If you have watched the film “Blood Diamond,” you have probably heard of Sierra Leone, a West African country with plenty of history. It is filled with minerals, has diverse wildlife, and the weather is generally habitable. Here, we discuss some mind-blowing Sierra Leone Facts to help you learn more about the country.
1. It Is a Secular State
A secular country is officially neutral, especially regarding religion or irreligion. Even though the majority of the people in Sierra Leone are Muslims, the Christian minority are also influential. The state boasts religious tolerance.
2. Freetown Is the Capital City of Sierra Leone
Located on the western side of Sierra Leone, Freetown is the country’s biggest and capital city. It borders the Atlantic Ocean, making it the region’s port city. It is a financial, cultural, educational, and administrative center, hosting over a million people.
3. Sierra Leone Was Marred By a Civil War
The Sierra Leonean Civil War, which happened from 1991-2002, left a lot of grief, losses, and anger among the natives. Over 50,000 people died, and many others were displaced. The war resulted from the Revolutionary United Front (a rebel group), with the help of Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, attempting a coup to overturn Sierra Leone’s president Joseph Momoh’s government.
4. The Rebels Cut Open Pregnant Women during the Civil War
Sierra Leone’s civil war was so bad that the rebels, Revolutionary United Front, placed bets on whether pregnant women carried male or female fetuses and then cut them open to confirm.
5. There Was Another Rebel Group Called the “West Side Niggaz” in Sierra Leone
Also known as the West Side Boys or the West Side Junglers, the West Side Niggaz was an armed group that terrorized people during the Sierra Leonean civil war. Sources claim it was a splinter faction of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.
It is also believed the group members were influenced by Tupac Shakur, an American rapper famous for popularizing gangsta music. They wore women’s wigs and flip-flops.
6. Sierra Leone Means “Lion Mountains”
Sierra Leone adopts its name from a Portuguese word– it was previously known as Serra Leoa, translating to Lioness Mountains. Historians have it Pedro de Sintra, an explorer among the first to visit the West African Coast, named the country. Today’s spelling version originates from Venetian spelling.
7. Sierra Leone Was Badly Affected By Ebola
Between 2014 and 2016, Ebola, a highly infectious disease, affected some West African countries, with Sierra Leone among the worst hit. More than 3,000 deaths and about 10,000 Ebola cases were reported in 2014 alone, prompting the government to announce a state of emergency. After two long years, the World Health Organization declared the country Ebola-free in 2016.
8. The Country Is Infamous for Its Blood Diamonds
During the height of the Sierra Leone Civil War, people were forced to mine diamonds to fund the Revolutionary United Front’s activities. Among many other reasons, the diamonds were part of why the war lasted as long as it did. There is a film featuring the legendary Leonardo DiCaprio called Blood Diamond (2006) that highlights this.
9. It Is Full of Natural Resources
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s largest diamond producers. It also ranks well in the production of gold, bauxite, and titanium, which are among the most sought-after minerals. However, most of the population still languish in poverty, even with all those gems.
10. Sierra Leone Is Home to One of the Biggest Diamonds
Famously known as the Star of Sierra Leone, the 968.9-carat diamond was discovered in the country on February 14, 1972. Given its enormous size, the gem ranks 4th as the world’s largest alluvial diamond ever mined.
11. The Country Almost Had a Disco Song for a National Anthem
Most of the rebel members who took over the government of Sierra Leone during the civil war were in their early 20s. At one point, their leader contemplated making the disco hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” the country’s national anthem.
12. Soccer Is the Sierra Leone’s Most Popular Sport
Currently ranked 122nd by the soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, Sierra Leone loves the sport too much. It’s common to see children, youths, and adults play street soccer, which is usually very competitive. Even though the country’s national soccer team, Leone Stars, has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, it participated in the 1996 African Cup of Nations, and the future looks promising.
13. Free Town Hosted Freed Slaves
At the time when slavery was a thing, Free Town, the current Sierra Leone’s capital, was home to the freed African slaves. Those rescued would settle here before finding their way home or living for good. This explains why it is currently referred to as “Province of Freedom.” Unfortunately, most of them passed away due to tribal wars, sustained injuries, or diseases.
14. English Is the Official Language of Sierra Leone
Even though Krio is the most spoken language in Sierra Leone, English is the de facto official language. It is used in government administration, schools, and the media. The country is largely multilingual, though, with the top three most spoken languages being Krio, Mende, and Limba.
15. Bengali Was Once An Honorary Official Language of Sierra Leone
Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh. Interestingly, it was recognized as an honorary official language of Sierra Leone, following the Bangladeshi’s role in aiding the ending of the civil war in 2002.
16. Sierra Leone Boasts Diverse Wildlife
Almost every African country has some form of wildlife; Sierra Leone is no different. The country’s tropical climate provides a suitable habitat for diverse wildlife, including lions, hippos, buffaloes, elephants, and bird species.
17. The UK Helped End Sierra Leone’s Civil War
After disarming the rebels, the UK government, through its peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, helped end the civil war that lasted over a decade. The locals were so grateful for the war’s end that they left graffiti all over the streets. One read, “Queen Elizabeth for king!”
18. It Once Had One of the Lowest Life Expectancies
Thanks to the Civil War that rocked Sierra Leone in the 90s and early 2000s, the country recorded one of the lowest life expectancy rates at 48.7 years. Fortunately, the people’s welfare has significantly improved. The latest data shows the country’s life expectancy is 55 years.
19. Sierra Leone’s Map is Almost Round
Sierra Leone is the world’s roundest country.