Sierra Leone

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Republic of Sierra Leone
Republic of Sierra Leone
Flag of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone Coat of Arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Unity, Freedom, Justice
( English for "Unity, Freedom, Justice")
Official language English
Capital Freetown
State and form of government presidential republic
Head of state , also head of government President
Julius Maada Bio (since April 4, 2018)
surface 71,740 km²
population 7,075,641 (2015 census)
Population density 99 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 2.15% per year
gross domestic product
  • Nominal
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 4.870 billion ( 156. )
  • $ 13.693 billion ( 152. )
  • 715 USD ( 177. )
  • 2010 USD ( 176. )
Human Development Index 0.452 ( 182. ) (2019)
currency Leone (SLL)
independence April 27, 1961 (from the United Kingdom )
National anthem High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free
Time zone UTC ± 0
License Plate WAL (international)
SLE (national / regional)
ISO 3166 SL , SLE, 694
Internet TLD .sl
Phone code +232
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Sierra Leone ( German [ siˈɛʁa leˈoːnə ], English [ sɪˈɛəɹə lɪˈoʊni ], [ sɪˈɛəɹə lɪˈoʊn ]), officially the Republic of Sierra Leone ( English Republic of Sierra Leone ), is a state in West Africa , to the north and east to Guinea , to the southeast Liberia and borders the Central Atlantic to the west . The capital and largest city in the country is Freetown .

After a decade of bloody civil war from 1991 to 2002 that killed tens of thousands of people, the country is busy rebuilding and coming to terms with recent history. The country is heavily in debt and is one of the poorest countries in the world. The Human Development Index ranks Sierra Leone among the low-developed countries. The Ebola fever epidemic that broke out in 2014 only worsened the humanitarian emergency.

In contrast to the Sahel zone further north, there were no large empires like the Mali Empire in the area of ​​today's Sierra Leone . In the 17th century, the English dominated the slave trade on the Sierra Leonean coast. In 1808 the peninsula was formally declared a British Crown Colony. After gaining independence from Great Britain in 1961, it was declared a republic almost ten years later after heated controversy .

Etymology and usage of the name

Sierra Leone Mappa

The Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra reached the Sierra Leonean coast in 1460. The name Serra Lyoa , given by da Cintra, comes from Portuguese and means " Lion Mountains ". Originally it only referred to the mountainous region south of Freetown, but shortly after its discovery it was used as a toponym for the entire coastline of today's Western Area .

As Duarte Pacheco Pereira reports, according to his own information, da Cintra named the mountain range that way because the mountain landscape appeared to him to be “rough and wild” and he metaphorically associated it with a lion. During the 16th century the name was changed by English sailors in Sierra Leoa and later in Sierra Leone .

According to StAGN , people in this country are called Sierra Leoners or Sierra Leoners in German-speaking countries .


The country is located in West Africa on the West African Atlantic coast and occupies the latitudes of 7 ° –10 ° north latitude and the longitudes of 10 ° –13 ° west longitude.

Sierra Leone borders Guinea to the northwest, north and northeast and Liberia to the southeast . In the west and south-west lies the Atlantic. The national borders are a total of 1,495 kilometers, of which 794 kilometers with Guinea and 299 kilometers with Liberia. The coastline is 402 kilometers.

A plain up to 110 kilometers wide stretches along the coast, on the Freetown Peninsula rise the Lion Mountains ( Serra Lyoa in Portuguese ) with Picket Hill as the highest elevation (888 meters). Some coastal regions have up to 112 km long sandbanks in front of them. Behind the damp coastal plain, the forest area, which is partly used for agriculture, begins. The land rises to the eastern Guinea Highlands , a high plateau with elevations of over 1,830 meters in the Loma Mountains and Tingi Hills . The highest mountain is the Bintumani with 1948 meters.

The main islands and archipelagos are:

Road from Kenema to Kailahun

The largest cities in Sierra Leone are (as of 2015): Freetown with 1.056 million inhabitants, Waterloo with 208,000, Kenema with 200,000, Bo with 174,000, Port Loko with 160,000, Koidu -Sefadu with 128,000 and Makeni with 126,000 inhabitants.


Climatic diagram Freetown

The climate is tropical and humid with rainfall of up to 5000 millimeters (corresponds to liters per m²) per year in the coastal regions and is therefore one of the wettest regions in West Africa. The year is divided into a rainy and a dry season . Since Sierra Leone is north of the equator , the rainy season of the West African monsoons begins in mid-May and is characterized by daily thunderstorms and rainfall. In the months of August and September it can also rain continuously.

