Sierra Leone has been continuously inhabited for at least 2,500 years, occupied by various civilizations of peoples who moved from other areas of Africa, according to archeological findings. By the 9th century, humans had begun to utilize iron, and coastal tribes had begun to practice agriculture. During that period, the climate changed dramatically, as did the borders between various biological zones, influencing migration and conquest.
The thick tropical rainforest and marshy climate of Sierra Leone were thought to be impenetrable; it was also home to the tsetse fly, which brought illness deadly to the Mande people’s horses and zebu cattle. The Mande and other African dynasties were unable to conquer its people due to this natural condition. The Mali Empire’s Islamic influence was likewise diminished as a result of this. However, in the 18th century, the Islamic religion, which had been brought by Susu traders, merchants, and migrants from the north and east, became generally accepted.
Sierra Leone has some of the earliest European encounters in West Africa. Pedro de Sintra, a Portuguese navigator, charted the hills around what is now Freetown Harbour in 1462, giving the formed structure the name Serra da Leoa or “Serra Leoa” (Portuguese for Lioness Mountains). Sierra Leona is the Spanish translation of this geographical formation, which was subsequently modified and misspelled to become the country’s present name.
Portuguese merchants came at the harbour soon after Sintra’s voyage. They had constructed a fortified trade station by 1495. The Dutch and French established commerce in Sierra Leone, and each nation exploited the country as a transit place for slaves brought in by African merchants from the interior. Sir John Hawkins began the Triangle Trade in 1562, when he brought 300 enslaved Africans to the Spanish province of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean, where he sold them.
Following the American Revolutionary War, the British evacuated thousands of liberated African-American slaves and re-settled them in British possessions in Canada and the Caribbean, as well as in London, giving them new lives. The British Crown established a colony in Sierra Leone, dubbed the “Province of Freedom,” in 1787. Its goal was to relocate some of London’s “Black Poor,” mainly African Americans who had been liberated by the British during the war. On May 15, 1787, around 400 Africans and 60 Europeans arrived in Sierra Leone. The group also includes several London-based West Indians of African ancestry. The majority of the initial batch of colonists perished after establishing Granville Town, due to illness and conflict with the local African peoples (Temne and Mende) who opposed their invasion. A second Granville Town was founded by the remaining 64 inhabitants.
More than 3,000 Black Loyalists were also relocated in Nova Scotia after the Revolution, when they were eventually given land. They established Birchtown, Nova Scotia, but were met with severe winters and racial prejudice from Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Thomas Peters pushed British officials for relief and additional assistance, and the Sierra Leone Company was founded by British abolitionist John Clarkson to transfer Black Loyalists who wished to take their chances in West Africa. On March 11, 1792, approximately 1200 people from Nova Scotia crossed the Atlantic to establish the second (and only permanent) colony of Sierra Leone, which became known as Freetown. They were known in Sierra Leone as the Nova Scotian Settlers, Nova Scotians, or Settlers.
The Settlers constructed Freetown in the fashions they were familiar with from their life in the American South, and they continued to wear American dress and conduct themselves in the same way. In addition, many people in Freetown practiced Methodism. The process of establishing a society in Freetown, on the other hand, was a difficult one. The Settlers were constantly threatened by illicit slave trade and the danger of re-enslavement since the Crown could not provide enough basic supplies and food. The Settlers, including adult women, participated in elections for the first time in the 1790s. The Sierra Leone Company, which was owned by London financiers, refused to let the immigrants own the property outright. Some of the Settlers rebelled in 1799. The Crown put down the rebellion by sending in more than 500 Jamaican Maroons from Trelawny Town, who were brought through Nova Scotia in 1800.
The Sierra Leone Company’s charter was surrendered on January 1, 1808, by Thomas Ludlam, the Company’s Governor and a prominent abolitionist. This marked the end of the colony’s 16-year rule. The Sierra Leone Company was renamed the African Institution by the British Crown, with the goal of improving the local economy. Its members included both British and Sierra Leonean businesspeople hoping to be inspired by the Macauley & Babington Company, which had the (British) monopoly on the country’s commerce.
