Geography & Climate
Sierra Leone lying between 7º and 10º north of the equator is very much Black Africa with temperatures varying between 25ºC and 36ºC – with night time temperatures averaging 22ºC apart from the cool Harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara between January to March. The tropical climate has basically two seasons, the rainy season from May to November when about 2500mm of rain falls mainly in the peak months of July August and September – the dry season is from December to April.
The country is bordered by Guinea to the north and north east with Liberia to the south and south east and the Atlantic from south east to west. The Atlantic coastline provides rich fishing resources and great opportunity for tourist development, having some glorious beaches. The north is categorised is categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as part of the Guinea forest- savanna. The centre has great lowland plains of forest, bush and farming whilst the east has a plateau interspersed with high mountains.
Freetown, located in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, is the capital, largest city as well as its economic, commercial and political centre. Bo, located in the Southern Province of the country, is the country’s second largest city and the second major economic and commercial centre. Other major cities in Sierra Leone are Kenema and Koidu Town, located in the Eastern Province, and Makeni, located in the Northern Province.
Culture and Religion
Sierra Leone like many African countries is made up of a diverse mix of tribal cultures that to the visitor may seem very similar but are certainly different. These tribes have travelled from other areas to settle in Sierra Leone over time. The prominent Temne predominate to the north and west and originate from Guinea, the marginally 2nd most dominant tribe the Mende have settled from Liberia and dominate the east. However there are some further 12 tribes interspersed in areas of the country with the most prominent native indigenous tribe being the Limba who make up only 9% of the population.
Overlaying the tribal influence comes the religion which is predominantly Muslim at some 65% with Christian influence being 35%. However, overlying these more modern religions are the more pagan/animalistic followers who also believe in powers of ‘The witchdoctors’ and their Fettish/Vodoo culture. After all the Caribean Vodoo influence came from Africa. The traditional values of nature influencing mans world is most prominent in the villages and the interior, where beliefs of medicine men turning into animals at night is still believed – black magic is still a potent force.
Striving for a better future
After gaining independance from Great Britain in 1961 the country has faced many years of varying power struggles and corruption. A once democratic nation suffered at the hands of dictatoring leaders. This led to the Sierra Leone Civil War which took place between 1991 and 2002. The war devastated the country leaving more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced in neighbouring countries as refugees; mainly to Guinea, which was home to over 600,000 Sierra Leonean refugees.
Today, after free and fair elections in 2002, 2007 and 2012 (which saw an unopposed change of government) Sierra Leone is once again a democracy with free speech, free movement of people and free trade.
Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, and a major producer of gold. However, despite this natural wealth, 60% of its people live in poverty.
Health issues are very different here than in the western world with Sierra Leone lying close to the bottom of the UN Human Development index.