The dry season begins in mid-October and rainfall becomes less frequent. In December and January the climate is characterized by the Harmattan , a wind from the Sahara that brings dust and cool air with it. February, March and April are the hottest months with rare rainfall.

The average temperatures in the north of the country in Kabala are 25.5 ° C, in the south in Bo they are between 20 and 37 ° C, on the coast in Freetown between 23 and 32 ° C. The coastal climate in Freetown tends to be milder and more pleasant than inland.

Because of the harmattan, the locals also speak of three seasons: rainy season (rainy season), harmattan season (windy time) and dry season (dry season).


Map of the largest rivers in Sierra Leone

Most of the rain-rich country drains in a relatively straight line from northeast to southwest into the Atlantic . Most of the rivers in Sierra Leone are small to medium-sized coastal rivers or their tributaries. There are seven major rivers, six of which have their headwaters in or on the border with Guinea. The Mano and the Moa arise on or on the edge of the plateau of Beyla , the Little Scarcies (Kava; Kaba) and the Great Scarcies (Kolenté) respectively on the edge of the Fouta Djallon . The Great Scarcies, Moa, Mano and their tributaries form parts of the southern and northern border. The north-eastern border corresponds to the catchment area border to the Niger River , where the two rivers Rokel (Seli) and Sewa have their source areas. The exception is the Taia (Jong; Taye), which has its springs in the middle of the country.

A special feature of the region, as in the neighboring countries, is that the rivers often flow into estuaries such as the Sherbro or the Sierra Leone River .


Sierra Leone has a rich flora and fauna due to the most diverse habitats from coastal areas to mangrove swamps and savannahs to primary and secondary jungle. In the north there are hot savannahs, where so-called elephant grass grows during the rainy season . In the south there is low grass, in the southeast there are rainforests with tall grass. Most of these rainforests are secondary.

Two pygmy hippos

The most important tree in the marshland is the red mangrove , which can reach a height of 30 m. The oil palm is widespread throughout the country and is important for the population, as the oil from the plant is used both for personal consumption and for sale. Other important crops are mango trees , rose apple plants , guavas and papaya (local name: "Pawpaw").


During the civil war, many wild animals were killed for so-called bushmeat . While the fauna was dominated by wild animals before the war, only small populations or no representatives at all remained after the civil war. The largest representative of the mammal family is the elephant . Occasionally one encounters dwarf antelopes .

The pygmy hippopotamus occurs almost exclusively in Sierra Leone and the neighboring country Liberia, in Sierra Leone it lives on Tiwai Island and can only be found at night. Various species of crocodiles also live in the rivers, the largest being the Nile crocodile . Furthermore, tanks and dwarf crocodile to find. Sierra Leone is considered to be one of the most species-rich primate retreats in the world.

Administrative structure

Map of the provinces

Sierra Leone is divided into the four provinces (Provinces; until mid-2017 three) Northern , North West , Southern and Eastern as well as the area around the capital Freetown ( Western Area ). The Western Area consists of the former British Crown Colony with Freetown and the peninsula. The provinces are in turn divided into a total of 16 districts (14 by mid-2014) and these are divided into 190 (149 by mid-2017) communal areas ( chiefdoms ). The chiefdoms have their own powers with regard to police violence and jurisdiction.

province Capital Area (2004) Population (2015) Number of districts
Eastern Kenema 15,553 km² 1,641,012 3
Northern Makeni 4th
North West Port Loko 1,162,065 (2017) 3
Southern Bo 19,694 km² 1,438,572 4th
Freetown 557 km² 1,493,252 2



Population development in 1000 inhabitants
Age pyramid in 1000 inhabitants
Geographical distribution of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone

In 2015 the population was about 7.076 million people, the growth rate per year is about 2.1 percent. The total population has almost tripled from 1960 to the present day and has doubled since 1985. The population density in Sierra Leone is very different. The Western Area (including Freetown) has a population density of 2,700 people per square kilometer. The country's largest district in terms of area , Moyamba , has a density of around 46 people per square kilometer. Overall, the population density in Sierra Leone is 99 people per square kilometer.

The fertility rate was 4.17 children per woman in 2019, but has been falling continuously from a peak of almost 7 children per woman in the 1980s. Accordingly, 40.7 percent of the population are younger than 15 years and only 3 percent are older than 65 years. Life expectancy in 2019 was 54.7 years.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008 , there were 8,700 refugees and asylum seekers in Sierra Leone . Almost all of them came from neighboring Liberia .


The population is officially made up of 15 different ethnic groups with just as many languages. Although there have been efforts to create a national identity since colonization, the most important frame of reference for most residents remains the family and their culture. The majority of the population are the Temne and Mende .

In 2017, 1.3% of the population were foreigners.

