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Sierra Leone (my country of birth)

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General

Sierra Leone is an independent nation in western Africa, bounded on the north and east by Guinea, on the southeast by Liberia, and on the southwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of 51 members in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The total area of the country is 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Freetown is the capital and largest city.








Climate
Sierra Leone has a tropical climate; the mean temperature in Freetown is about 27 C (about 80 F) in January and 26 C (78 F) in July. Annual rainfall averages more than 3800 mm (more than 150 in) along the coast, diminishing to about 2030 mm (about 80 in) in the northern interior. Most rain falls from May to October.

Population
The population is composed predominantly of black Africans belonging to nearly 20 different ethnic groups. The largest groups are the Mende in the south, and the Temne in the north. Creoles, descendants of freed slaves returned from the Americas, are an important minority in the Freetown area, where relatively large numbers of Lebanese, and small numbers of Indians and Europeans also reside. The majority of the population lives in more than 29,000 rural settlements, including isolated, temporary homesteads.

Mineral Resources
Much of Sierra Leone's wealth is derived from mineral resources. Once one of the world's largest producers of diamonds, the country is also rich in such minerals as chrome, bauxite, iron ore, and rutile. Small amounts of gold and platinum are mined.

Gem and industrial diamonds, once the leading mineral products of Sierra Leone, are now produced at levels far below those of the past. In the early 1990s some 312,000 carats were produced annually, down from 2 million carats produced annually in the 1970s. Rutile, a titanium ore of which Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits, has assumed the role of leading export, producing half of all earnings. Bauxite also is mined in large quantities.

Vegetation and Animal Life
A savanna vegetation, comprising grasses and bushes, dominates northern Sierra Leone. Forests are densest in the southeast and contain varieties of palm and, to a lesser extent, mahogany and teak. Among the numerous small animals are bush pigs, chimpanzees, monkeys, and porcupines. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses are often found in the rivers.

History
The country was named Sierra Leone (Lion Mountains) by the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who visited the coast in 1460. In 1787, the British established a colony at Freetown for slaves repatriated from Great Britain and the United States and for slaves rescued from shipwrecks. The land of the original settlement, where the city later developed, was purchased from local chiefs.

The Sierra Leone Company, formed in 1791, administered the settlement until 1808, when it became a crown colony. Great Britain set up a protectorate over the hinterland of Freetown in 1896. The first elections for the legislative council were held under the constitution of 1924. The ministerial system was introduced in 1953, and Sir Milton Margai, a former physician and leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), was appointed chief minister in 1954 and prime minister in 1960. During this period and specifically on March 23, 1959, Adnan Basma was born at 36 Kissy Street in Freetown.

Sierra Leone became an independent nation on April 27, 1961. The constitution of 1961 extended the right to vote to women. Following the elections of 1962, Margai remained prime minister. In 1967, as a result of disputed elections, in which Siaka Stevens, leader of the All-People's Congress (APC), was elected prime minister, the army staged a coup and organized a National Reformation Council. After a second army revolt in 1968, civilian government was restored, and Stevens was returned to power. Sierra Leone was declared a republic on April 19, 1971, and Stevens was sworn in as executive president on April 21. Opposition to the government was gradually eliminated; in elections held in May 1973, the APC was unopposed and Stevens was reelected president. In 1975 Sierra Leone signed a trade and aid agreement with the European Community (now the European Union) and helped form the Economic Community of West African States.

In 1978 a new constitution made the country a one-party state, and Stevens was sworn in for a new seven-year term in office. The APC was thereafter the only legal party. In the early 1980s Sierra Leone suffered an economic slowdown, as sagging export revenues left the government unable to pay for essential imports. In November 1985 Stevens retired, and Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh was sworn in as president the following January. A coup attempt was suppressed in March 1987, and in November the president declared a state of economic emergency. In April 1992, however, Momoh was ousted in a military coup and replaced by Captain Valentine Strasser, who at age 27 became one of the world's youngest heads of state. Strasser's government reduced street crime, lowered inflation from 115 percent to 15 percent, allowing the country to receive more than $300 million in global aid packages. In 1994 he endorsed a two-year transition to multiparty democracy, with elections scheduled for 1996.

Six weeks before the scheduled elections in late February, Strasser was removed from power by his defense minister, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. Bio pledged to hold free elections as planned. The elections were held on February 26 and 27. In a runoff vote, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP was elected president.

 

Freetown

The capital, largest city, and principal port of Sierra Leone, on a peninsula on the southern bank of the estuary of the Sierra Leone River. The city lies on sloping ground at the foot of a range of hills and faces one of the best natural harbors on the western coast of Africa. It has exports that include palm products, cacao, coffee, and ginger. Manufacturing is limited to such activities as diamond cutting and the processing of food and tobacco. Fine beaches are located near the city, and tourist facilities are being developed; an international airport is located to the north. Points of interest include the Sierra Leone National Museum, a botanical garden, and the Anglican Saint George's Cathedral (1828). Fourah Bay College (1827) was made a part of the University of Sierra Leone in 1967. Freetown was founded in 1787 by British abolitionists as a home for liberated slaves. Eliminated by disease, the community was reestablished in 1792. The peninsula was declared a British colony in 1808. Freetown became the capital of the independent state of Sierra Leone in 1961. Population (1994) 470,000.


Sights from Freetown
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Freetown




Freetown


King Jimmy Market / Freetown


Carrying goods from the market

 


Commonwealth of Nations Back to top

Loose voluntary association of political entities that give symbolic or actual allegiance to the British crown, or did so at one time or another. These entities include 51 sovereign nations and several dependencies. The sovereign Commonwealth nations are Great Britain, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Union (now Republic) of South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1961, but rejoined in 1994. Pakistan left the Commonwealth in 1972, but became a member again in 1989. Fiji withdrew in 1987. The Republic of Ireland is associated with it for commercial purposes but is not a member.

Relations between Britain and the other Commonwealth countries are maintained through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and the foreign offices of the individual nations. Member countries exchange high commissioners whose status is equivalent to that of ambassadors. A Commonwealth secretariat, established in 1965, provides a clearinghouse for information of common concern to member countries and assists existing agencies in promoting Commonwealth cooperation. In those countries that do not have their own heads of state the British sovereign is represented by a governor-general.

The designation Commonwealth of Nations was first used officially at the Imperial Conference of 1926, as applied to “the group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions.” This definition was embodied in the Statute of Westminster, enacted by the British Parliament in 1931. When India became a republic in 1949 it continued its membership in the Commonwealth, setting a precedent that has been followed by many former British colonies.

The Commonwealth has no official policymaking body, and the only formal political consultations among the member governments are the periodic meetings of their prime ministers to discuss common problems.