Location: West Africa.
Independence: April 17, 1961
Nationality: Sierra Leonean.
Capital City: Freetown.
Head of State: Kaba.
Area: 72,325 sq.km.
Type of Government: Republic.
Major peoples: Krio, Temne, Mende, Vai, Kru.
Religion: African religion 60%, Muslim 30%, Christian 10%.
Official Language: English.
Principal Languages: English, Krio, Temne, Mende, Kru.
Major Exports: Diamonds, Bauxite.
History: European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the earliest in west Africa, and Sierra Leone was one of the first west African British colonies. Foreign settlement did not occur until 1787, when the British prepared a refuge within the British empire for freed slaves; that year, the site of Freetown received 400 freedmen from Great Britain.
Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated British styles of life as well as cultural traditions from all over west Africa, and built a flourishing trade on the west African Coast. In the 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British Governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia colonies.
The colonial history of Sierra Leone was not placid. The local people
mounted several unsuccessful revolts against British rule and Creole (freed
slave) domination. The 1951 constitution provided a framework for
decolonization. Local ministerial responsibility was introduced in 1953, when
Sir Milton Margai was appointed Chief Minister.
Independence from Britain came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone opted for a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. Sir Milton's Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led the country to independence and the first general elections under universal adult franchise in May, 1962. Upon Sir Milton's death in 1964, Sir Albert Margai succeeded him as Prime Minister. Sir Albert attempted to establish a one-party political system but met fierce resistance from the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC). In April 1971, Siaka Stevens was appointed President of the Republic; he was inaugurated for a second five-year term in April 1977.
In August 1985, the APC named military commander Joseph Saidu Momoh as party candidate to succeed Stevens. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. In 1990, President Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the one-party constitution of 1978 with a view to broadening the existing political process, guaranteeing fundamental human rights. The commission recommended reestablishment of a multiparty system of government.