Mosque and church in Sierra Leone


In addition to the official language English, there are many other languages ​​in Sierra Leone that are mainly spoken by the respective ethnic groups. About 10 percent speak the English-based Krio as their mother tongue; it also serves as the lingua franca for the majority of the population . The Temnic language is spoken by 30 percent of the population as their mother tongue. The mende is common in the south of the country. Other languages ​​are Kono , Kissi , Limba , Susu , Bassa , Bom , Gola , Jalonke , Kirim , Fulfulde , Sherbro and Vai .

Whether Bengali has been recognized as the official or minority language of Sierra Leone in honor of the Bangladeshi peacekeeping mission since 2002 is controversial.


In Sierra Leone, more than two thirds of all residents are Muslim, and around 20 percent follow Christian beliefs. Traditional religions hardly play a role.


A secondary school class in Pendembu, Kailahun District

In Sierra Leone, schooling is compulsory for nine years, based on the constitution and the Education Act. However, a lack of schools and teachers makes it difficult to comply with compulsory education. The literacy rate in 2015 was 48.1% of the adult population (women: 37.7%, men: 58.7%). In Sierra Leone, the mean school attendance increased from 1.6 years in 1990 to 3.5 years in 2017. Free education in the primary and secondary sectors was announced in August 2018. Parents who fail to send their children to school have been threatened with prison terms.

The Sierra Leonean school system is based on that of Great Britain . Ideally, the students attend for six years, the Primary School ( primary school ), then for three years the junior secondary school ( lower secondary die), then for also three years Senior Secondary School ( secondary education ) and finally four years the Tertiary Education ( Tertiary level ) or a university .

Structure of the education system in Sierra Leone

There are several universities in the country. The Fourah Bay College was founded in 1827 and is the oldest university in West Africa, the University of Makeni was originally in September 2005 as The Fatima Institute , founded and Njala University, Bo was founded in 1910 as an agricultural research station and 2005 to a University restructured. Today there are secondary colleges and technical institutes in the larger cities , but they cannot offer an internationally recognized university degree . This is reserved for the universities of Sierra Leone.

Over 1270 schools were destroyed during the civil war in Sierra Leone and in 2001 only around a third of school-age children attended school. Between 2001 and 2005, the rebuilding of many schools since the end of the war resulted in a doubling of primary school students.

As of May 2020, there are around 1,600 pre-schools, 7,000 primary schools, 1,500 lower secondary schools and 581 upper secondary schools. 4,750 of these are operated by religious communities or privately and 2,300 by the state or municipalities.



The state health system in Sierra Leone is insufficiently developed and does not meet international requirements for equipment and hygiene in any area. Health care is provided in part by non-governmental organizations .

The infant mortality rate is very high by world standards, although it has been falling for decades. Until 2008 it was the highest in the world. The maternal mortality rate of 1,360 out of 100,000 mothers is also extremely high and unique in the world. In the event of complications during childbirth, a hospital and the necessary help are often not available quickly enough. In 2010, with the support of the United Kingdom and the UN, a program of free care for pregnant women and mothers with children under five was introduced. In 2019, 81 out of 1,000 children died before their first birthday. The child mortality rate was 109 out of 1,000.

Large parts of the population have little access to adequate health care, especially in rural areas. In addition to insufficient financial resources, corruption is a major problem.

In Sierra Leone, epidemics of yellow fever , cholera , Lassa fever and meningitis occur again and again . Malaria is also common. The rate of HIV-positive adults is given at around 1.4 percent (as of 2017).

The water supply is a major problem in Sierra Leone. In 2017, almost 76 percent of the urban population and 50 percent of the rural population, or 61 percent of the total population, had access to an improved water source. The water supply in rural areas is almost only possible through wells. 50 percent of the rural population lives from surface water . Only 20 percent of the urban and 1 percent of the rural population have water pipes in their home.

Since the beginning of 2014, the often fatal Ebola virus has spread in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea . It is the largest Ebola epidemic since the virus was discovered in 1976. On November 7, 2015, the country was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization after 42 days of no new infections. By then 3589 people had died.

Development of life expectancy
Period Life expectancy
Period Life expectancy
1950-1955 28.8 1985-1990 39.1
1955-1960 29.9 1990-1995 36.0
1960-1965 31.0 1995-2000 36.7
1965-1970 32.6 2000-2005 41.3
1970-1975 36.8 2005-2010 45.9
1975-1980 39.7 2010-2015 50.2
1980-1985 40.9 2015-2020 53.2


Previous settlement

Archaeological finds show that the Sierra Leone area has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Bullom and the Lokos were among the first inhabitants of what is now Sierra Leone. Until the 14th century, the Krims and the Golas were also resident there. It was not until the 15th century that the Mende and Temne penetrated the Bullom and Loko areas in two successive waves. Members of the Mende emigrated from Liberia in the 18th century and settled in southern Sierra Leone. In the 19th century, the Yalunkas and Fullas moved into the northern areas and displaced the other ethnic groups to the south and east.

