Sierra Leone [Country Flag of Sierra Leone]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Sierra Leone]

Sierra Leone


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Current issues: On 25 May 1997, the democratically-elected government of President Ahmad Tejan KABBAH was overthrown by disgruntled army personnel under the command of Major Johnny Paul KOROMA; President KABBAH fled to exile in Guinea. The Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces, led by a strong Nigerian contingent, undertook the suppression of the rebellion. They were initially unsuccessful, but, by October 1997, they forced the rebels to agree to a cease-fire and to a plan to return the government to democratic control by 22 April 1998. However, the agreed demobilization of the combatants was not carried out by the rebel junta. On 5 February 1998, hostilities broke out in the outskirts of Freetown and ECOMOG mounted a major offensive, completely routing the rebels. President KABBAH returned to office on 10 March to face the task of restoring order to a demoralized population and a disorganized and severely damaged economy.


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Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia

Geographic coordinates: 8 30 N, 11 30 W

Map references: Africa

total: 71,740 sq km
land: 71,620 sq km
water: 120 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries:
total: 958 km
border countries: Guinea 652 km, Liberia 306 km

Coastline: 402 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Climate: tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)

Terrain: coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m

Natural resources: diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Land use:
arable land: 7%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 31%
forests and woodland: 28%
other: 33% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 290 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (November to May); sandstorms, dust storms

Environment—current issues: rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion; civil war depleting natural resources; overfishing

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification


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Population: 5,080,004 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 45% (male 1,130,728; female 1,167,084)
15-64 years: 52% (male 1,257,901; female 1,367,902)
65 years and over: 3% (male 79,113; female 77,276) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 4.01% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 46.16 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 17.25 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 11.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.02 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 129.38 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 48.57 years
male: 45.56 years
female: 51.66 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.23 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Sierra Leonean(s)
adjective: Sierra Leonean

Ethnic groups: 20 native African tribes 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole 10% (descendents of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-eighteenth century), refugees from Liberia's recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis and Indians

Religions: Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

Languages: English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendents of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write in English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic
total population: 31.4%
male: 45.4%
female: 18.2% (1995 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
conventional short form: Sierra Leone

Data code: SL

Government type: constitutional democracy

National capital: Freetown

Administrative divisions: 3 provinces and 1 area*; Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western*

Independence: 27 April 1961 (from UK)

National holiday: Republic Day, 27 April (1961)

Constitution: 1 October 1991; subsequently amended several times

Legal system: based on English law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ahmad Tejan KABBAH (inaugurated 29 March 1996); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Ahmad Tejan KABBAH (inaugurated 29 March 1996); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president with the approval of the House of Representatives; the cabinet is responsible to the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election held 26-27 February 1996 (next to be held NA 2001); note—president's tenure of office is limited to 2 five-year terms
election results: Ahmad Tejan KABBAH elected president; percent of popular vote—first round KABBAH 36.0%, second round KABBAH 59.5%

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives (80 seats, 68 elected, 12 filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate elections; members serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 26-27 February 1996 (next to be held 2001)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—SLPP 27, UNPP 17, PDP 12, APC 5, NUP 4, DCP 3; note—first elections since the former House of Representatives was shut down by the military coup of 29 April 1992

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Political parties and leaders: 15 parties registered for the February 1996 elections; National Peoples Party or NPP [Andrew TURAY]; Democratic Center Party or DCP [Abu KOROMA]; Peoples Progressive Party or PPP [Edward KAMARA, chairman]; Coalition for Progress Party or CPP [Geredine WILLIAMS-SARHO]; National Unity Movement or NUM [John Desmond Fashole LUKE]; United National Peoples Party or UNPP [John KARIFA-SMART]; Peoples Democratic Party or PDP [Thaimu BANGURA, chairman]; All Peoples Congress or APC [Edward Mohammed TURAY, chairman]; National Republican Party or NRP [Sahr Stephen MAMBU]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Andrew Victor LUNGAY]; Peoples National Convention or PNC [Edward John KARGBO, chairman]; National Unity Party or NUP [Dr. John KARIMU, chairman]; Sierra Leone Peoples Party or SLPP [President Tejan KABBAH, chairman]; National Democratic Alliance or NDA [Amadu M. B. JALLOH]; National Alliance for Democracy Party or NADP [Mohamed Yahya SILLAH]

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John Ernest LEIGH
chancery: 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-9261 through 9263
FAX: [1] (202) 483-1793

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John L. HIRSCH
embassy: Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, Freetown
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [232] (22) 226481 through 226485
FAX: [232] (22) 225471

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue


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Economy—overview: Sierra Leone has substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources. However, the economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. The seizure of power by the new Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in May 1997 led to UN sanctions and a sharp drop in GDP. About two-thirds of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Bauxite and rutile mines have been shut down by civil strife. The major source of hard currency is found in the mining of diamonds, the large majority of which are smuggled out of the country.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$2.65 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: -27% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$540 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 39%
industry: 27%
services: 34% (1995)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 40% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 1.369 million (1981 est.)
by occupation: agriculture 65%, industry 19%, services 16% (1981 est.)
note: only about 65,000 wage earners (1985)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $96 million
expenditures: $150 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1996 est.)

Industries: mining (diamonds); small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity—capacity: 126,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 230 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 48 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs; fish

total value: $47 million (f.o.b., 1996); note—much reduced in 1997 by civil warfare
commodities: diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
partners: US 20%, Belgium 20%, Spain 13%, UK 6%, other Western Europe

total value: $211 million (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants
partners: Cote d'Ivoire, EU countries, India

Debt—external: $1.1 billion (1996)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $NA

Currency: 1 leone (Le) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: leones (Le) per US$1—1,312.37 (December 1997), 967.72 (1997), 920.73 (1996), 755.22 (1995), 586.74 (1994), 567.46 (1993)

Fiscal year: 1 July—30 June


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Telephones: 17,526 (1991 est.)

Telephone system: marginal telephone and telegraph service
domestic: national microwave radio relay system made unserviceable by military activities
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1

Radios: 980,000 (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: 45,000 (1992 est.)


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total: 84 km used on a limited basis because the mine at Marampa is closed
narrow gauge: 84 km 1.067-m gauge

total: 11,700 km
paved: 1,287 km
unpaved: 10,413 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 800 km; 600 km navigable year round

Ports and harbors: Bonthe, Freetown, Pepel

Merchant marine: none

Airports: 10 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 7
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy, Police, Security Forces

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 1,074,728 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 521,580 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $14 million (FY92/93)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.6% (FY92/93)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none