The climate of Sierra Leone is tropical, with two seasons that determine the agricultural cycle. These seasons are the Rainy season that lasts from May to November and the Dry season from December to April. During the dry season there is a short spell of cool dry winds that blow in off the Sahara Desert. This period is refered to as harmattan period. At times during the night, temperatures can go as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F).
The official name of Sierra Leone is the Republic of Sierra Leone, with its capital city Freetown. It is situated on the West Coast of Africa, latitudes 7° and 10° North of the equator and longitudes 10.50° and 13° West. It is bordered on the North and North
East by the Republic of Guinea, on the East and Southeast by Liberia and on the West and South by the Atlantic Ocean with a coastline stretching some 300 miles
The country has a total area of 71,740 square kilometers (27,699 square miles), divided into a land area of 71,620 square kilometers and water of 120 square kilometers. The country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone is the interior region of large plateaus interspersed with high mountains, with the highest point being Mount Bintumani that is 1,948 meters (6,390 ft) above sea level. The next region is the south region were the upper part of the drainage basin of the Moa River is located. In the central part of the country is the lowland plain region. It contains forests, bushes and farmland that occupy about 43% of Sierra Leone's land area. The fourth region is the coastline. The coastline stretches about 300 miles, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. Within this area are lowlying mangrove swamps, rainforested plains and farmland. The nations capital Freetown sits on this coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbor, the world's third largest natural harbour.
Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years, populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa. Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by AD 1000 agriculture was being practiced by coastal tribes. Sierra Leone's dense tropical rainforest largely protected it from the influence of any precolonial African empires and Islamic colonization, which were unable to penetrate through it until the 18th century.
In 1462, a Portuguese explorer by the name of Pedro da Cintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming the shaped formation “Serra de Leão” (Portuguese for Lion Mountains). Its Italian rendering is Sierra Leone, which
became the country's name. Soon after Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built. The Portuguese were later joined by the Dutch and French; all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. In 1562 the English joined the trade in slaves when Sir John Hawkins bought 300 slaves.
In 1787, a plan was implemented to settle some of London's Black Poor in Sierra Leone in what was called the “Province of Freedom”. A number of Black Poor and White women arrived off the coast of Sierra Leone on May 15, 1787, accompanied by some English tradesmen. This was organized by the St. George's Bay Company, composed of British philanthropists who preferred it as a solution to continuing to financially support them in London. Many of the Black poor were African Americans,
who had been promised their freedom for joining the British Army during the American Revolution, but also included other African and Asian inhabitants of London.
Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of colonists. Through intervention by Thomas Peters, the Sierra Leone Company was established to relocate another group of former slaves, this time nearly 1,200 Black Nova Scotian's, most of whom had escaped slavery in the United States. Given the most barren land in Nova Scotia, many had died from the harsh winters there. They established a settlement at Freetown in 1792 led by Thomas Peters. This group was later joined by other groups of freed slaves and became the first AfroAmerican haven for exslaves. Though the English abolitionist Granville Sharp originally planned Sierra Leone as a utopian community, the directors of the Sierra Leone Company refused to allow the settlers to take freehold of the land. Knowing how Highland Clearances benefited Scottish landlords but not tenants, the settlers revolted in 1799. The revolt was only put down by the arrival of over 500 Jamaican Maroons, who also arrived via Nova Scotia. Thousands of slaves that were returned to or liberated in Freetown chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans were from many areas of Africa, but principally the west coast. They joined the previous settlers and together became known as Creole or Krio people. Cut off from their homes and traditions, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of inhabitants and built a flourishing trade of flowers and beads on the West African coast. The lingua franca of the colony was Krio, a creole language rooted in 18th century African American English, which quickly spread across the region as a common language of trade and Christian mission. British and American abolitionist movements envisioned Freetown as embodying the possibilities of a postslave trade Africa.
On April 27, 1961, Sir Milton Margai led Sierra Leone to Independence from the United Kingdom. He was the country's first Prime Minister. He was a veteran medical doctor who had been appointed Chief Minister after the Colonial Legislative Council and the Protectorate Assembly were unified in 1951. His political party, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), won by large margins in the nation's first general election under universal adult suffrage in May 1962. It also won majority of seat in parliament. Upon his death in 1964, his brother, Sir Albert Margai succeeded him as prime minister. Sir Albert was highly criticized during his three year rule as prime minister. He tried to establish a one party but met fierce resistance from the opposition All People's Congress (APC) and he ultimately abandoned the idea.