Discovery and Slave Trade

In 1440 the first European, the Portuguese navigator Gil Eanes , reached the coast of Sierra Leone. In 1462 the Portuguese Pedro da Cintra named the rugged (wild-looking) mountain range on the coast Serra Lyoa , meaning "Lion Mountains", from which the name of the state arose, which is now spelled in Portuguese Serra Leoa and in Spanish Sierra Leona .

Map of Sierra Leone, 1732

With the arrival of the Portuguese in Sierra Leone and the conquest of parts of the American continent by the Europeans, there was a demand for labor, which was met by slaves from West Africa. In 1562 he began with the first slave ship of the English trader John Hawkins . From then on, the English dominated the slave trade on the West African coast, and from 1672 it was the British Royal African Company that established fortified bases on the islands of Bunce and Sherbro . Many slaves tried to take their fate into their own hands and fought for their freedom. A well-known example was the former slave Sengbe Pieh , whose story was published in book form and filmed. With his rebellion on the ship Amistad he won many abolitionists .


At the beginning of the 18th century, a warlike and missionary form of Islam spread to the north of what is now Guinea, and the Fouta Djallon empire came into being. The north of Sierra Leone was increasingly Islamized, while the missionary efforts of the Europeans on the coast showed little success.

The establishment of the "Province of Freedom" and the crown colony of the 19th century

At the end of the 18th century, 5,000 to 7,000 former slaves lived in English cities, often in extreme poverty. The abolitionists then developed the idea of ​​settling the former slaves in one place on the African continent. The choice fell on the territory of today's capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. In addition, there were black loyalists who - in gratitude for their services in the British colonial troops - had initially settled in Nova Scotia , but who could not survive there (partly due to hostility from their white neighbors) and so also in the "Province of Freedom ”came, as Sierra Leone was called at the time. In addition to the old, later abandoned capital Granville Town , the Nova Scotian Settlers founded Freetown .

With the ban on the slave trade by Great Britain in 1807 and the beginning of regular inspection trips by British warships off the West African coast to prevent this trade, the population of the crown colony of Sierra Leone grew considerably. Liberated slaves, so-called "recaptives", were brought back to their colony on the slave ships. Among them were tens of thousands of blacks from all over the west coast of Africa, from Senegal to Angola, each with their own culture. Although the newcomers often brought with them knowledge of tropical agriculture, many of them did not settle in the villages around Freetown, as the area was hardly suitable for agriculture. Many stayed in Freetown, worked there as craftsmen and formed their own Creole population. Others traded with the inhabitants of the hinterland. In Sierra Leone itself, representatives of the Creole population had been on the so-called Board of Governors of the colony since 1808. In 1893 Freetown got its own mayor.

Bai Bureh, leader of the Temne Rebellion

Mende-Temne War

The local population repeatedly revolted against the British occupiers. The Temne ruler Bai Bureh (1840-1908) from the north of the country is considered to be the leader of the Mende-Temne War, which began in 1898. In fact, more ethnic groups than the Mende and Temne were involved in the war.

While the British were planning to capture Bai Bureh, he organized a ten-month guerrilla war against the British police and army. This was especially true of the Creoles. Several hundred, according to other sources more than 1000 people, mostly Creoles and among them many women and children, were killed until the Porobund ordered the fighters to spare the women. The uprising was finally put down by the British colonial rulers after Bai Bureh was found. Although the Creoles were sometimes the victims of the war, after the end of the war they sided with the defeated and supported their demands. Bureh is now considered a national hero and can be found on many public images.


The 1951 constitution provided for a legislative council with 30 members, some directly and some indirectly elected. Of these, 20 seats were either reserved for the Europeans or went to the traditional chiefs of the Protectorate . In the mid-1950s, the country experienced severe unrest against the backdrop of rapid social upheaval. In 1956, the 57,000 diamond prospectors successfully protested against the government granting concessions to the Sierra Leone Selection Trust . In 1956, by agreement between the colonial administration and the government, universal suffrage was introduced in Sierra Leone, and in 1958 the last British left the government.

