Sierra Leone

See regional map VII


Total area: 71,740 km²; land area: 71,620 km²

Comparative area: slightly smaller than South Carolina

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

Coastline: 402 km

Maritime claims:

Territorial sea: 200 nm

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: 25% arable land; 2% permanent crops; 31% meadows and pastures; 29% forest and woodland; 13% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: extensive mangrove swamps hinder access to sea; deforestation; soil degradation


Population: 4,165,953 (July 1990), growth rate 2.6% (1990)

Birth rate: 47 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 21 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 154 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 42 years male, 47 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 6.2 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Sierra Leonean(s); adjective—Sierra Leonean

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

Religion: 30% Muslim, 30% indigenous beliefs, 10% Christian, 30% other or none

Language: English (official); regular use limited to literate minority; principal vernaculars are Mende in south and Temne in north; Krio is the language of the resettled ex-slave population of the Freetown area and is lingua franca

Literacy: 31% (1986)

Labor force: 1,369,000 (est.); 65% agriculture, 19% industry, 16% services (1981); only about 65,000 earn wages (1985); 55% of population of working age

Organized labor: 35% of wage earners


Long-form name: Republic of Sierra Leone

Type: republic under presidential regime

Capital: Freetown

Administrative divisions: 4 provinces; Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western

Independence: 27 April 1961 (from UK)

Constitution: 14 June 1978

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

National holiday: Republic Day, 27 April (1961)

Executive branch: president, two vice presidents, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—President Gen. Joseph Saidu MOMOH (since 28 November 1985); First Vice President Abu Bakar KAMARA (since 4 April 1987); Second Vice President Salia JUSU-SHERIFF (since 4 April 1987)

Political parties and leaders: only party All People's Congress (APC), Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh

Suffrage: universal at age 21

Elections: President—last held 1 October 1985 (next to be held October 1992); results—Gen. Joseph Saidu Momoh was elected without opposition;

House of Representatives—last held 30 May 1986 (next to be held May 1991); results—APC is the only party; seats—(127 total, 105 elected) APC 105

Communists: no party, although there are a few Communists and a slightly larger number of sympathizers

Member of: ACP, AfDB, Commonwealth, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, GATT, IAEA, IBA, IBRD, ICAO, ICO, IDA, IDB—Islamic Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTERPOL, IPU, IRC, ITU, Mano River Union, NAM, OAU, OIC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador George CAREW; Chancery at 1701 19th Street NW, Washington DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261; US—Ambassador Johnny YOUNG; Embassy at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown; telephone 26481

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


Overview: The economic and social infrastructure is not well developed. Subsistence agriculture dominates the economy, generating about one-third of GDP and employing about two-thirds of the working population. Manufacturing accounts for less than 10% of GDP, consisting mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Diamond mining provides an important source of hard currency. The economy suffers from high unemployment, rising inflation, large trade deficits, and a growing dependency on foreign assistance.

GDP: $965 million, per capita $250; real growth rate 1.8% (FY87)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 42% (September 1988)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget: revenues $86 million; expenditures $128 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY90 est.)

Exports: $106 million (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—rutile 50%, bauxite 17%, cocoa 11%, diamonds 3%, coffee 3%; partners—US, UK, Belgium, FRG, other Western Europe

Imports: $167 million (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—capital goods 40%, food 32%, petroleum 12%, consumer goods 7%, light industrial goods; partners—US, EC, Japan, China, Nigeria

External debt: $805 million (1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate -19% (FY88 est.)

Electricity: 83,000 kW capacity; 180 million kWh produced, 45 kWh per capita (1989)

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

Agriculture: accounts for over 30% of GDP and two-thirds of the labor force; 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

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $149 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $698 million; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $18 million; Communist countries (1970-88), $101 million

Currency: leone (plural—leones); 1 leone (Le) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: leones per US$1—87.7193 (January 1990), 58.1395 (1989), 31.2500 (1988), 30.7692 (1987), 8.3963 (1986), 4.7304 (1985)

Fiscal year: 1 Jul -30 June


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

Highways: 7,400 km total; 1,150 km bituminous, 490 km laterite (some gravel), remainder improved earth

Inland waterways: 800 km; 600 km navigable year round

Ports: Freetown, Pepel

Civil air: no major transport aircraft

Airports: 12 total, 8 usable; 5 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 1 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 3 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: marginal telephone and telegraph service; national microwave radio relay system unserviceable at present; 23,650 telephones; stations—1 AM, 1 FM, 1 TV; 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy

Military manpower: males 15-49, 918,078; 433,350 fit for military service; no conscription

Defense expenditures: 1% of GDP (1986)