(WIPO code: SL) (latest review September 2021)

by MARCUS JONES & CO., Freetown – Dr. W. S. Marcus Jones, Barrister and Solicitor

General Information

Area

72,326 sq. km; sea coast about 336 km; mountainous peninsula about 42 km long and between 16 and 19 km broad.

Population

6,807,277 (estimated July 2021), comprising many tribal groups in addition to the Creoles of the peninsula area.

Capital

Freetown.

Official language

English.

Currency

Leone.

Imports

Machinery, manufactured goods, petroleum, fuels and lubricants, transport equipment, animal and vegetable oils, beverages and tobacco, chemicals and consumer goods.

Exports

Diamonds, gold, bauxite, rutile, palm kernels, coffee, piassava, cocoa, ginger and kola nuts.

General Remarks

Sierra Leone was first settled in 1787 as an independent state for liberated Africans and their descendants. It became a Crown colony in 1808 and retained that status until 1961 when it became independent. Meanwhile, there had been accretions to the original settlement and the establishment of a protectorate in 1896. Both the former colony and the former protectorate formed the independent state on April 27, 1961. On April 19, 1971, Sierra Leone became a republic and in 1978, a one-party state.

On April 29, 1992, there was a military coup by a section of the Sierra Leone military forces. They suspended the 1991 Constitution and took over the government of the country. They remained in power until 1996, when they handed over to a civilian government. The 1991 Constitution was restored but because of a rebel war which was then in progress, normal constituency elections could not be conducted. The military government conceded to elections by proportional representation. The whole of the country was declared to be one constituency and all parties, which had been approved and registered by the Interim National Elections Committee, contested the elections. Proposed parliamentary candidates of each party were listed and one list was put up by each contesting party. Elections were conducted for the contesting parties on February 26, 1996 for members of the Parliament and on March 15, 1996 for the Presidency. In both elections, the Sierra Leone People’s Party secured the highest number of votes. The elected President was Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and eighty members of Parliament were elected.

On May 25, 1997, the government was violently overthrown by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. In February 1998, the ECOMOG forces removed the Council and restored the democratically elected government to power. On January 6, 1999, rebel forces said to be a combination of the AFRC and the RUF attacked the Capital Freetown. They were driven out of Freetown in February 1999 by the ECOMOG forces. Following intense international pressure, the government signed a cease-fire agreement with the rebel forces on May 18, 1999. This was followed by a peace agreement (the Lome Accord), signed between the Sierra Leone government and the RUF in Lome, Togo, on July 7, 1999. The rebels agreed to lay down their arms in return for representation in the government and an amnesty. However, there were several violations of the Lome Accord, including the taking as hostage of some United Nations peacekeepers. On August 14, 2000, the Security Council passed Resolution No. 1315 which authorized the Secretary General of the United Nations to negotiate an agreement with the Sierra Leone government for the establishment of a Special Court to try perpetrators of the atrocities in Sierra Leone. The Court was established in 2002 to try persons bearing the greatest responsibility for violations of international humanitarian and domestic law.

Administration: Under the 1991 Constitution, Sierra Leone has a unicameral legislature consisting of not less than 60 elected members of Parliament with 12 seats being reserved for Paramount Chiefs members elected to represent one each of the 12 Districts of the Provinces. Multi party democracy was re-introduced in 1996. Executive power is vested in the President and may be exercised by him directly or through members of the Cabinet; Ministers, Deputy Ministers or public officers subordinate to him. All Ministers of government are appointed by the President, but no member of Parliament shall be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister.

The Superior Court of Judicature comprises the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.