The name of Sir Milton Margai is closely connected with the emergence of today's state . He led Sierra Leone to independence on April 27, 1961 after negotiations with Great Britain on constitutional issues and became the first Prime Minister for his party Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP). In 1930, a small minority of wealthy, educated women who met certain property and tax requirements were given the right to vote . With independence, the general right to vote and to stand as a candidate was introduced on April 27, 1961. After Sir Milton Margai's death in 1964, his half-brother Sir Albert Margai took over the office. However, violent clashes led to the declaration of a state of emergency a few days before independence . After ethnic differences ensued, the situation calmed down. In 1968 Siaka Stevens took power. He resigned in 1985.

Civil war

Diamond hunt in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds and raw materials; Since independence in 1961, power had been in the hands of a few, who benefited exclusively from the wealth of diamonds and barely let the majority of the population participate in it. The strong discrimination against individual population groups repeatedly led to protests. The protesters also fought against one-party rule with Siaka Stevens . Such protests often ended with escalations and eventually with the emigration of individual groups. The state's problems worsened during the subsequent reign of Joseph Saidu Momoh in the 1980s.

In 1991 the rebel movement Revolutionary United Front (RUF) began armed struggle in the east of the country. Four years later , Valentine Strasser hired another company, Executive Outcomes (EO). Together with the militias, EO was able to quickly repel the RUF using superior technical means such as combat helicopters and recapture the most important sources of foreign currency, the diamond mines of Koidu, and free the local civilian population. On January 16, 1996, Defense Minister and General Julius Maada Bio came to power. For the first time since 1967, citizens were free to vote under organic, but the RUF tried to prevent this with a terror campaign. In November 1996, the RUF was finally forced to sign a peace agreement with the Kabbah government in Abidjan. However, Kabbah canceled this contract in the same year. The leader of the largest self-defense militia, Chief Hinga Norman, became de facto defense minister under Kabbah and organized the militias as a replacement army under the collective name Civil Defense Forces (CDF), while he wanted to massively downsize the unreliable army.

1997 officers under the leadership of Johnny Paul Koroma seized power. They allied with RUF and made the state authoritarian. The constitution was repealed and demonstrations and the formation of political parties were banned. Kabbah had to go into exile in Guinea and then sought international help. The state army was merged with the terrorist militia RUF. Finally, the West African Economic Community ECOWAS intervened in the war in March 1998 and was able to reinstate the elected government with Kabbah. A new, more reliable army was created under the command of ECOWAS. In support, ECOWAS troops gathered in the country, as a result of which the fighting between the CDF, the government army, ECOWAS and rebels continued. But in May 1999 rebels attacked the capital Freetown again. After weeks of fighting in the city, the ECOWAS organization regained the upper hand.

In July 1999, the RUF and the government in Lomé signed another peace agreement. However, this initially did not prevent the violence, and the UNAMSIL peacekeeping mission of the United Nations was initially unable to bring the violence under control. As a result, British armies intervened in their former colony and were able to turn the situation decisively. At the same time, UNAMSIL was able to take robust action and the RUF leader Foday Sankoh was captured by British soldiers. Then the disarmament of the rebels could begin.

The official end of the civil war was announced on January 18, 2002, two days after the decision to establish the Special Court for Sierra Leone had been decided.

According to various sources, between 20,000 and 200,000 people died as a result of the civil war.

Younger story

Julius Maada Bio has been President and Commander-in-Chief of Sierra Leone since 2018

On January 18, 2002, during a ceremony in the national stadium at which several thousand weapons were burned, the official end of the rebel war was announced - two days earlier, a bilateral treaty between Sierra Leone and the United Nations to establish the Special Court for Sierra Leone had been signed been. A repatriation program for civil war refugees initiated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was completed in July 2004. A total of almost 300,000 refugees were able to return to their homeland. In 2005 the UNAMSIL troops withdrew. Instead, the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) was created to support the government and help organize the 2007 elections. On June 23, 2006, Sierra Leone was one of the first countries to be placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) established in 2005 by the UN Security Council .

New elections took place on August 11, 2007. The unity party All People's Congress (APC), which had ruled for years, emerged victorious and won 59 of the 112 directly elected seats in parliament. The previously ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) surprisingly won only 43 seats. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah , who won the 2002 elections under UN supervision, did not stand for re-election. The previous Vice President Solomon Berewa was considered a promising candidate, but he only won 38 percent in the election. His biggest challenger, Ernest Bai Koroma from the APC, won 44 percent. In the runoff election, Koroma emerged victorious and was sworn in as president on September 17, 2007. On April 4, 2018, the opposition politician Julius Maada Bio was sworn in as the new president.

On October 1st, 2008 UNIOSIL was transformed into the Integrated Peacebuilding Office of the United Nations in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). In resolution S / RES / 2097 / (2013) of the UN Security Council, the mandate of UNIPSIL was extended for the last time until March 2014. On June 14, 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in Freetown : Sierra Leone represents one of the world's most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. (Translated something like: "Sierra Leone is one of the world's most successful cases for reconstruction, peacekeeping and peace building after a conflict.")


