East Ohio Conference > 3Cs > Sierra Leone > HISTORY



The European discovery of Sierra Leone occurred in 1462 by Portuguese explorers. The country was named Sierra Leone (Portuguese for Lion Mountain) because the mountainous coastline resembled lions. In 1787, the country was colonized and governed by Britain until independence in 1961. It became an educational center for the West Coast of Africa (Fourah Bay College, Freetown, established in 1827) and was known as “the Athens of West Africa”.

Bunce (Bonthe) Island was a center for slave trade in the 1800s. The Amistad Story is a vivid portrayal of this period. Later on the country of Sierra Leone was established by freed African Slaves (Krio) and an Arab Minority. Independence was gained April 1961.

Poverty, tribal rivalries and official corruption resulted in the 1991 outbreak of a 10 year civil war that resulted in the death of over 50,000 people, the maiming of thousands (an effective Revolutionary United Front Rebel Group Terror Tactic through amputation of hands/arms/feet/legs/ears/other body parts) to control the population and recruit/retain child
soldiers. The 2006 film, “Blood Diamond”, is a relatively accurate portrayal of the havoc caused by this war. The majority of the population had to flee their homes and live in the bush or neighboring countries where they remained for up to ten years. This displacement has disrupted families, education, health care, employment, agriculture, religion and infrastructure throughout the country.  


President Ernest Bai Koroma (All People’s Congress-APC-Party) was elected in September 2007. Former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah first took office in 1996 but was toppled in 1997 only to be reinstated the same year by a West African Intervention Force. With British military help, a civil war ceasefire was realized in November 2000 which led to the presence of UN Forces. With the help of the United Nations Forces, UNAMSIL, a Peace Agreement was finalized in January 2002, followed by Democratic Elections the same year. An UN-backed war crimes court was set up to try those from both sides who bear the greatest responsibility for the wartime brutalities. With the departure of the UN Peacekeeping Forces in 2005, Sierra Leoneans now control their destiny. A transitional UN Force remains as well as a British Oversight Force.

Sierra Leone faces the challenges of: reconstruction, high unemployment, the rehabilitation of 70,000 former combatants, curbing the “blood diamond trade”, and the continuing problems with poverty/tribal rivalries/official corruption that caused the 1991 Civil War. Legitimate diamond exports and exploitation of mineral reserves have contributed to the positive growth of the economy.

US CIA Government 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010;                                                                       
World Health Organization: Core Health Indicators                                                                                 
GBGM: Sierra Leone Country 2005 Profile; Bishop Yambasu 2010