Country profile

The Republic of Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa. Its modern history is still overshadowed by a brutal civil war that lasted from 1991 until 2002, a government crackdown on the trade of illicit “blood diamonds” which helped to fund the civil war, and the spread of the deadly Ebola disease between 2014 and 2016.

Although Sierra Leone has seen economic growth in recent years, the devastating effects of the civil war are felt to this day.

Republic of Sierra Leone at a glance

President: Ernest Koroma

Capital: Freetown

Population: 6.1 million

Area: 71,740 km2 (27,699 m2)

Languages: English, Krio (Creole language derived from English) and a range of African languages

Major religions: Islam, Christianity

Monetary unit: Leone

Life expectancy: 48 years (men), 49 years (women)

Source: UN, World Bank,


Key dates in history

1787 – British philanthropists establish the “Province of Freedom”, later Freetown, as a settlement for repatriated and rescued slaves.

1792 – Freed American slaves – the Nova Scotians – are transported to Sierra Leone by the Sierra Leone Company.

1808 – Freetown becomes crown colony.

1954 – Sir Milton Margai, leader of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, appointed chief minister.

1961 – Sierra Leone gains independence on April 27.

1971 – Sierra Leone becomes a republic on April 19.

1991 – Start of civil war. Former army corporal Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) begin campaign against President Momoh, capturing towns on border with Liberia.

1996 – Ahmad Tejan Kabbah elected president in February, signs peace deal with Sankoh’s rebels in November which ultimately unravels in 1997.

1997 – The Commonwealth suspends Sierra Leone. The UN Security Council imposes sanctions.

1998 – Nigerian-led West African intervention force Ecomog storms Freetown and drives rebels out. Kabbah makes a triumphant return to Freetown.

1999 – Rebels backing Sankoh seize parts of Freetown from Ecomog. After weeks of fighting they are driven out. Ceasefire declared in May.

1999 – Six weeks of talks in the Togolese capital, Lome, result in a peace agreement. UN troops arrive to police the agreement.

2000 – UN forces attacked in the east of the country, several hundred UN troops are abducted. As rebels close in on Freetown, 800 British paratroopers are dispatched to evacuate British citizens and help secure the airport for UN peacekeepers.

2001 – UN troops begin to deploy peacefully in rebel-held territory. Rebel disarmament begins.

2002 – War declared over. Kabbah wins a landslide victory in elections and his Sierra Leone People’s Party secures a majority in parliament. British troops depart Sierra Leone after a two-year mission to help end the civil war.

2003 – Rebel leader Foday Sankoh dies while awaiting trial for war crimes.

2004 – UN-backed war crimes trials begin. UN relinquishes control of security in capital to local forces.

2005 – The last UN peacekeeping troops leave Sierra Leone.

2006 – Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor is arrested in Nigeria and handed over to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

2007 – Start of Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in The Hague.

2010 – UN Security Council lifts last remaining sanctions against Sierra Leone.

2012 – The UN-backed Sierra Leone war crimes court in The Hague convicts former Liberian leader Charles Taylor for war crimes in the Sierra Leone civil war.

2012 – President Koroma wins a second term in first elections since the end of the civil war.

2014 – Sierra Leone declares a state of emergency to tackle the deadly Ebola outbreak which has killed more than 700 in West Africa. People are instructed to stay indoors for three days as part of the country’s strategy to stop the spread of Ebola.

2016 – The World Health Organisation declares Sierra Leone Ebola-free for a second time, after a new flare-up in the wake of the first all-clear in November.

Sources: BBC (, VSL Travel (