Video Source: Youtube
Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Europeans discovered Sierra Leone in the 1440s; up to then, it was inhabited by indigenous tribes. The Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, while sailing along the coast of the country in 1462, gave the land the name Sierra Lyoa (Lion’s Teeth). In 1787 the British formally named the area “Sierra Leone.”
Until the 18th century, Sierra Leone was a port for the transatlantic slave trade for many European countries. In 1787, Britain sent a shipload of discharged black soldiers, runaway slaves, and prostitutes to a site near present-day Freetown to start a colony; most of those initial settlers died of disease. A second attempt was made in 1792, when a ship full of approximately a thousand freed slaves from Nova Scotia traveled to the coast. Five hundred former slaves from Jamaica soon joined them, and the new settlers established Freetown.
The Sierra Leone Company ran the colony until Britain abolished
slavery, in 1807. During the following year, Britain took control of the area and used it as a base for anti–slave trade patrols and a refuge for freed and runaway slaves. Until 1864, approximately 50,000 former slaves made their way to the colony. In 1896 the area became a British protectorate, yet the local people protested against taxation and what they perceived to be unfair British governance. It was not until April 27, 1961, that Sierra Leone gained independence after more than 150 years of British colonial rule. Dr. Milton Margai was elected the country’s first prime minister, and his Sierra Leone People’s Party gained a majority in the parliament.
Since gaining independence, Sierra Leone has had a tumultuous political history, multiple leaders having been forced out of office. In 1996, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was democratically elected the country’s president. A violent coup organized by Johnny Paul Koroma and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council led to the ousting of Kabbah, and a decade of bloody conflict ensued. In 2002 the conflict was declared officially over, and Kabbah was reelected. Estimates put the fatalities of the civil war at around 50,000, with approximately 2 million people displaced. In 2007, Ernest Bai Koroma replaced Kabbah as president, and today’s government is working toward a brighter future.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. The country consists of three provinces and one region: Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province, and the Western Area. The capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, is also the country’s largest city and is located in the Western Area.
2. The currency of Sierra Leone is the leone. There are 100 cents in every leone. The symbol for the leone is Le.
3. A number of newspapers are published privately in Freetown. Among them are Awoko, the Concord Times, the Standard Times, the Independent Observer, and For Di People.
4. The official language of Sierra Leone is English. Krio (a Creole language) is a language used by most of the population, though. Also widely spoken are Mende and Temne.
5. Currently, cigarette smoking is permissible in public spaces throughout the country, unless otherwise noted.