In a closely contested general elections in March 1967, Sierra Leone Governor General Henry Josiah Lightfoot Boston declared the new Prime Minister to be Siaka Stevens, candidate of the All People's Congress (APC) and Mayor of Freetown. Hours after taking office, Prime Minister Stevens was ousted in a bloodless coup led by Brigadier David Lansana, the Commander of the Armed Forces however, a group of senior military officers overrode this action by seizing control of the government on March 23, 1968, arresting Brigadier Lansana and suspending the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) with Brigadier Andrew JuxonSmith as its chairman. In April 1968, the NRC was overthrown by a group of military officers who called themselves the AntiCorruption Revolutionary Movement (ACRM), led by Brigadier John Amadu Bangura. The ACRM imprisoned senior NRC members, restored the constitution and reinstated Siaka Stevens as Prime Minister. The return to civilian rule led to byelections beginning in fall 1968 and the appointment of an allAPC cabinet. Calm was not completely restored. In November 1968, Siaka Stevens declared a state of emergency after provincial disturbances. In March 1971 the government survived an unsuccessful military coup and in July 1974 it uncovered an alleged military coup plot. The leaders of both plots were tried and executed. In 1977, student demonstrations against the government disrupted Sierra Leone politics.
On April 19, 1971, Parliament declared Sierra Leone a Republic. Siaka Stevens, then prime minister, became the nation's first president, and in March 1976 he was elected without opposition for a second five year term as president. In 1978, Parliament approved a new constitution making the country a oneparty stat. In the 1978 referendum the APC was made the only legal political party in Sierra Leone. President Sir Siaka Stevens retired in November, 1985 after being President for 14 years, but continued to be chairman of the APC. The APC named a new presidential candidate to succeed Stevens. He was Major General Joseph Saidu Momh, the commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, and Stevens' own choice to succeed him. Joseph Saidu Momoh was elected President in a oneparty referendum on November 28, 1985. In October 1990, President Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 oneparty constitution. Based on the commission recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multiparty system was approved by Parliament; becomming effective on October 1, 1991. Civil war broke out, under the command of former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Sankoh. Who launched his first attack in villages in Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone on March 23, 1991. The government of Sierra Leone, overwhelmed by a crumbling economy and corruption, was unable to put up significant resistance. Within a month of entering Sierra Leone Reitred Coporal Sankoh Revolutinary United Front controlled much of the Eastern Province.
On April 29, 1992, a group of young soldiers apparently frustrated by the government's failure to deal with rebels, launched a military coup which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea . They established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) with Yahya Kanu as its chairman. But Kanu was assassinated by fellow NPRC members, who accused him of trying to negotiate with the toppled APC administration. On May 4, 1992,Captain Valentine Strasser took over as chairman of the NPRC and Head of State of Sierra Leone.
In January 1996, after nearly four years in power, Strasser was ousted in a coup by fellow NPRC members led by his deputy Maada Bio. Bio reinstated the Constitution and called for general elections. In the second round of presidential elections in early 1996, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, candidate of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) defeated John KarefaSmart of the United National People's Party (UNPP)
In 1996, Johnny Paul Koroma was allegedly involved in an attempt to overthrow the government of President Kabbah. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned at Maxium Prison in Freetown. But some top ranking Army officers were unhappy
with this decision, and on May 25, 1997, a group of soldiers who called themselves the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) overthrew President Kabbah's government. The AFRC released released Jonny Paul Koroma from prison and installed him as their chairman and Head of State of the country. After 10 months in office, the junta was ousted by the Nigerialed ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of President Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998.
In October, the United Nations agreed to send Peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. By January 2002, the war was declared over. In May, President Kabbah was reelected.