After freeing hundreds of previously enslaved Africans from illicit slave ships, British sailors brought them to Freetown about the same time (after the prohibition of the slave trade in 1807). These recaptives or liberated Africans were sold as apprentices to white settlers, Nova Scotian Settlers, and Jamaican Maroons for $20 per person. Those recaptured who were not sold as apprentices were compelled to join the Navy. Despite the fact that the apprentice system was not slavery, many recaptives were mistreated and even abused since some of the initial settlers saw them as property. Liberated Africans were compelled to adapt to the Settlers and Maroons’ Western ways after being cut off from their different homelands and traditions. Some of the recaptives, for example, were compelled to alter their names to sound more Western. Though some individuals welcomed the changes since they saw them as part of the community, others were unhappy with them and wanted to maintain their own identity. Many recaptives were so dissatisfied that they risked being sold into slavery again by fleeing Sierra Leone and returning to their home communities. On the West African coast, they established a thriving flower and bead commerce.
These returning Africans came from all across the continent, but mostly from the west coast. Freed black Americans, some Americo Liberian’refugees, and especially West Indians came and lived in Freetown throughout the 19th century. These peoples joined together to form a new creole ethnicity known as the Krio people (originally termed Creoles) and a trade language known as Krio, which became widely used across many of the country’s ethnic groups.
Colonial era (1800–1960)
Sierra Leone’s settlement in the 1800s was unusual in that the majority of the population was made up of displaced Africans who were transported to the province after the British abolished the slave trade in 1807. Each “recaptive” was given a registration number upon arriving in Sierra Leone, and information about their physical characteristics was entered into the Register of Liberated Africans. However, the recording of recaptives is often excessively subjective, resulting in incorrect notes on the recaptives and making them difficult to monitor. Furthermore, differences between the Register of Liberated Africans of 1808 and the List of Captured Negroes of 1812 (which mirrored the 1808 document) revealed some discrepancies in the recaptives’ entries, particularly in their names; many recaptives chose to change their given names to a more anglicised version, which made it difficult to track them after they arrived.
The recaptives may be subjected to apprenticeships conducted by British colonists in Sierra Leone, and the men recruited in the Army or Navy, according to the British Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807. The recaptives sent to apprenticeships were often sold for $20, giving the apprenticeship system characteristics akin to slavery. The recaptive apprentices were unpaid, and the settlers to whom they were assigned possessed devices with which they might be disciplined, such as sticks. According to Suzanne Schwartz, a colonial Sierra Leone historian, a group of 21 men and women fled away to the neighboring native town of Robiss in June 1808, only to be recaptured and imprisoned by the settlers in Sierra Leone, adding to the apprenticeship system’s slavery-like characteristics.
The British colonial governor of the area, who also oversaw the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements, lived in Freetown in the early nineteenth century. Sierra Leone grew as British West Africa’s educational center. Fourah Bay College, founded by the British in 1827, quickly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. It was the sole European-style institution in western Sub-Saharan Africa for more than a century.
The British mainly dealt with the Krios in Freetown, who handled the majority of the trade with the interior’s indigenous peoples. Furthermore, educated Krios occupied a number of posts in the colonial administration, which provided them with prestige and well-paying jobs.
Following the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, the United Kingdom determined that it needed to expand its inland authority in order to fulfill what the European countries referred to as “effective occupancy” of regions. It annexed these territories in 1896 and declared them the Sierra Leone Protectorate. With this shift, the British started to extend their administration in the region, filling jobs with British residents and driving Krios out of government offices and even attractive residential neighborhoods in Freetown.
In addition, the British takeover of the Protectorate harmed indigenous leaders’ sovereignty. Rather of dealing with chiefs individually, as had been the norm before, they recognized them as units of local government. Even with longstanding allies, such as Bai Bureh, leader of Kasseh, a hamlet on the Small Scarcies River, they did not preserve ties. Later, he was unjustly blamed for instigating the Hut Tax War in 1898.
Colonel Frederic Cardew, the Protectorate’s military administrator, imposed a new levy on houses in 1898 and required that chiefs employ their people to construct roadways. The fees were often greater than the worth of the houses, and 24 chiefs signed a petition to Cardew expressing their displeasure with the situation; their people couldn’t afford to take time away from their subsistence farming. They refused to pay their taxes. The Hut Tax War of 1898, also known as the Temne-Mende War, erupted from tensions over new colonial regulations and administrative suspicions of the chiefs. The British were the first to fire. Bai Bureh commanded the majority Temne people’s northern front. The southern front, which was mainly made up of Mende people, came into conflict later and for other reasons.
