Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north and Liberia on the south, with the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The name Sierra Leone was adapted from the Portuguese name for the country: Serra Leoa, literally "Lion Mountain Range". During the 18th century Sierra Leone was an important center of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. The capital Freetown was founded in 1787 by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for enslaved Africans who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate. The Crown Colony and Protectorate joined and gained independence in 1961. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone suffered greatly under the devastating effects of rebel activities, which were stopped by UN and British forces disarming 17,000 militia and rebels. Sierra Leone has been at peace since 2002.-----------Findings show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited for thousands of years. Traditional historiography has customarily presented it as peopled by successive waves of invaders; but the language pattern suggests that the coastal Bulom (Sherbro), Temne, and Limba have been in continuous settled occupation for a long time, with subsequent sporadic immigration from inland by Mande-speaking peoples, including Vai, Loko, and Mende. They organized themselves in small political units—independent kingdoms or chiefdoms — whose rulers' powers were checked by councils. Secret societies, notably the Poro secret society, also exercised political power as well as instructing initiates in the customs of the country.
Portuguese voyagers gave the name Serra Lyoa (Lion Mountains), later changed to Sierra Leone by the British. From the 15th century onward, European traders congregated near the site of present-day Freetown, under the protection of African rulers, who welcomed them for the commercial opportunities they provided, exchanging imported manufactured goods for ivory and slaves to be employed across the Atlantic.
After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 - 1714), Spain ceded Gibraltar and Minorca to the British. In an additional clause, the Asiento, Britain was granted the exclusive rights over the sea-transport of enslaved Africans to North America and the Caribbean Islands. Queens Anne's government (1702 – 1714) sold the exclusive rights to the South Sea Company for £7 million to cover the costs of its participation in the Spanish Succession War, and to compensate the forces of John Churchill of Marlborough.-----------------During the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) enslaved Africans were promised freedom if they sided with the British and many did. A group of freed slaves known as the Black Poor, supported by a charity called the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, arrived in Sierra Leone from England in 1787 to form a settlement. The ones who finished the voyage and arrived at the Sierra Leone Peninsula bought land from local Temne leaders and established the Province of Freedom near present-day Freetown. Many of the settlers died of disease in the first year. A renewed attempt at settlement was made in 1792, when about 1,100 freed slaves under the leadership of John Clarkson, brother of abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, landed on the Sierra Leone peninsula and founded Freetown. They were joined by about 500 freed slaves from Jamaica in 1800. These settlers were English-speaking, and many were literate and Christian. The new colony was controlled by the Sierra Leone Company, which forcefully held off the Temne while the settlers supported themselves by farming.
Muslim traders brought Islam, which became firmly established in the Northern Province and subsequently spread throughout the rest of the country.
In 1807, Great Britain passed the Slave Trade Act 1807, outlawing the trade of enslaved Africans, but not slavery itself. In early 1808 the British government took over Freetown from the financially troubled company, using it as a naval base for fighting the traffic in slaves. The British government, which had profited most from the transatlantic trade in captured Africans, now undertook a key role in the suppression of the trade.
Between 1808 and 1864 approximately 50,000 liberated Africans settled at Freetown. Protestant missionaries were active there, and in 1827 they founded Fourah Bay College, where Sierra Leoneans were educated and became active as missionaries, traders, and civil servants along the Sierra Leone coast and on Sherbro Island as well as in other regions in West Africa, especially among the Yoruba people.---------During the periods 1821 to 1827, 1843 to 1850, and 1866 to 1874, British holdings on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) were placed under the governor of Sierra Leone. In 1863 an advisory legislative council was established in Sierra Leone. The British were reluctant to assume added responsibility by increasing the size of the colony, but in 1896 the interior was proclaimed a British protectorate, mainly in order to forestall French ambitions in the region, and the Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone was established.--------------The protectorate was ruled “indirectly” (i.e., through the rulers of the numerous small states, rather than by creating an entirely new administrative structure) and a hut tax was imposed in 1898 to pay for administrative costs. The Africans protested the tax in 1898 and fought the British in a war later became known as the Hut Tax War of 1898. The uprisings, led in the north by Bai Bureh and in the south by Kai Londo, started on 27 April 1896 and lasted over two years. The Sandé and Poro secret societies played a great role in mobilizing resistance to the British.
Under the British, little economic development was undertaken in the protectorate until the 1950s, although a railroad was built and the production for export of palm products and peanuts was encouraged.
After World War II, Africans were given more political responsibility, and educational opportunities were enlarged. In the economic sphere, mining (especially of diamonds and iron ore) increased greatly. The Creoles of the colony, who had been largely excluded from higher government posts in favor of the British, sought a larger voice in the affairs of Sierra Leone. A constitution adopted in 1951 gave additional power to Africans. However, the Creoles were a small minority in the combined colony and protectorate, and in the elections of 1951 the protectorate-based Sierra Leone People's Party(SLPP), led by Sir Milton Augustus Margai (a Mende), emerged victorious.----------------On April 27, 1961, Sir Milton Margai led Sierra Leone to independence from the United Kingdom; and became the nation's first Prime minister. He died three years later in 1964. Sir Milton Margai's Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) named his brother Sir Albert Margai to succeed him. On April 29, 1964, Sir Albert Margai was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.