In August 2007, Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections. However, no presidential candidate won a majority of votes. A runoff election was held in September, and Ernest Bai Koroma was elected president of the Republic of
The people and culture
It is clear from the few archaeological findings on Sierra Leone that people lived in the present area of Sierra Leone a very long time ago. Examinations of tools discovered in a cave in Yengema suggested that people inhabited that area at least 2,500 years before Christ. These people lived in small communities. We do not know for certain who they were. By the time Portuguese traders began to appear on the West African Coast in the midfifteenth century, certain groups had already established themselves firmly in many areas in what is now Sierra Leone. On the coast were a host of communities such as the Baga, Bullum, Krim and Vai. The Portuguese called these coastal peoples the Sapes. In the North lived the Limbas. The Banta were found in the southwest while the Kissi and Kono lived in the East. Each group tended to be isolated from the others and there was very little internal migration. This was due to fear of war, suspicion of people from other groups, problems of social cohesion within the group and possible breakdown of traditions. These were all factors affecting ethnic diffusion. The early peoples of Sierra Leone seem to have been affected by certain invasions, such as those of the Mane. Some groups were absorbed in the process, and others were displaced, while new groups were formed subsequently. Over a long period of time, new communities also came in a rather peaceful manner and settled in various parts of the country. Like the early inhabitants, these later immigrants also first lived separate from each others, but the growth of trade, provision of western educational and medical facilities, improvement in transportation systems, mining, agriculture and migration tended to draw the groups closer together. Today, there are at least 17 ethnic groups in the country. These groups have been divided into three language categories Mande, Mel and Others. The Mende, Vai/ Gallinas, Kono, Loko, Koranko, Soso, Yalunka and Mandingo belong to the Mande. The Temne, Bullum/ Sherbro, Kissi, Gola, and Krim form part of the Mel group. The Others are Limba, Fula, Krio and Kru. The two largest communities are the Mende and Temne, each accounting for about 31 percent of the population.
The Mende, who are believed to be descendants of the Mane, were originally in the Liberian hinterland. They began moving into Sierra Leone slowly and peacefully in the eighteenth century. The Temne claim to have come from Futa Jallon, which is in
Presentday Guinea. The Limba are the third largest and one of the oldest communities in Sierra Leone. They have no tradition of origin and maintain that they have always lived in Sierra Leone. It is believed that their settlement was around the
Wara Wara hills in the northern interior. The Vai and the Kono are related people who split up some time ago. Oral tradition states that there was shortage of salt in Konosu, the original home of the Vai and the Kono, which is somewhere in presentday Guinea. The people therefore decided to set out en masse in search of salt water. After travelling for many months, some of them got tired and decided to settle in approximately the present Kono homeland. The Loko are akin to the Gbandi of Liberia and the Mende. It is believed that the Loko were offshoots of a Mane expeditionary force sent against one of the defected Mane viceroys in the 1550s. The Koranko are related to the Mandingo. They are believed to have began arriving in Sierra Leone from Guinea in about 1600. The Soso and the Yalunka are a branch of the same people. Soso and Yalunka tradition maintains that they arrived in Futa Jallon some time after the Temne and Baga had created a powerful state to the east of Futa. As a result of the increase in population, the Soso began to spread out into northwestern Sierra Leone in about the seventeenth Century. The Bullum are among the oldest inhabitants on the Sierra Leone coast. They were invaded by the Mane warriors in the Sixteenth century who in the process "cut the Bullum tribe into two parts". The northern branch were assimilated by the Temne and the Soso. The Southern branch came to be known as Sherbro, a name which was derived from Sherabola, a Mane viceroy who imposed his rule on them towards the end of the Sixteenth century. The Krim are a coastal people akin to the Sherbro and live to the southeast of the Sherbro. The Gola, the majority of whom live in the Liberian hinterland, are also among the earliest inhabitants of Sierra Leone. They occupy some land east of the Gallinas on the presentday Guinea. The Kissi say they migrated from upper Niger before the fifteenth cenutry. They were attacked by the Koranko who pushed them towards the eastern border with presentday Guinea. The Mandingo and the Fula began arriving in Sierra Leone in the seventeenth century. The first immigrants were mostly traders and Islamic teachers. the Mandingo came mainly from the Sankaran region in Guinea while the Fula came from Futa Jallon and Senegal. They subsequently settled in various parts of the country. The Krio community, who largely inhabit the Western Area, came into being in the midnineteenth century as a result of the integration of such disparate groups as the Original Settlers, Nova Scotians, Maroons, Recaptives and immigrants from the Sierra Leone hinterland. The Kru began arriving in the Sierra Leone colony from Liberia in the 1790s. They were mostly seamen. As their numbers increased, land was acquired for them near the shore beyond Sanders Brook in the west end of Freetown.