Bureh’s men enjoyed a significant edge against the much more formidable British troops for many months. Both the British soldiers and Bureh’s warriors were killed in large numbers. On November 11, 1898, Bai Bureh eventually surrendered to put a stop to the devastation of his people’s land and homes. Despite the British government’s advice, Cardew persisted on exiling the chief and two friends to the Gold Coast, where 96 of the chief’s warriors were executed. In 1905, Bai Bureh was permitted to return to Kasseh and resume his chieftaincy.
The Hut Tax war ended large-scale organized opposition to the Protectorate and colonial authority when the Temne and Mende were defeated. Nonetheless, sporadic, large-scale riots and chaotic labor disruptions persisted throughout the colonial era. For example, riots in the protectorate in 1955 and 1956 included “several tens of thousands” of locals.
Domestic slavery, which was still practiced by local African elites in 1928, was outlawed. In 1935, the Sierra Leone Selection Trust, which was controlled by De Beers, was granted a monopoly on mineral mining. The monopoly was supposed to be in place for 98 years. Diamond and other resource mining in the east grew in popularity, attracting workers from all across the nation.
Sierra Leone was split into a Colony and a Protectorate by the British administration in 1924, with separate and distinct political systems established in the constitution for each. The Protectorate was defined as interior regions controlled by tribal leaders; the Colony was designated as Freetown and its coastal area. In 1947, when plans were made to provide for an unified political system for both the Colony and the Protectorate, tensions between the two organizations reached a boiling point. The Protectorate, whose population considerably exceeded that of the colony, made the majority of the suggestions. The ideas were rejected by the Creoles (Krios), headed by Isaac Wallace-Johnson, since they would have reduced the Krios’ political influence in the Colony.
In 1951, educated protectorate leaders from various ethnic groups, including Sir Milton Margai, Lamina Sankoh, Siaka Stevens, Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha, John Karefa-Smart, Kande Bureh, Sir Albert Margai, Amadu Wurie, and Sir Banja Tejan-Sie, joined forces with the protectorate’s powerful paramount chiefs to form the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). To gain independence, the SLPP leadership, headed by Sir Milton Margai, negotiated with the British and the educated Krio-marg colony centered in Freetown.
The educated Protectorate elite was persuaded over to join forces with the paramount chiefs in the face of Krio stubbornness thanks to the shrewd tactics of Sir Milton Margai, an ethnic Mende. Sir Milton later used the same techniques to gain support from opposition leaders and moderate Krio forces in order to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
Margai supervised the development of a new constitution in November 1951, which brought together the distinct Colonial and Protectorate legislatures and, most significantly, laid the groundwork for decolonization. Sierra Leone was given local ministerial powers in 1953, and Sir Milton Margai was chosen as the country’s first Chief Minister. Sierra Leone now has a parliamentary system inside the Commonwealth of Nations, according to the new constitution.
Sierra Leone conducted its first parliamentary election in May 1957. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which was then the most popular political party in the colony of Sierra Leone and was backed by strong paramount chiefs in the provinces, gained the most seats in Parliament, and Margai was re-elected by a landslide as Chief Minister.
1960 Independence Conference
Sir Milton Margai led a twenty-four-member Sierra Leonean delegation to constitutional talks with Queen Elizabeth II and British Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod in London on April 20, 1960, in negotiations for independence.
The United Kingdom decided to give Sierra Leone independence on April 27, 1961, after the conclusion of negotiations in London on May 4, 1960.
Independence (1961) and Sir Milton Margai Administration (1961–1964)
Sir Milton Margai, Sierra Leone’s first Prime Minister, led the nation to independence from the United Kingdom on April 27, 1961. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans celebrated in the streets. Sierra Leone was a Commonwealth of Nations member with a parliamentary form of government. Siaka Stevens, the head of the major opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), and Isaac Wallace-Johnson, another vocal opponent of the SLPP administration, were detained and put under house arrest in Freetown, along with sixteen other people accused of interrupting the independence celebrations.
