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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #43 of 54: Seychelles | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #45 of 54: Somalia »

August 13, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #44 of 54: Seychelles

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
44. SIERRA LEONE
Flag of Sierra Leone

Formal Name: Republic of Sierra Leone.

Term for Citizens: Sierra Leoneans.

Capital: Freetown. Population: 837, 000.

Independence Achieved: April 27, 1961, From Britain.

Major Cities: Freetown.

Geography:

Sierra Leone is in West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Liberia, Guinea and Mali. Sierra Leone encompasses an area of 27, 699 square miles. The topography is marked by a mountainous peninsula (site of Freetown), narrow belt of coastal swamplands, succeeded by plains, then low plateaus surmounted by hills and mountains. Loma Mansa is the country’s highest point at 6390 feet. The climate is tropical with two seasons, wet (April to October) and dry (November to March). Heavy rainfall at the coastal regions, in places up to 200 inches annually.

Society:

The population of Sierra Leone is estimated at 4,971,000.

Ethnic Groups: There are about eighteen ethnic groups; the major ones are Mende, Temne, Creole, and Kru.

Religion: Muslim 50%, Christians 20%, the rest indigenous beliefs.

Education: Education is available to all at the primary school level but limited at secondary school level. Literacy is estimated at 31%.

Economy: The salient feature of the economy is agriculture, with the majority of the people engaged in subsistence farming. Large-scale mining, particularly iron, diamonds, bauxite, and other minerals. GDP estimate: $2.8 billion; Per Capita GDP: $580. Monetary Unit: Leone (SLL).

History and Government:

Sierra Leone is a unique country. The British, as a haven for freed slaves, began Freetown in 1787. In 1807 The British government abolished slavery. Britain returned its slaves to a piece of real estate it bought in Africa called Freetown. Subsequently the British interdicted ships, on the high seas, carrying slaves and freed the slaves and brought them to Freetown. Britain proclaimed a protectorate over Sierra Leone in the 19th century. On April 7, 1961 Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain. The freed slaves who lived around Freetown dominated the government of Sierra Leone. This situation created conflict between the people in the city of Freetown and the people in the rural areas of the country. The struggle for power led to a vicious civil war from which the country has not yet fully recovered. There is a president and a unicameral legislature. The president tends to be the stronger of the two. The country is divided into three provinces and the later further divided into districts, chiefdoms, and municipalities.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

Sierra Leon was given that name by Portuguese slave traders who used her ports to buy slaves to be sold to the Americas, beginning in the fourteen hundreds.

When the abolitionist movement picked up steam in England, she returned African slaves already living in England to Freetown, Sierra Leon in 1787. Thus modern Sierra Leon began as a country for repatriated slaves from England.

In 1808 Sierra Leon became a crown colony of Britain. Sierra Leon produced some of the best educated Africans during the first part of the 20th century, and those spread all over British West Africa, working as teachers and missionaries. They were very instrumental in educating their fellow Africans, for which all Africa gives them thanks.

In the post Second World War era, Africa experienced a wind of change, with Africans calling for independence from their colonial masters.

Sierra Leon became independent from Britain in 1961 and Sir Milton Margai became the first prime minister of the country. Like other African countries, unfortunately, Sierra Leon degenerated into undemocratic governance.

Beginning in 1991, the country went into civil war for nine years, a war that devastated the country. A peace treaty, signed in 1999, has returned peace to the country. Nigerian led ECOMOG peace keeping forces managed to make the peace stick.

A new constitution was written and elections held and a new government elected in 2002. A new president (Ahmad Tejan Kabbah) was elected, a unicameral legislature of 124 elected and an independent judiciary established. Sierra Leon seems to have turned the corner.

Sierra Leon is divided into three provinces, which are further subdivided into 14 districts.

During the decade long civil war, the economy of Sierra Leon was devastated. Things are gradually returning to normal. Sierra Leon depended on mining industry (diamonds) and is gradually repairing the infrastructure for resuming mining.

With the apparent reduction in official corruption, it was hitherto rampant; it seems that revenue from this vital industry (diamonds) could now be put to good use: developing the country.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at August 13, 2006 10:00 AM

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