Political indices
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 84.4 out of 120 42 of 178 Stability of the country: big warning
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index   4.86 out of 10   100 of 167 Hybrid regime
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World 65 of 100 --- Freedom status: partially free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 30.28 out of 100 85 of 180 Recognizable problems for the freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)   33 out of 100   117 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Political system

According to the 1991 constitution, Sierra Leone is a presidential republic within the Commonwealth. The head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces is the president, who is directly elected for a period of five years. If he misses the required majority of 55 percent in the first ballot, a second ballot with a runoff is required. The Parliament of Sierra Leone consists of one chamber and has 124 seats, of which 112 members are directly elected at the same time as the President every 5 years and 12 are reserved for tribal chiefs (the so-called Paramount Chiefs ).

The two most influential parties are the currently ruling All People's Congress (APC), the former Unity Party, and the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), the largest opposition party. Furthermore, there are also co-governing People's Movement for Democratic Change (People's Movement for Democratic Change, PMDC), the Party for Peace and Liberation (PLP), the party of the Revolutionary United Front (RUFP) and the United National People's Party (UNPP).

Legal system

Legislation in Sierra Leone is based on British Common Law . In rural areas with a Muslim majority, Sharia law still applies in some cases at the local level . Same-sex love and same-sex intercourse are prosecuted. The death penalty exists for the most serious offenses such as murder and treason.

The judges for the three highest courts are appointed by the president but must be approved by parliament. The courts of the chiefdoms are manned by lay judges. Appeals can be lodged against judgments made by these courts . The lack of judges repeatedly leads to the exercise of vigilante justice .

The police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Local Government and Rural Development are responsible for the country's internal security. However, corruption is common there.

Human rights

Amnesty International describes the security situation after the local elections in Sierra Leone in 2009 as stable and there have also been successes in the fight against corruption in the country.

However, violent confrontations between political groups often lead to serious sexual assault and rape. According to a 2010 report by the human rights organization Amnesty International, there is still sexual and gender-based violence against women in Sierra Leone. Dangerous traditional practices such as female genital mutilation continue to be used. Although some traditional leaders have advocated the abolition of female genital mutilation, it is still very widespread.

In Sierra Leone, homosexuals are persecuted, humiliated and sentenced to life imprisonment (see Homosexuality in Sierra Leone ). In 2004 human rights activist and leader of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association Fannyann Eddy was found murdered in her office. In November 2013, the European Court of Justice recognized homosexuality as a reason for asylum for a man from Sierra Leone, among others, as he is being prosecuted.

External relations

The Sierra Leonean Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( English Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ) is responsible for foreign affairs in charge of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has diplomatic relations with China , Libya , Iran , Cuba and generally good relations with the western part of the world, including the United States . The country also has historic ties with the United Kingdom and other formerly held British colonies through membership of the Commonwealth of Nations . The United Kingdom has played an important role in Sierra Leone's history. Thanks to the help of Great Britain, the bloody civil war could be ended.

Former President Siaka Stevens has always sought closer ties with the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone. Together with Liberia, Guinea and the Ivory Coast , Sierra Leone forms the Mano River Union (MRU). It was founded primarily to carry out development projects and promote regional economic integration between the four countries.

Relations with Germany

Immediately after gaining independence in 1961, the Federal Republic of Germany recognized Sierra Leone under international law and opened an embassy in Freetown. In 2002, the then President Kabbah visited the Federal Republic. In February 2011, then President Ernest Koroma traveled to Germany.

National symbols

On April 27, 1961, the flag was introduced with independence from Great Britain. The flag consists of horizontal stripes: green at the top, white in the middle and blue at the bottom. The green represents nature and agriculture, the white represents unity and justice, and the blue represents the coast of the country.

The lion is the heraldic animal of Sierra Leone. In the green part of the shield, which is held by two golden lions, there is another golden lion and also the three colors of the national flag. At the top of the sign there are three torches that symbolize freedom. The two lions that act as shield holders hold an oil palm tree with four fruits in their hands. Underneath on a white ribbon is the Sierra Leone motto: Unity, Freedom, Justice (Unity, Freedom, Justice).

The national anthem High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free was written by Clifford Nelson Fyle and composed by John Akar .

Armed forces

Coat of arms of the Sierra Leone Armed Fonces

The Sierra Leone Armed Forces , founded after the end of the civil war in 2002, are the armed forces of Sierra Leone. They are subdivided into the armed forces army , navy and air force . The total number of troops is around 13,000 volunteers , there is no conscription. Sierra Leone spent almost 0.7 percent of its economic output or 29 million US dollars on its armed forces in 2017. Army headquarters and the Department of Defense are in Freetown .