Sierra Leone conducted its first general election as an independent country in May 1962. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) gained a majority of parliament seats, and Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai was re-elected.
During his tenure in power, Sir Milton was extremely popular in Sierra Leone. Sir Milton was well-known for his modesty. He wasn’t corrupt, and he didn’t flaunt his authority or position in ostentatious ways. He established a government founded on the rule of law and separation of powers, as well as multiparty political institutions and reasonably viable representative structures. Margai led Sierra Leone without incident because to his conservative beliefs. He selected representatives from the government to represent different ethnic groups. Margai used brokerage politics, sharing political power among political parties and interest groups, as well as with the powerful paramount chiefs in the provinces, the majority of whom were close supporters of his administration.
Final years of democracy (1964–1967)
Parliament nominated Sir Albert Margai, Sir Milton’s half-brother, as Prime Minister after his untimely death in 1964. Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister, John Karefa-Smart, questioned Sir Albert’s ascension to the SLPP leadership post. In his effort to have Margai removed of the SLPP leadership, Karefa-Smart got little support in Parliament. Margai quickly fired many top government officials who had served under his older brother Sir Milton’s ministry after being sworn in as Prime Minister, believing them to be a danger to his administration.
In reaction to demonstrations, Sir Albert became more dictatorial, enacting numerous laws against the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and trying to create a one-party state. Sir Albert was opposed to the colonial legacy of granting governmental powers to the Paramount Chiefs, many of whom had been close friends of Sir Milton’s late brother. As a result, they started to see Sir Albert as a danger to the country’s governing families.
In 1967, rioting against Sir Albert’s policies erupted in Freetown, prompting Margai to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the nation. Sir Albert was accused of corruption and of promoting his own Mende ethnic group via affirmative action policies. Despite having the full support of the country’s security forces, Sir Albert called for free and fair elections.
Military coups (1967–1968)
In a tightly fought 1967 Sierra Leone general election, the APC, led by Siaka Stevens, gained a tiny majority of seats in Parliament against the SLPP. On March 21, 1967, Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister.
Stevens was deposed in a bloodless military coup conducted by Brigadier General David Lansana, the leader of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, only hours after assuming office. Sir Albert Margai, who had appointed him to the post in 1964, was a close friend of his. Brigadier Lansana put Stevens under house arrest in Freetown, insisting that the Prime Minister’s decision should be made when the tribal delegates are elected to the House.
On March 23, 1967, a group of Sierra Leone Army military officers headed by Brigadier General Andrew Juxon-Smith staged a coup, seizing control of the government, detaining Brigadier Lansana, and suspending the constitution. The National Reformation Council (NRC) was established by the organization, with Brigadier Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman and the country’s Head of State.
The NRC junta was overthrown on April 18, 1968, by a group of senior Sierra Leone Army officers known as the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement (ACRM), headed by Brigadier General John Amadu Bangura. Many top NRC members were detained by the ACRM junta. They restored the constitution and handed power back to Stevens, who was finally elected Prime Minister.
One-party state (1968–1991)
Stevens returned to power in 1968, full of optimism and ambition. As a proponent of multi-party politics, he was entrusted with a great deal of confidence. Stevens had run on the promise of uniting the tribes under socialist ideals. Stevens renegotiated several of what he termed “useless prefinanced projects” contracted by his predecessors, both Albert Margai of the SLPP and Juxon-Smith of the NRC, during his first decade in power. Some of the SLPP’s and NRC’s policies were claimed to have left the nation economically disadvantaged.
Stevens restructured the country’s refinery, as well as the government-run Cape Sierra Hotel and a cement plant. He halted the building of a chapel and mosque on the grounds of Victoria Park by Juxon-Smith. Stevens started the process of bridging the gap between the provinces and the metropolis. In the provinces, roads and hospitals were built, and paramount chiefs and provincial peoples became a powerful influence in Freetown.
Stevens’ leadership became more autocratic as a result of numerous actual and imagined coup attempts, and his relationship with some of his most fervent followers worsened. Some speculated that he used violence and intimidation to keep the SLPP out of competitive politics in general elections. Stevens kept popular John Amadu Bangura as the leader of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces in order to keep the military’s support.