Albert Margai was highly criticized during his three year reign as prime minister; he was accused of corruption and of a policy of affirmative action in favor of the Mende tribe. In a closely contested general elections in March 1967, Sierra Leone Governor General Henry Josiah Lightfoot Boston declared Siaka Stevens, candidate of the All People's Congress (APC) and Mayor of Freetown as the new Prime Minister of Sierra Leone. However, a military coup led by Brigadier David Lansana ousted Stevens within a few hours after he took office. Lansana insisted the determination of office should await the election of the tribal representatives to the house.
On March 23, 1968, a group of senior military officers, led by Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith, overrode this action by seizing control of the government, arresting Brigadier Lansana, and suspended the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) with brigadier Andrew Juxon Smith as its chairman.
On April 1968, the NRC was overthrown by a group of junior military officers who called themselves the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement (ACRM), led by Brigadier John Amadu Bangura. The ACRM imprisoned NRC members, restored the constitution, returned the nation to parliamentary government, and reinstated Siaka Stevens as prime minister. The following years were marked by considerable unrest, caused by ethnic and army disaffection with the central government.----------On April 19, 1971 Parliament declared Sierra Leone to be a republic. Siaka Stevens, then prime minister, became the nation's first president. Guinean troops requested by Stevens to support his government were in the country from 1971 to 1973. Parliamentary elections were held in 1973; Stevens' APC party won 74 seats and the opposition SLPP party won 15 seats in parliament. An alleged plot to overthrow Stevens failed in July 1974. The leaders of the unsuccessful Coup were tried and executed, and in March 1976, he was elected without opposition for a second five-year term as president. In 1978, a new constitution was adopted, creating a one-party state; The 1978 constitution made the APC the only legal political party in Sierra Leone.
Siaka Probyn Stevens, who had been President of Sierra Leone for fourteen years, retired from that position in November 1985, although he continued his role as chairman of the ruling APC party. In August 1985, the APC named commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone military forces, Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, Stevens' own choice, as the party candidate to succeed him. Momoh was elected President in a one-party referendum on October 1, 1985. A formal inauguration was held in January 1986, and new parliamentary elections were held in May 1986. Following an alleged attempt to overthrow president Momoh in March 1987, more than 60 senior government officials were arrested, including Vice-President Francis Minah, who was removed from office and was executed by hanging in 1989, along with five others after being convicted for allegedly plotting the 1987 coup.
In October 1990, President Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 one-party constitution with a view to broadening the existing political process, guaranteeing fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and strengthening and consolidating the democratic foundation and structure of the nation. The commission, in its report presented January 1991, recommended re-establishment of a multi-party system of government. Based on that recommendation, a constitution was approved by Parliament in July 1991 and ratified in September; it became effective on October 1, 1991.-------------The Sierra Leone Civil War began in 1991, initiated by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under Foday Sankoh. Tens of thousands died and more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) were displaced because of the 11-year conflict. Neighboring countries became host to significant numbers of refugees attempting to escape the civil war.--------------------In January, 2002, most of the estimated 45,000 fighters had surrendered their weapons. As disarmament progressed, the government began to re-assert its authority in formerly rebel-held areas. By early 2002, most of the ex-combatants were disarmed and demobilized, although many still awaited re-integration assistance. In a ceremony on 18 January 2002, President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over. An estimated 50,000 people had been killed; a further 500,000 people had been displaced in neighboring countries; and thousands of people had had their arms or legs hacked off by rebels.---------Presidential and parliamentary elections were finally held in May, 2002. President Kabbah was re-elected, gaining 70% of the vote, and his Sierra Leone People's Party won a majority of the parliamentary seats.
The Sierra Leone government asked the United Nations to help set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone, which would try those who "bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of war crimes, and crime against humanity, during the civil war. On January 16, 2002, the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement establishing the Court in the national capital, Freetown.
In March 2003 the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its first indictments. Foday Sankoh, already in custody, was indicted, along with notorious RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, Johnny Paul Koroma, leader of the AFRC, and Samuel Hinga Norman, the Minister of Interior and former head of the Civil Defense Forces (commonly known as the Kamajors), and among several others. Norman was arrested when the indictments were announced, while Bockarie and Koroma remained in hiding. On May 5, 2003 Bockarie was killed in Liberia, allegedly on orders from President Charles Taylor, who feared Bockarie’s testimony before the Special Court. Johnny Paul Koroma was also rumored to have been killed, though his death remains unconfirmed. Two of the accused, Foday Sankoh and Hinga Norman, have died while incarcerated. On March 25, 2006, with the election of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo permitted transfer of Charles Taylor, who had been living in exile in the Nigerian coastal town of Calabar, to Sierra Leone for prosecution. Two days later, Taylor attempted to flee Nigeria, but he was apprehended by Nigerian authorities and transferred to Freetown under UN guard. Taylor is now being held in The Hague, where he awaits trial before the Special Court on 11 indictments of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His trial began in June 2007 but was rescheduled for August 2007 to give his defense team more time to prepare.
In June 2007, the Special Court convicted three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council; Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu of crimes against humanity.