Sierra Leone is found in West Africa, fronting onto the Atlantic Ocean, and flanked by Liberia and Guinea.

The very earliest inhabitants of Sierra Leone were possibly the Bulom people. The 15th Century saw the Mende, Temne and Fulani peoples follow them. The Mende people, including also a small group in Liberia;  speak a language of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family. The Mende grow rice as their staple crop, as well as yams and cassava. Cash crops include cocoa, ginger, peanuts (groundnuts), and palm oil and kernels The first peoples from Europe to explore here were the Portuguese. They gave Sierra Leone its present name, meaning "lion mountains". The coastal port of Freetown was ceded to English settlers in 1787 as a home for runaway slaves and Blacks discharged from the British Army. In 1808 the coastal zone was colonized by the British, and in 1896 the British proclaimed a protectorate inland.

Through the efforts of some British philanthropists, slavery was abolished in England. A naval base was established in Freetown to intercept slave ships and also to serve as settlement for freed slaves in 1787. This settlement was called the ‘Province of Freedom.’ The first college for higher education south of the Sahara was established in 1827. The country is well known for its early achievements in the fields of medicine, law and education earning the name ‘the Athens of West Africa.

By 1792, 1200 slaves were thereby sent to Freetown from Nova Scotia and a large number from Maroon in the 1800's to join the original settlers from England. Few years later in 1808, the colony officially became a British Crown Colony. Trade commenced between the indigenes and the settlers. This paved the gateway for the British to infiltrate the protectorate- the need to extend their rule became necessary. In 1896, a protectorate was declared. The country then became a single entity with a shared history, culture and language called Krio which evoked out of the Fatua and mixed languages of various other settlers and traders. English became the official language. Through the efforts of such men as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp, Lord Mansfield formed an administration in 1806, which was instrumental in the British Empire’s abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (1807). The British established a naval base in Freetown to patrol against illegal slave ships. A fine of GBP £100 was established for every slave found on a British ship. During British colonialism, Sierra Leone served as the seat of Government for other British colonies along the West Coast of Africa. The first college for higher education south of the Sahara was established in 1827. The country is well known for its early achievements in the fields of medicine, law and education earning the name ‘the Athens of West Africa’.

Sierra Leone became an independent nation on April 27, 1961. This was followed by a long History of coups and military dictatorships. In 1996, another military coup led surprisingly to a multiparty presidential election and Ahmad Kabbah became Sierra Leone's first democratically elected president. Political power and rich diamond fields were hotly contested so yet another coup followed a year later. This began a destructive reign of terror including; torture, rape, and brutal amputations of thousands, including children.

The outbreak of the war in Sierra Leone caused set back to many areas in the country. The conflict in Sierra Leone started in March 1991 when fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched a war from the east of the country near the border with Liberia to overthrow the government. With the support of the Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Sierra Leone's army tried at first to defend the government but, the following year, the army itself overthrew the government. The RUF continued its attacks. 

The official ending of conflict in January 2002 left some 50,000 people dead after the decade-long civil war. The UN installed a large peacekeeping force and shortly after, Kabbah was re-elected.

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Further Reading

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1061561.stm is a brief country profile with map which outlines the latest period of conflict
http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/africa/sierra_leone_rel82.jpg is a shaded relief map from a http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sierra_leone.html which offers historical, geographic and city maps
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107959.html is a brief intro to the geography, history and basic stats
http://www.vreug.com/sl.html gives a very brief history, and has the words to the national anthem, with audio
http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0861084.html has a more detailed history coverage than above
http://www.sierra-leone.org/links.html#History is a wide-ranging links list with a rich selection of maps accessed from the page index
http://www.sierra-leone.org/links.html#History is an online book: Sierra Leonean Heroes: Fifty Great Men and Women Who Helped to Build Our Nation, covering the history of Sierra Leone from ancient times through selected biographies
http://www.sierra-leone.org/documents-kabbah.html for speeches and a biography of the President (1996)
http://www.sierra-leone.org/heroes11.html has a chronology of significant dates in Sierra Leone
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/sierra/ is the Human Rights Watch review of recent years
http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/Africa/SierraLeone.asp is an exciting site, intricately linked and richly rewarding
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/S_Leone.html provides an annotated list of resources to inform yourself on Sierra Leone
http://allafrica.com/sierraleone/ an excellent site for the latest news on this country
https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/sherbro/
https://www.africa.upenn.edu/sherbro/sherbro.html
https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Wilberforce
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/clarkson_thomas.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/sharp_granville.shtml
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/03/ahmad-tejan-kabbah