Sierra Leone's export destinations in 2006

Around 70 percent of the population live in extreme poverty and have to get by on less than one US dollar a day. As a result, the former British colony has been in last place on the list of the United Nations Development Program for years , which is synonymous with the status of the least developed of the 179 countries examined (see also Least Developed Countries ). Only 2.207 million people, about a third of the population, are gainfully employed. Foreign debt is $ 1.61 billion. Two thirds of the population is subsistence farming . In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Sierra Leone ranks 132nd out of 138 countries (as of 2016-17). In 2017, the country ranks 145th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

The currency in Sierra Leone is the leone . The country's central bank , the Bank of Sierra Leone , is located in the capital, Freetown. This issues coins of 100 and 500 leones and banknotes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 leones. The use of credit cards is limited, although they are used in some hotels and restaurants.

Export partners are Belgium, Germany and the USA; Import partners are Germany, Ivory Coast, the United Kingdom, the USA, China, the Netherlands and South Africa. Sierra Leone is a member of the International Cocoa Organization , ECOWAS and the WTO . With the neighboring countries Liberia and Guinea, the country forms the Mano River Union .

Unemployment was 8.6 percent in 2015.

Agriculture and fishing

Sierra Leonean rice farmer with part of his harvest

For the majority of the population, agriculture is the livelihood. It shall apply the slash and burn and Wanderhackbau on. However, only about 6 percent of the area is used for agriculture. Mainly rice , millet and cassava are produced, mostly for personal use . Coffee , palm kernels and cocoa are destined for export . Almost 1.3 million hectares were used for agriculture (as of 2015). Of this, 871,000 tons of agricultural products were obtained.

Fishing also plays an important role in Sierra Leone because the coast is still rich in fish. The fish, especially herring and tuna , is sold fresh or dried or smoked. The FAO statistics assume an annual catch of around 200,000 t. The fisheries sector accounts for 10 percent of GDP and employs around half a million people in Sierra Leone.

raw materials

Diamond mine in the Kono district

The country is rich in mineral resources such as bauxite , lignite , chromium , diamonds , iron ore , gold , graphite , columbite , manganese , molybdenum , platinum , rutile (titanium oxide) and rhodium . With the beginning of the rebel attacks from Liberia in 1991, formal diamond mining practically came to a standstill. Iron ore has not been mined since 1985 due to a lack of foreign demand. The export of gold and diamonds is severely restricted by the high level of smuggling activity.

Economic sectors

Share of GDP by sector (2007)
rank sector Share of GDP in percent
1 Agriculture 58.5
2 other services 10.4
3 Trade and tourism 9.4
4th Wholesale and retail 9.0
5 Mining 4.5
6th public service 4.0
7th Manufacturing industry and handicrafts 2.0
8th construction 1.7
9 Electricity and water 0.4

State budget

The state budget included expenditures in 2016 of the equivalent of 739 million US dollars , which were income equivalent to 558 million US Dollar against. This results in a budget deficit of 4.5 percent of GDP .
The national debt in 2006 was 1.6 billion US dollars or 125.0 percent of GDP, since then Sierra Leone has had large parts of the national debt canceled . In 2016, the national debt was 53.4% ​​of GDP.

In 2010 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:



Right-hand traffic in Sierra Leone. There are 11,300 kilometers of roads, of which 1,234 kilometers (about eleven percent) are paved. To a large extent, the condition of the roads does not meet Western standards. The poorly developed infrastructure of the roads also hinders trade outside the larger cities. Many roads are impassable during the rainy season, which makes it difficult to reach rural areas.

In addition to Lunghi International Airport near Freetown, Sierra Leone has seven other airports . Due to inferior safety standards, the airlines from Sierra Leone are on the list of airlines that are prohibited from operating in the EU.

In September 2014, many cities in Sierra Leone, including Kailahun , Kenema , Bombali , Tonkolili and Port Loko , had travel restrictions due to the Ebola epidemic .

Public rail transport in Sierra Leone was discontinued in 1974 and is now limited to a private rail network of 120 kilometers in length.

Sierra Leone also has around 800 kilometers of navigable waterways. The most important ports are Freetown Port and Pepel Port .


In 2005, 250 million kWh of electrical energy were generated, with generation stagnating for 20 years. The energy comes entirely from thermal power plants . The infrastructure was damaged during the civil war and the new construction was delayed. The government is currently looking for ways to rebuild the infrastructure with the help of the international community; A continuous public power supply has only been officially guaranteed in Freetown since Christmas 2007, after years of electricity crisis, but is practically made available for a maximum of 4 hours a day. At the end of 2009, after more than 30 years of planning and construction, the "Bumbuna Hydro Power Plant" was completed.

