Sierra Leone Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Sierra Leone > Map Economy History

Facts About Sierra Leone

Background: Since 1991, civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A peace agreement, signed in July 1999, collapsed in May 2000 after the RUF took over 500 UN peacekeepers hostage. The RUF stepped up attacks on Guinea in December 2000, despite a cease-fire that it signed with the Freetown government one month earlier. As of late 2000, up to 13,000 UN peacekeepers were protecting the capital and key towns in the south. A UK force of 750 was helping to reinforce security and train the Sierra Leone army.
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: Freetown
Currency: 1 leone (SLL) = 100 cents

Geography of Sierra Leone

Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia
Geographic coordinates: 8 30 N, 11 30 W
total: 71,740 sq km
land: 71,620 sq km
water: 120 sq km
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, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified:  none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa.

People of Sierra Leone

The indigenous population is made up of 18 ethnic groups. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the South are the largest. About 60,000 are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone from Great Britain and North America and slave ships captured on the high seas. In addition, about 4,000 Lebanese, 500 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans reside in the country.

In the past, Sierra Leoneans were noted for their educational achievements, trading activity, entrepreneurial skills, and arts and crafts work, particularly woodcarving. Many are part of larger ethnic networks extending into several countries, which link West African states in the area. However, the level of education and infrastructure has declined sharply over the last 30 years.

Population: 6,017,643 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  44.73% 
15-64 years:  52.12% 
65 years and over:  3.15%
Population growth rate: 3.61% 
Birth rate: 45.11 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 19.19 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 10.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
note: by the end of 1999 refugees from Sierra Leone are assumed to be returning
Infant mortality rate: 146.52 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  45.6 years
male:  42.69 years
female:  48.61 years 
Total fertility rate: 6.01 children born/woman 
noun: Sierra Leonean(s)
adjective: Sierra Leonean
Ethnic groups: 20 native African tribes 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole 10% (descendants 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 descendants 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 English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic
total population: 31.4%
male: 45.4%
female: 18.2% (1995 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Sierra Leone > Map Economy History