Statistics & Facts:
- Capital City = Freetown
- Population = 5,245,695
- Official and Recognized Languages = English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)
- Independence = April 27, 1961
- GDP = $4.622 BILLION (USD 2009 estimate) / Per capita = $900
- Currency = Leones
- Religion = Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs 30%
(Statistics from CIA – World Factbook)
Sierra Leone and Diamonds:
Diamonds were first discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. In addition to diamonds, the country also has several other natural resources – titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold and chromite.
Between 1991 and 2002, the country suffered a brutal, ten-year civil war during which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) committed horrendous atrocities, terrorizing the population and gaining control of the country’s diamond mines.
Eight years of protracted war left tens of thousands of people displaced and unknown numbers dead or mutilated. Half a million of Sierra Leone’s people were forced to flee the country. The UN Security Council established the Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in October 1999 to help restore peace. At its height, UNAMSIL had 17,000 troops and was the biggest UN peacekeeping operation in the world. The Abuja Agreement in 2001 finally led to a reduction of hostilities and by early 2002, tens of thousands of ex-combatants had been disarmed and demobilized. By January of 2002, the civil war was over and Sierra Leone became a democratic country. In 2000, the United Nations Security Council banned both direct and indirect imports of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to member states in an effort to help stabilize the country and reduce the rebel’s access to foreign currency and arms.
Since the end of the civil war in 2002, the diamond industry has provided technical assistance and training to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Mines in setting up the Government Diamond Office – an important step to being part of the Kimberley Process. In 2003 Sierra Leone joined the Kimberley Process, the international agreement developed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain and provides an assurance that diamonds are from conflict free sources.
Sierra Leone is now at peace. Ernest Bai Koroma became president following elections in September, 2007. Today, diamonds represent a resource of crucial importance to the future development of the country. Sierra Leone continues to be a participant of the Kimberley Process and exported approximately $125 million worth of diamonds (approximately 3% of the world’s diamonds) in 2006. Revenues from diamond exports are making a positive contribution to the rebuilding of its infrastructure, health services and education systems.
Education in Sierra Leone:
Education in Sierra Leone is legally required for all children for six years at primary level (Class P1-P6) and three years in junior secondary education, but a shortage of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible. Two thirds of the adult population of the country are illiterate. The Sierra Leone Civil War resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools and in 2001 67 percent of all school-age children were out of school. The situation has improved considerably since then with primary school enrollment doubling between 2001 and 2005 and the reconstruction of many schools since the end of the war. Students at primary schools are usually 6 to 12 years old, and in secondary schools 13 to 18. Primary education is free and compulsory in government-sponsored public schools.
The country has two universities: Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827 (the oldest university in West Africa), and Njala University, primarily located in Bo District. Njala University was established as the Njala Agricultural Experimental Station in 1910 and became a university in 2005. Teacher training colleges and religious seminaries are found in many parts of the country.