Sierra Leone History and Politics

Sierra Leone History

First peoples

The Bullom-Sherbro and Loko people were among the first inhabitants of what is now Sierra Leone. Both are still resident in the country today, but form minorities. The Temne and Mende, who now form the majority in Sierra Leone, came to the area in the 14th and 17th centuries and settled here.

While many of today’s West African states were under the influence of the great empires of the Middle Ages (particularly the great empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhaira), this was not the case in Sierra Leone.

Portuguese come to the Lion Mountains

The first Europeans to reach the Sierra Leone coast were Portuguese. In 1440 it was Gil Eanes who reached here. In 1462 Pedro da Cintra came and called the mountains of today’s Freetown Peninsula “Serra Leoa”, the Lion Mountains, from which the Spanish version later became “Sierra Leone”. Da Cintra thought the mountains looked as wild as a lion is.

Former slaves settle in Freetown

In the 16th century a flourishing slave trade developed on the west coast of Africa. Slaves were captured and sold to Europeans who shipped the blacks to America, discovered in 1492, and the Caribbean islands. There they had to toil on the newly created plantations and serve their white owners. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the English ruled the slave trade in West Africa. On the islands off Sierra Leone, especially on Bunce and Sherbro, they set up bases for their slave trade.

Settlement by former slaves – organized by Great Britain

In 1807 Britain banned the slave trade. Several thousand former slaves were living in England at the time. They had to be released after a trial in 1772 and now often lived in abject poverty in England. The British decided to settle these in West Africa, in Sierra Leone. In 1787 the first 400 of them arrived in the ” Province of Freedom”. However, life in the tropics claimed many victims, for example through tropical diseases, but also through resistance from the local peoples.

In 1792 there was another British settler project. The “Nova Scotians” were slaves who fought on the side of the British in the American War of Independence and were then settled in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The harsh winters caused problems there. About 1500 of these former slaves were shipped to Sierra Leone. They founded Freetown there.

In 1796, Maroons were added: former slaves who had fled plantations and founded their own community in Jamaica, and their descendants. The Maroons fought against the British, who also established a colony in Jamaica. Many maroons were captured in a war. These were first brought to Nova Scotia, against which they resisted, then to Sierra Leone.

British colony

In 1808 Sierra Leone became a British colony. There were now about 2000 settlers. The population grew steadily. Slaves freed by the British (recaptives) from slave ships of other nations were also added. In 1850, 40,000 people lived here. The colony initially only comprised a small piece of land on the coast – not the hinterland.

The settlers soon developed their own culture and language, the Krio. They combined African and European elements. Some became wealthy through trade. They sent their children to schools in England. These Creoles, some of them mixed race blacks and Africans, set the tone politically.

In the 1880s, Great Britain expanded its influence into the hinterland and established a protectorate in 1896. That roughly included the national territory of today’s country. The inhabitants here saw the Creoles of the coast primarily as representatives of the colonial power. But their influence was pushed back by the British in the early 20th century more and more in favor of whites.

Mende-Temne War

The peoples who lived in the region rebelled repeatedly against the British occupiers. They were led by the Temne and Mende, but other peoples were also involved. When the British introduced a tax on the huts of the local population in 1898, a ten-month war broke out under the leadership of Bai Bureh. The British eventually captured Bureh and the war ended. There were many dead to mourn.

History of Sierra Leone from independence to the present day


In the 1950s there were unrest and the demand for independence. On April 27, 1961 this demand was realized: Sierra Leone became independent. Prime Minister was Sir Milton Margai and after his death in 1964 his brother Sir Albert Margai. Both belonged to the Sierra Leones People’s Party (SLPP), founded in 1951, which turned against the power of the Creoles and to which Temne and Mende in particular belonged.

Gradually, however, the Mende seized more and more power, to whose people the Margais belonged. The country split, Temne increasingly joined the APC (All People’s Congress) party founded in 1962.

Siaka Stevens (1968-1985) and Joseph Saidu Momoh (1985-1992)

The next election in 1967 won the APC with Siaka Stevens, a member of the Limba. There was a military coup by Mende, which was ended by a counter-coup. In 1968, Stevens took power. The ethnic affiliation continues to specific policies. Corruption and smuggling of diamonds did not stop, political opponents were persecuted. Under Stevens, Sierra Leone became a republic in 1971, of which Stevens became president. He formed the APC into a unity party. In 1985, Stevens surprisingly resigned. His successor was Joseph Saidu Momoh, also APC. In 1991 they returned to the multi-party system.

Civil War (1991-2002)

Few people benefited from the country’s diamond wealth. The protests of the rebel movement RUF (Revolutionary United Front) were directed against and against the one-party rule of the APC. In 1991 she began an armed struggle under her leader Foday Sankoh: the beginning of a long civil war in Sierra Leone, a country located in Africa according to cheeroutdoor. She was supported by the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.

In 1992, a military coup brought Valentine Strasser to power. In 1996 he was ousted by his deputy in a coup. In the same year elections took place which made Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP president. He stayed in office until 2007.

The RUF war continued until 2002. They briefly took power in 1997, but were then beaten back. Many child soldiers also fought for the RUF. They were abducted and forced to fight. The state hired South African mercenaries and received support from the West African Monetary Union.

After the civil war

On January 18, 2002, the end of the civil war was announced. Thousands of people died, mostly civilians. Others were brutally mutilated by the RUF and many others fled. The economy was shattered, the country was destroyed. In 2007, Kabbah passed his presidency to Ernest Bai Koroma. He belongs to the APC party. In 2012 he was confirmed in office. In 2018 Julius Maada Bio became the new president.

Ebola 2014

2014 broke out in several West African countries Ebola – epidemic of, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Sierra Leone almost 12,000 people fell ill and almost 4,000 died. The disease and the fear of the disease are bad enough. But the epidemic also has other consequences. Trade comes to a standstill, the economy suffers, prices rise, and there is a shortage of food. Because doctors, nurses and other helpers also fall ill, there is a lack of medical staff and medical care is collapsing. The schools were closed, in addition to education, the children also lacked school meals.

Sierra Leone History