current President: Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
  • Independence: April 27, 1961
  • Currency: Leone
  • Location: West Africa, south of Guinea and northeastern Liberia; bathed by the Atlantic Ocean.

Characteristics: Most of Sierra Leone’s coastline consists of mangroves, the only exception being the peninsula where the capital, Freetown, is located. The rest of Sierra Leone is essentially a plateau (about 300 m high) covered with forests, with mountains in the east of the country (the highest point is Loma Mansa at 1,948 m).

Climate: Tropical with a rainy season between May and December.


Year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Information Date
2003 $ 2,800,000,000 2002 est.
2004 $ 3,057,000,000 2003 est.
2005 $ 3,335,000,000 2004 est.
2006 $ 4,939,000,000 2005 est.

Social Information

Mortality rate: 23.03 deaths / 1,000 inhabitants (2006 – estimated.)

Birth rate: 45.76 births / 1,000 inhabitants (estimated 2006)

Population: 6,005,250 (July 2006 est.)

Growth rate: 2.3% (2006 est.)

Child mortality rate:

Total: 160.39 deaths / 1,000 births
Men: 177.47 deaths / 1,000 births
Women: 142.8 deaths / 1,000 births (2006 est.)


Sierra Leone has the second worst HDI (0.339) (behind Niger only)

Life expectancy:

Men : Approximately 38 years old

Women: Approximately 43 years old (2006 est.)

Population below the poverty level: approximately 70%

Literacy : Seven out of ten adults are illiterate. (2000)

AIDS / HIV: Like virtually every country in Africa, thousands of Leones are infected with HIV. And a large portion of its mortality rate is a result of this.

Illicit Trade in Diamonds

The so-called “conflict diamonds” are rough stones mined in regions dominated by guerrillas. Extracted almost always on the basis of slave labor, they are delivered by subterfuge to the classifiers in London or Antwerp, and then dumped in regular trade around the world. They are currently financing the death toll in Côte d’Ivoire. In Sierra Leone, the United Revolutionary Front (FRU) used clandestine gems to pay for more than a decade of violence, between 1991 and 2002. Many countries on the continent legitimately live off their diamonds – like Angola and Sierra Leone even, since they left the country. civil war. But, where they fall into the hands of guerrillas, the stones buy wholesale the typical ills of the continent: violence, hunger, corruption and the expulsion of entire populations from coveted areas.

Sierra Leone has the capacity to extract US $ 70 million a year from diamonds, however only US $ 1.5 million is included in official revenue. The rest is smuggled into neighboring countries in exchange for weapons that ignite the war. The UN has been studying a form of embargo on these diamonds, but the task is almost impossible. Smuggling them is very easy, since few stones form a large fortune easily transported in a matchbox. Anything goes to hide the stones. Swallow, place under the tongue or nails. Traffickers in Sierra Leone are even able to hide them in their skin, placing them in open and newly healed wounds. The daring of smugglers is the same as that of murderers when deciding who is going to die. Victims can be people who refuse to give them money or simply anyone they dislike. The gangsters rape women and nuns, kidnap priests, mark children as cattle and drug them to make them go to war.

International relations

Organizations: World Bank, British Community, IMF, WTO, UN, OAU.

Embassy: Tel. (202) 939-9261, fax (202) 483-1793 – Washington DC, USA. – There is no embassy in Brazil.

Main trading partners: USA, United Kingdom, Holland (Netherlands), Belgium.

Geographic location

West Africa, south of Guinea and northeast Liberia; bathed by the Atlantic Ocean.


Sierra Leone is divided into 4 provinces:

  • Eastern Province
  • Northern Province
  • Southern Province
  • West Area

Sierra Leone’s provinces are divided into 14 districts :

Province in the East:

  • Kailahun
  • Kenema
  • Kono

Northern Province:

  • Bombali
  • Kambia
  • Koinadugu
  • Port Loko
  • Tonkolili

Southern Province:

  • Bo
  • Bonthe
  • Moyamba
  • Pujehun

West Area

Urban area

Rural area

Concluding text

Sierra Leone was created in order to be a colony and receive slaves emancipated by the British after the independence of the United States and from the beginning it was totally dependent on England, while other colonies were already seeking independence. But Sierra Leone did not arouse much interest from England.

It was later with the discovery of the diamond that the country drew the interest of Europeans and Until two years after its independence, only whites explored the stone.

What was supposed to be the salvation of the country, ended up being the cause of violence, hunger, corruption and the expulsion of entire populations from coveted areas. It is the vicious cycle of underdevelopment: abundant resources, incapable government institutions, unjust power relations, widespread poverty, resource degradation. We must break the cycle, undo what is called a curse, but which is only bad governance.

The country’s various conflicts make it impossible to establish good government. The country needs financial assistance to maintain itself, which ends up sinking it into debt and more debt with the “developed” countries.

A country that has been explored since its foundation, because with the smuggling of diamonds it is a way of survival that part of the population finds. It is the contradiction between the misery of those who spend the day looking for stones and those who, in the northern hemisphere, pay small and large fortunes for them.

With the misery of Sierra Leone, and many other “underdeveloped” countries, the great powers are increasingly enriching.

Sierra Leone Overview