By-elections were conducted (starting in fall 1968) after the restoration to civilian government, and an all-APC cabinet was formed. The peace was not entirely restored. Unrest in the regions prompted Stevens to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the nation in November 1968. Stevens’ policies dissatisfied a number of senior commanders in the Sierra Leone Army, but none could challenge him. Brigadier General Bangura, who had restored Stevens as Prime Minister, was generally seen as the only person capable of putting a stop to him.
Bangura was adored by the soldiers, and it was thought in some quarters that this constituted him a possible threat to Stevens. Bangura was arrested in January 1970 and accused with conspiring and planning a coup against the Stevens administration. Bangura was convicted and condemned to death after a short trial that lasted a few months. Brigadier Bangura was hanged on the 29th of March 1970 in Freetown.
On March 23, 1971, a number of troops loyal to the executed Brigadier Bangura staged a mutiny against Stevens’ administration in Freetown and other areas of the nation. For his role in the mutiny, many soldiers were detained, including Corporal Foday Sankoh, who was convicted and sentenced to seven years at the Pademba Road Prison in Freetown.
A new republican constitution was established in April 1971, and Stevens was elected President. The opposition SLPP claimed intimidation and procedural hindrance by the APC and militia during the 1972 by-elections. The SLPP boycotted the 1973 general election as a consequence of these issues, and the APC gained 84 of the 85 elected seats.
In 1974, an alleged plan to assassinate President Stevens was foiled, and the plotters were hanged. Stevens was re-elected to a second five-year term as president in March 1976, with no opposition. 14 senior army and government officials, including Brigadier David Lansana, former cabinet minister Mohamed Sorie Forna (father of writer Aminatta Forna), Brigadier General Ibrahim Bash Taqi, and Lieutenant Habib Lansana Kamara, were executed on July 19, 1975, after being convicted of attempting to overthrow President Stevens’ government.
Sierra Leone politics were interrupted in 1977 by a national student protest against the government. The army and Stevens’ own Special Security Division (SSD) force, a highly armed paramilitary group he established to defend him and preserve his authority, swiftly put down the protest. The SSD officers were devoted to Stevens and were stationed across Sierra Leone to quell any opposition to his administration. Later that year, a general election was held in which corruption was once again rampant; the APC won 74 seats and the SLPP 15. The APC-controlled parliament passed a new constitution in 1978, making the nation a one-party state. The APC became the sole legitimate political party in Sierra Leone after the 1978 constitution.
The army and Stevens’ SSD forces put down another large protest against the government in various areas of the nation as a result of this action. Stevens is known for his authoritarian tactics and government corruption, but on the plus side, he kept the nation stable and out of civil conflict. He established a number of government entities that are still operational today. Stevens also decreased ethnic polarization in government by bringing together representatives of different ethnic groups in his APC-led coalition.
After eighteen years in power, Siaka Stevens resigned from politics in November 1985. At their final delegate meeting in Freetown in November 1985, the APC selected a new presidential candidate to replace Stevens. Stevens’ pick to replace him was Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the leader of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. Major General Momoh, as commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, was fiercely loyal to Stevens, who had nominated him to the post. Momoh, like Stevens, belonged to the minority Limba ethnic group.
Momoh was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s second president on November 28, 1985 in Freetown, after being elected President as the sole competing candidate. In May 1986, APC members voted in a one-party parliamentary election. President Momoh’s strong ties to the army, as well as his public assaults on corruption, helped him gain much-needed early support among Sierra Leoneans. With the return of many of the same faces from Stevens’ administration and the absence of fresh faces in the new APC cabinet under President Momoh, accusations that Momoh was just prolonging Stevens’ reign quickly emerged.
Corruption plagued the Momoh government for the following several years, which Momoh addressed by dismissing many top cabinet members. President Momoh established a “Code of Conduct for Political Leaders and Public Servants” to formalize his anti-corruption campaign. More than 60 top government officials were detained during an alleged effort to oust President Momoh in March 1987, including Vice President Francis Minah, who was removed from office, convicted of planning the coup, and hanged with five others in 1989.
Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002)
President Momoh established a constitutional review committee to examine the 1978 one-party constitution in October 1990, in response to growing demand from both inside and outside the nation for political and economic change. A constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was adopted by the exclusive APC Parliament by a 60 percent majority vote, and went into force on October 1, 1991, based on the commission’s recommendations. As the APC’s reign became more characterized by abuses of power, there was widespread perception that President Momoh was not sincere about his pledge of political change.
The horrific civil war in neighboring Liberia contributed significantly to the start of violence in Sierra Leone. Former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, an ethnic Temne from Tonkolili District in Northern Sierra Leone, allegedly helped establish the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of Charles Taylor, then head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Sankoh was a former army corporal with a British education who had also completed guerilla training in Libya. Taylor wanted the RUF to assault the bases of Nigerian-dominated peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone that were opposing his Liberian rebel organization.
Captain Valentine Strasser, a 25-year-old ethnic Creole, led his colleagues six junior officers in the Sierra Leone army, all in their mid-to-late twenties, on April 29, 1992: Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Sargent Solomon Musa, Captain Komba Mondeh, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma, Captain Julius Maada Bio, and Captain Komba Kambothat led a military coup that exiled President Momoh to Guinea and established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), with Strasser as its chairman and Head of State.
Sargent Solomon Musa, a boyhood friend of Strasser’s, was appointed as the NPRC junta government’s vice chairman and deputy leader. When Strasser took power three days after his 25th birthday, he became the world’s youngest Head of State. The National Supreme Council of State was formed by the NPRC junta as the military’s highest command and ultimate authority in all things. It was made up entirely of the highest-ranking NPRC troops, including Strasser and the original soldiers that deposed President Momoh.
Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, a close associate of Strasser and a senior NPRC officer, was murdered, reportedly by Major S.I.M. Turay, a major supporter of deposed president Momoh. The primary suspect, Major S.I.M Turay, went into hiding and left the nation to Guinea, afraid for his life, during a highly armed military search throughout the country to locate Lieutenant Sandy’s murderer. Hundreds of troops loyal to deposed President Momoh have been detained.
The NPRC Junta promptly suspended the constitution, outlawed all political parties, curtailed freedom of expression and the press, and established a rule-by-decree regime under which troops were given unrestricted powers of administrative detention without accusation or trial, with no legal recourse.
The NPRC Junta maintained ties with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and increased assistance for ECOMOGtroops fighting in Liberia, who are stationed in Sierra Leone. An alleged coup attempt against Strasser’s NPRC government in December 1992 was thwarted, with the goal of releasing imprisoned Colonel Yahya Kanu, Colonel Kahota M.S. Dumbuya, and former inspector general of police Bambay Kamara. The coup plotters were identified as junior army officers. The coup attempt resulted in the deaths of seventeen troops. Several senior members of the Momoh administration, including former Inspector General of Police Bambay Kamara, were also executed while detained at the Pa Demba Road jail.
On July 5, 1994, Seargent Solomon Musu, the deputy NPRC commander who was well-liked by the general public, especially in Freetown, was arrested and exiled after being suspected of plotting a coup to depose Strasser. Seargent Musa rejected the charge. Captain Julius Maada Bio was immediately elevated to Brigadier by Strasser, who succeeded Musa as deputy NPRC chairman.
In resisting the RUF, the NPRC was almost as ineffective as the Momoh-led APC administration. RUF militants took over more and more of the nation, and by 1994, they controlled most of the diamond-rich Eastern Province and were on the outskirts of Freetown. The NPRC retaliated by hiring hundreds of mercenaries from the private company Executive Outcomes. Within a month, they had pushed RUF militants back to enclaves around Sierra Leone’s borders and driven the RUF out of Sierra Leone’s Kono diamond-producing regions.
Strasser’s leadership inside the NPRC Supreme Council of State was not regarded any stronger now that his two most senior NPRC friends and commanders, Lieutenant Sahr Sandy and Lieutenant Solomon Musa, were no longer there to defend him. After nearly four years in power, Strasser was captured by his fellow NPRC troops in a palace coup at the Defence Headquarters in Freetown on January 16, 1996. Strasser was promptly transported into exile to Conakry, Guinea, on a military chopper.
