[Country map of Sierra Leone]

Sierra Leone


Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia

Map references: Africa

total area: 71,740 sq km
land area: 71,620 sq km
comparative area: slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries: total 958 km, Guinea 652 km, Liberia 306 km

Coastline: 402 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

International disputes: none

Climate: tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)

Terrain: coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east

Natural resources: diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Land use:
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 2%
meadows and pastures: 31%
forest and woodland: 29%
other: 13%

Irrigated land: 340 sq km (1989 est.)

current issues: rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion; civil war depleting natural resources; overfishing
natural hazards: dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (November to May); sandstorms, dust storms
international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban; signed, but not ratified - Climate Change, Environmental Modification


Population: 4,753,120 (July 1995 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 44% (female 1,054,826; male 1,020,943)
15-64 years: 53% (female 1,310,506; male 1,216,510)
65 years and over: 3% (female 72,982; male 77,353) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.63% (1995 est.)

Birth rate: 44.65 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate: 18.38 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: NA migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)
note: thousands of refugees, fleeing the civil strife in Sierra Leone, are taking refuge in Guinea

Infant mortality rate: 138.8 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 46.94 years
male: 44.07 years
female: 49.89 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.9 children born/woman (1995 est.)

noun: Sierra Leonean(s)
adjective: Sierra Leonean

Ethnic divisions: 13 native African tribes 99% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 39%), Creole, European, Lebanese, and Asian 1%

Religions: Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

Languages: English (official; regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (the language of the re-settled ex-slave population of the Freetown area and is lingua franca)

Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic (1990 est.)
total population: 21%
male: 31%
female: 11%

Labor force: 1.369 million (1981 est.)
by occupation: agriculture 65%, industry 19%, services 16% (1981 est.)
note: only about 65,000 wage earners (1985)


conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
conventional short form: Sierra Leone

Digraph: SL

Type: military government

Capital: Freetown

Administrative divisions: 3 provinces and 1 area*; Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western*

Independence: 27 April 1961 (from UK)

National holiday: Republic Day, 27 April (1961)

Constitution: 1 October 1991; suspended following 19 April 1992 coup

Legal system: based on English law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state and head of government: Chairman of the Supreme Council of State Capt. Valentine E. M. STRASSER (since 29 April 1992)
cabinet: Council of Secretaries; responsible to the Supreme Council of State (SCS)

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives (suspended after coup of 29 April 1992); Chairman STRASSER promises multi-party elections sometime in 1995

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (suspended after coup of 29 April 1992)

Political parties and leaders: status of existing political parties is unknown following 29 April 1992 coup


Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Thomas Kahota KARGBO
chancery: 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-9261

US diplomatic representation:
chief of mission: Ambassador Lauralee M. PETERS
embassy: Corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets, Freetown
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [232] (22) 226481 trough 226485
FAX: [232] (22) 225471

Flag: three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue


Overview: Sierra Leone has substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, but the economic and social infrastructure is not well developed. Agriculture generates about 40% of GDP and employs about two-thirds of the working population, with subsistence agriculture dominating the sector. Manufacturing, which accounts for roughly 10% of GDP, consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Diamond mining provides an important source of hard currency. Since 1990, the government has been able to meet its IMF- and World Bank-mandated stabilization targets, holding down fiscal deficits, increasing foreign exchange reserves, and retiring much of its domestic debt - but at a steep cost in terms of capital investments and social spending. Moreover, the economic infrastructure has nearly collapsed due to neglect and war-related disruptions in the mining and agricultural export sectors. The continuing civil war in Liberia has led to a large influx of refugees, who place additional burdens on Sierra Leon's fragile economy.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $4.5 billion (1993 est.)

National product real growth rate: 0.7% (1993 est.)

National product per capita: $1,000 (1993 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 22% (1993 est.)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $68 million
expenditures: $118 million, including capital expenditures of $28 million (1992 est.)

Exports: $149 million (f.o.b., 1993)
commodities: rutile 48%, bauxite 25%, diamonds 16%, coffee, cocoa, fish
partners: US, UK, Belgium, Germany, other Western Europe

Imports: $149 million (c.i.f., 1993)
commodities: foodstuffs 48%, machinery and equipment 32%, fuels 9%
partners: US, EC countries, Japan, China, Nigeria

External debt: $1.15 billion (yearend 1993)

Industrial production: growth rate -1.5% (FY91/92); accounts for 11% of GDP

capacity: 130,000 kW
production: 220 million kWh
consumption per capita: 44 kWh (1993)

Industries: mining (diamonds, bauxite, rutile), small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear), petroleum refinery

Agriculture: largely subsistence farming; cash crops - coffee, cocoa, palm kernels; harvests of food staple rice meets 80% of domestic needs; annual fish catch averages 53,000 metric tons

Economic aid:
recipient: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-89), $161 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-89), $848 million; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $18 million; Communist countries (1970-89), $101 million

Currency: 1 leone (Le) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: leones (Le) per US$1 - 617.67 (January 1995), 586.74 (1994), 567.46 (1993), 499.44 (1992), 295.34 (1991), 144.9275 (1990)

Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June


total: 84 km mineral line is used on a limited basis because the mine at Marampa is closed
narrow gauge: 84 km 1.067-m gauge

total: 7,400 km
paved: 1,150 km
unpaved: crushed stone, gravel 490 km; improved earth 5,760 km

Inland waterways: 800 km; 600 km navigable year round

Ports: Bonthe, Freetown, Pepel

Merchant marine: none

total: 11
with paved runways over 3,047 m: 1
with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 3
with paved runways under 914 m: 3
with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 4


Telephone system: 23,650 telephones; telephone density - 5 telephones/1,000 persons; marginal telephone and telegraph service
local: NA
intercity: national microwave radio relay system made unserviceable by military activities
international: 1 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) earth station

broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0
radios: NA

broadcast stations: 1
televisions: NA

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Police, Security Forces

Manpower availability: males age 15-49 1,030,332; males fit for military service 498,945 (1995 est.)

Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $14 million, 2.6% of GDP (FY92/93)