In 2015, 13.5 percent of the population had access to electricity. This is to be increased to 30 percent by 2030. The Bumbuna II hydropower project with a capacity of 143 megawatts is planned for this purpose. Currently (as of 2015) the installed capacity in Sierra Leone was around 100 megawatts.

By the end of 2016, around a quarter of the electricity generated should come from renewable energies, primarily solar energy. West Africa's largest solar park with a capacity of six megawatts is to be built near the capital, Freetown . Solar energy is also playing an increasingly important role in street lighting, for example in Koindu .



Radio listeners in Sierra Leone


In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , Sierra Leone was ranked 85th out of 180 countries.

In the 1980s, an almost nationwide television network was built up through European development aid. The studio for this was located in Freetown, the distribution took place via relay stations. However, the television network could not last long and was switched off again a few years later. The national telephone company was supported by the British Cable & Wireless until 1988 ; from 1989 onwards, Deutsche Telekom supported and implemented restructuring measures .

Another important medium that plays an essential role both in the cities and in the villages is the radio, which became particularly important after the civil war .

In 2016, only 2.4% of the population had access to the Internet.


Koindu dance in Sierra Leone

Art in Sierra Leone has a long tradition of carving and ceremonial works such as masks and scarves. It is a mix of traditional and hybrid African and Western styles.


There is a rich tradition of poetry and short stories, most of which are written in local languages ​​or krios . The best known contemporary writers in the country are Ishmael Beah and Syl Cheney-Coker . The British writer Aminatta Forna has ancestors from Sierra Leone.


Performances by well-known musicians can be seen time and again in bars. The well-known Refugee All Stars play regularly at international festivals and in Sierra-Leonean clubs. Beginning with peace concerts, a very lively music scene emerged in Sierra Leone. In the years after the war, for example, mainly Sierra-Leonean music was played on the radio. In the meantime, more international pop music is being played again, which is also due to the new Sierra-Leonean copyright laws.

Film and dance

Sierra Leone National Stadium

The main broadcasts of football matches and Nollywood films are shown in Sierra Leonean cinemas . Based on the Nigerian Nollywood, there are the first Sollywood films produced in Sierra Leone. In 2012 the Sierra Leone International Film Festival took place.

A prominent feature of the cultural life in Sierra Leone is dance. There are many theater groups spread across the country. In addition to entertainment and traditional content, the texts also deal with imparting knowledge, health education and peacekeeping. The Freetong Players are particularly well known.


Rice is the staple food in Sierra Leone and is eaten there practically every day. Stews are also an essential ingredient and are also known as a national dish. Such stews are made with chicken, fried fish, and vegetables seasoned with cashews and peanuts . Alternatively, cassava leaves, which are first washed and finely chopped before cooking, can be put into the stew . To give the whole thing an exquisite taste, coconut oil is used instead of palm oil .

Ginger beer is a typical drink in Sierra Leone. It is usually home-brewed and seasoned with pure ginger and sweetened sugar. Occasionally, cloves or limes are added for flavor.


Football is by far the most popular sport in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leonean national soccer team , popularly known as the Leone Stars , represents the country in international competitions. She has never qualified for a World Cup, but took part in the African Cup of Nations in 1994 and 1996 . In 2009, Sierra Leone's U-19 team took second place in the African U-19 championship in Zambia. Most of the national team's footballers practice their professional football in the country's own Sierra Leone Premier League , and some also play for teams in Europe. Even Rugby Union , is organized by the Sierra Leone Sierra Leone National Rugby Association played.

See also

Portal: Sierra Leone  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of Sierra Leone


  • John Birchall et al: Journal of Sierra Leone Studies , Makeni University, 2012–2019. ( [6] )
  • S. Balimo Jalloh: Sierra Leone - A Country Report. New Africa Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 1995.
  • S. Balimo Jalloh: Conflicts, Resources and Social Instability in Subsahara Africa. The Sierra Leone Case. In: Internationales Afrikaforum , Volume 37, 2/2001, pp. 166–180.
  • S. Balimo Jalloh: The Sierra Leone Regiment, The Royal West African Frontier Force and the Burma War. An Exploratory Essay. In: International Africa Forum, Volume 40, Issue 4/2004, pp. 369–378.

Web links

Wiktionary: Sierra Leone  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Sierra Leone  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: Sierra Leone  - geographical and historical maps
Wikivoyage: Sierra Leone  - Travel Guide

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Coordinates: 9 °  N , 12 °  W