Brigadier Bio said in his first public broadcast to the country after the 1996 coup that his reasons for the coup were his support for restoring Sierra Leone to a democratically elected civilian government and his determination to ending the civil conflict. Following the completion of elections in early 1996, Bio fulfilled his promises of returning to civilian government by handing over power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). President Kabbah came to power with the lofty goal of putting an end to the civil conflict. President Kabbah initiated talks with the RUF and asked RUF leader Foday Sankoh to participate in peace talks.
On May 25, 1997, seventeen Sierra Leone army troops headed by Corporal Tamba Gborie, loyal to imprisoned Major General Johnny Paul Koroma, staged a military coup that forced President Kabbah to flee to Guinea and formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Corporal Gborie rushed to the SLBS FM 99.9 headquarters in Freetown to inform a stunned nation of the coup and to call for all troops throughout the country to report for guard duty. The troops freed Koroma from jail and appointed him as their chairman and Head of State right away.
Koroma suspended the constitution, outlawed protests, shut down all commercial radio stations in the nation, and asked the RUF to join the new junta government, with RUF leader Foday Sankoh serving as Vice-Chairman of the AFRC-RUF coalition junta government. Within days, the city of Freetown was overrun by RUF fighters, who poured into the city by the hundreds. Under the leadership of deputy Defence Minister Samuel Hinga Norman, the Kamajors, a group of traditional warriors mainly from the Mende ethnic group, stayed loyal to President Kabbah and defended the southern portion of Sierra Leone against troops.
Kabbah’s government and the end of civil war (2002–2014)
The junta was toppled by Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops after 9 months in power, and President Kabbah’s democratically elected government was restored in February 1998. On October 19, 1998, twenty-four Sierra Leone army troops were killed after being found guilty in a court martial in Freetown, some for organizing the 1997 coup that deposed President Kabbah and others for failing to put down the rebellion.
The United Nations decided to deploy troops to assist restore order and disarm the rebels in October 1999. The first members of the 6,000-strong force arrived in December, and the UN Security Council decided in February 2000 to expand the force to 11,000, then to 13,000 soldiers. However, in May, after almost all Nigerian soldiers had gone and UN forces were attempting to disarm the RUF in eastern Sierra Leone, Sankoh’s men fought with UN troops, resulting in the kidnapping of 500 peacekeepers and the breakdown of the peace deal. As UN forces began Operation Khukri to break the siege, the hostage situation resulted in further violence between the RUF and the government. The operation was a success, with the primary contingents being Indian and British Special Forces.
The situation in the country had worsened to the point that British soldiers were sent in as part of Operation Palliser, which was intended to merely remove foreign people. The British, on the other hand, went above and above their initial mission, taking full military action to ultimately destroy the rebels and restore order. The British were the driving force behind the truce that brought the civil war to an end. To this day, elements of the British Army, as well as administrators and politicians, remain in Sierra Leone, assisting with the training of the armed forces, the improvement of the country’s infrastructure, and the administration of financial and material assistance. The people of Sierra Leone view Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister at the time of the British intervention, as a hero, and many of them want further British engagement. The people of Sierra Leone have been dubbed “The World’s Most Resilient People.”
Sierra Leone’s civil conflict claimed the lives of about 50,000 people between 1991 and 2001. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes in Guinea and Liberia, with many becoming refugees. UN troops entered rebel-held regions in 2001 and started disarming rebel fighters. The conflict was declared ended in January 2002. Kabbah was re-elected president in a landslide in May 2002. The disarmament process was completed in 2004. In 2004, a United Nations-backed war crimes court started hearing top officials from both sides of the conflict. UN peacekeeping troops left Sierra Leone in December 2005.
Sierra Leone held presidential and legislative elections in August 2007. However, no presidential contender achieved the constitutionally required 50 percent plus one vote majority in the first round of voting. Ernest Bai Koroma, the candidate of the major opposition APC, was elected president in a runoff election in September 2007. In November 2012, Koroma was re-elected president for a second (and last) term.
Struggle with epidemic (2014–present)
In 2014, an Ebola virus outbreak broke out in Sierra Leone, wreaking havoc throughout the nation. Sierra Leone had approximately 3000 fatalities and 10,000 cases of the illness by the end of 2014. In September 2014, the outbreak prompted the Ouse to Ouse Tock, a three-day countrywide quarantine. The outbreak was part of a larger Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Sierra Leone canceled league football (soccer) matches in early August 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak.