Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a West African nation that is bordered by Liberia to the southeast, Guinea to the northeast and Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. It is a melting pot of diverse cultures from across West Africa. From the following 12 interesting facts, you will be able to get a tip of what awaits you to explore in Sierra Leone.
12. Sierra Leone is blessed with tropical climate and diverse environment ranging from the savannah to the rainforest.
Sierra Leone is as assortment of various tropical climate conditions. Going southwards, you experience the dense equatorial rain-forest environment and while going northwards, you are able to witness the vast Savannah grassland.
What you are certainly sure to experience is a warm welcoming climate that makes it unworthy to endure cold-hearted winter elsewhere.
11. Sierra Leone gained its independence from Great Britain on April 27th, 1961.
Like most of Africa (except Liberia and Ethiopia), Sierra Leone experienced the exploitative vagaries of the oppressive colonialism. Sierra Leone was first exposed to the Europeans in 1490s when Portuguese discovered it.
They named it “Sierra Leoa” (Lioness Mountains) which referred to the mountain ranges around Freetown. It is this Sierra Leoa that was misspelled by the British regime as Sierra Leone and adapted as the colony’s name. Britain established Sierra Leone as its colony in 1890. After persistent agitation by the locals, Sierra Leone was granted independence by Britain on April 27th, 1961.
10. The two largest and most dominant ethnic groups of Sierra Leone are the Menda and Temne.
Sierra Leone comprises of 16 major ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language and tradition. However Menda (35%) and Temne (33%) are the leading groups followed at a distant by the Limba (6%).
It also has a small but significant population of Krio people who happens to be the descendants of freed slaves from the Americas who were relocated there during the period of American Revolution War in the late 1700s.
9. The modern state of Sierra Leone is one of Africa’s smallest republics and the 118th largest country of the world.
Sierra Leone is not only small in size but also in its population. It has a total area of 71,740 square kilometers with a population of about 8 million people. Yet, despite this land size and small population, Sierra Leone cuts its own indomitable niche that stands out in West Africa.
8. Sierra Leone is rich in mineral resources, has since long relied on mining, especially of diamonds, for its economic sustenance.
If there is one thing that this small nation is blessed with is its rich mineral resource. Sierra Leone is famous for its diamonds. Apart from diamonds, bauxite and titanium are also extracted on large scale. It also produces gold and rutile on a large scale.
Unfortunately, like most of Sub-Saharan Africa, this mineral wealth hardly translates into blessings but more of curses. Most of the population suffers in abject poverty while the few elite loot its wealth.
7. Sierra Leone, also known as “the little jewel” in West Africa is blessed with a fusion of different cultures, religions and races.
One most distinguishable factors about Sierra Leone is its rich and diverse cultural heritage. It is a collection of people from across West Africa, Europe (Mostly French) and Asia (mostly Lebanese). There are also Krio whose ancestry can be traced to slaves from the Americas and thus could owe their origin from different parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
6. Sierra Leone is famous for “blood diamonds” that were mined and sold during the civil war to raise money for weapons.
Unfortunately, Sierra Leone is not an exception to most of Sub-Saharan Africa where mineral wealth is used to finance wars. South Africa, Angola, South Sudan, DRC, are among the typical examples where warring elites and their Western conspirators loot the minerals while in the process killing, maiming and impoverishing the masses.
‘Blood diamond’ is an infamous tag for this kind of war where diamond is used to finance bloodshed. This is what happened during the Sierra Leone civil war that lasted slightly over a decade (1991 to 2002).
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5. For almost all Sierra Leoneans, rice is the staple food, consumed at virtually every meal. A Sierra Leonean will often say, without any exaggeration, “If I haven’t eaten rice today, then I haven’t eaten!”
Rice is a staple food in most countries in West Africa. However, Sierra Leone depends on it more than most of its counterparts. Most dishes have rice as an integral part of their servings.
This habitual consumption of rice has made most Sierra Leone people to feel like they are still hungry even though they are full simply because the dish they ate did not have rice.
4. Sierra Leone has been inhabited now for at least 2,500 years by settlers from various parts of Africa.
Sierra Leone, though cut-out and branded by the colonialists during the scramble for Africa, it wasn’t a barren uninhabited land. It was part of the contiguous landscape of West Africa where there was free movement of Africans. As such, Africans from various parts of West Africa criss-crossed it and some decided to settle there.
3. Sierra Leone is one of the world’s youngest democracies since 2007.
Democracy in Sierra Leone came at a great price – the civil war. The civil war that ran from 1990 to 2001 devastated this impoverished nation. The only way to break from this insanity was the cessation of violence and reign by the barrel of a gun.
This ushered in multiparty democracy. In as much as there is multiparty democracy, it is still young and unstable. Relative peace cannot disguise its immaturity. Nonetheless, there is still great hope in the horizon, more so, due to the works of International Criminal Court, UN, and Ecowas, who have collaborated to ensure that perpetrators of violence and genocide do not escape justice.
Thus, before committing atrocities, any likely warlord must countenance what befell Charles Taylor – who, despite being warlord, president, arms merchant, and rich looter, he is now wasting off in some jail in Europe – thanks to the long arm of justice.
2. The palm tree and the rice grain are the Sierra Leone national symbols par excellence, immortalized in currency, song, and folklore, and valued for their central and staple contributions to everyday life.
The Sierra Leone people love rice as their primary dish and palm wine as their traditional drink. These two makes them a nourished and happy lot. It is worth immortalizing these two as the symbols of the nation as they are the glues that galvanize this multi-ethnic and multicultural society. This is what signifies their daily happiness. You be sure to enjoy palm wine on your visit to Sierra Leone.
1. For all Sierra Leone people, marriage is a mark of adult maturity and brings considerable prestige to both bride and groom.
Marriage holds a central place in every society. Though marriage in Western societies has been dislodged from this centrality after being ravaged by the challenges of modernity, this is not so the case in Africa, more so in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leoneans are largely traditional and thus customs still hold a key role in galvanizing the society. Marriage is still strong and revered. Marriage is a rite of passage, of which you cannot be considered worth being a responsible adult without having passed through it. Both men and women find it as the crown that caps the apex of their youth-hood.
It is like an inevitable bridge between teenage and senior citizenship such that without crossing it you are still considered a ‘teenager’ regardless of your advanced age.
Sierra Leone is a true jewel of Africa etched on its west coast. It is rich in all its faculties – land, climate, people, culture, and aspirations. You cannot get all that Sierra Leone has to offer by being an arm-chair explorer. A visit to Sierra Leone will not only help you confirm the facts but also debunk the myths. This land of gold and diamond waits to welcome your first step on its soil.
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