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Sierra Leone
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Brief History

Sierra Leone, officially known as the Republic of Sierra Leone, gained its independence from the UK on April 27, 1961. 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. In 1978, a new constitution was adopted, making the country a one-party state. A civil war started in 1991 and ended in 2002, killing about one-third of the population. The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country's stability. Elections were last held in 2007 when President Ernest Bai Koroma became the chief of state.

Geography

Sierra Leone, capital Freetown, is located in Western Africa covering an area of 71,740 square kilometers. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Temperatures and humidity are high, and rainfall is heavy. 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. Coastal belt of mangrove swamps. Sierra Leone has some natural resources such as diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, and chromite.

People

Sierra Leone has a population of 5,245,695 (2010). The African population is composed of some 20 native ethnic groups, constituting 90% of the total population. The two largest groups are the Mende (30%) and Temne (30%). Other peoples, making up the remaining 30% of the African populace, include the Bullom, Fulani, Gola, Kissi, etc... Creoles account for the remaining 10% of the total population. The official language is English. Other spoken languages include Mende, Temne, and Krio which is the lingua franca and a first language for about 10% of the population but is understood by 95%. The literacy rate is 35.1% (2004). Its religions are distributed among 60% Muslims, 10% Christians, and 30% followers of indigenous beliefs. There are small minorities of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians, that refuged to Sierra Leone after Liberia’s recent civil war.

Government

The government of Sierra Leone is subject to a constitutional democratic system comprising three provinces and the Western Area, which are further divided into fourteen districts. Its legal system is based on English law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes. It has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. Since September 17, 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma has been playing his role as chief of state and head of government. The official currency is the Leone, where 3,950 Leones are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution; 70.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the GDP per capita is US$900 (2009). Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise post-war, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas.

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world. It is perhaps best known for its blood diamonds. Mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. It contains reserves of other minerals such as gold, rutile, and bauxite, knowing that it has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore, and welding rod coatings.

Agriculture is the primary occupation in Sierra Leone, employing two-thirds of the labor force and accounting for 50% of GDP. Agricultural exports consist of coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, piassava, kola nuts, and ginger. Rice is the most important subsistence crop. Other domestic food crops include cassava, yams, peanuts, corn, pineapples, coconuts, tomatoes, pepper, etc...

Industry accounted for 31% of GDP in 2005, and is oriented toward the processing of raw materials and of light manufactured goods for domestic consumption. Products include cement, nails, shoes, oxygen, cigarettes, rope, sail canvas, boats, wood carvings, leather goods, etc... The sector has suffered from a lack of foreign exchange, high import costs, unreliable local services, and political instability. The fishing industry comprises oyster farming and shrimp production.

Sierra Leone’s physical and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development, and the fate of the economy depends on maintaining domestic peace and foreign aid. The IMF has completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped stabilize economic growth and reduce inflation. A recent increase in political stability has led to a revival of economic activity such as the rehabilitation of bauxite and rutile mining. The inflation rate is 11.7% (2007), and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$320.99 (2010).


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