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Sierra Leone is located near the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa. This country has a tropical and humid climate all year long. In the summer, “during the rainy season there is a period called the ‘seven day rainfall’ when the rain keeps falling for seven days straight without interruption” (WorldTravelGuide.net). Bordered by Guinea and Liberia, Sierra Leone is a small country with a population estimated around six million people. Freetown is the most highly populated city and is the political and economic center for this small country.
The people of Sierra Leone differ from religion and tribe. There are approximately 16 ethnic groups, but the two most influential are the Mende and the Temne. The Mende group is primarily found in the North of Sierra Leone while the Temne are located in the Southern parts of the country. These two ethnic groups both speak and teach English as the main language in schools and everyday life. “Muslim religion makes up 60% of the country’s faith, with Indigenous beliefs at 30% and Christian practices at 10%” (cia.gov). Both of these ethnic groups are farmers, fishers, and traders. While they live in opposite directions in Sierra Leone, they share the same lifestyles.
The economy of Sierra Leone is in a state of poverty. It has been named one of the poorest countries in the world in the past five years. The average life expectancy in Sierra Leone is about 57 years old; an average woman has up to six children, however the infant mortality rate is a well 74% in the country. Due to little medical help and sickening living conditions, the people of Sierra Leone have recently undergone the Ebola outbreak in early November. With bad living conditions, the Ebola outbreak traveled from person to person.“The epidemic killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa — 4,800 in Sierra Leone — and devastated the social sectors in countries that were already among the poorest in the world” (Guest). Not only is there harsh living conditions, but the people of the country make little amounts of money as well. Their jobs include mining, fishing, and agriculture as the main jobs. Another important job is finding diamonds. The importance of diamonds in the country caused a major civil war in the 1990s. Referred to as “blood diamonds,” they helped fuel atrocities in the impoverished West African nation… and the country’s most valuable resource is no longer known as the product of a conflict. But it remains a contentious issue” (Ford). Diamond production pays an average of 1,000 leones which is equivalent to $.20 a day in the U.S. That certainly isn’t much for a family to live with. Due to the poor economics, this is unfortunately the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
This decade lasting war caused much of the grief and poor in the country. When the war began in 1991 and ended in 2002 when British militaries stopped the rebels from continuing. It left a major impact on the people and the lasting country. The war began when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attempted to overthrow the government and the need for diamonds. Which is where the term “blood diamonds” came from. The effect of this war left millions in grief and despair with the loss of loved ones and the recruitment of young children.
The government in Sierra Leone follows constitutional government. Like the United States, Sierra Leone’s government is broken into three branches. The judicial, executive, and legislative branches. The government house lies in the capital, Freetown. The president of Sierra Leone is Ernest Bali Koroma; who is the head of the government and commander-in-chief for his army. The president during the civil war was Charles Taylor, who in 2012 was found guilty of aiding war crimes. Taylor was found guilty “of supplying and encouraging rebels in Sierra Leone in a campaign of terror, involving murder, rape, sexual slavery, looting and the conscription of children younger than 15” (Payne). Many young women were raped and left to die during the war, while their brothers, cousins, fathers, and more were forced into the war with the ones who took advantage of them. Since then, Sierra Leone has elected a new president that is working to bring back the lively country.
The RUF targeted the recruitment of young boys. Hundreds of boys were forced into joining their military, during that time the rebels would move into different cities and killed people so brutal and inhumane, it left those who lived scarred. Even those fighting for their country, boys all over were recruited. “Empowered by the rifles they carried, and often high on marijuana or crack cocaine, many of the thousands of children who took part in Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war visited terrible atrocities on the civilian population” (Sawaneh), says a Sawaneh, once a boy soldier. The life of a child soldier was horrifying. Many of these children don’t live to tell their stories or are in too much of the post traumatic stress from the war. A boy named Ishmael Beah took part in the terrifying event and got the opportunity to start his life over again. After losing his family and friends, Ishmael became a child soldier. He wrote the book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, that describes his journey through war. He says that civil war broke people and their relationships with loved ones. “Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family and communities…This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you” (Beah). The lasting impacts that the war left on these children will forever be with them. It can take several years for this war participants to overcome all that has happened and even then, they will never really see the world the same again.
Sierra Leone is a country trying to rebuild itself from its eleven year civil war. With the civil disputes and economic conditions, Sierra Leone is a poor country. Off the coast of the Atlantic, Sierra Leone is home to millions with a tragic past and a broken country that is on its way to rebuilding it. Sierra Leone may be poor, but it is rich in other factors and aspects. Despite the civil war, Sierra Leone is a country that is strong.
I chose this topic to learn more about the country of Sierra leone. After reading the novel, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, I wanted to know about the author’s home and where this story was based off of. Ishmael Beah was a child soldier who wrote this book after his time during war. That is where the choice topic of my paper came from. Sierra Leone is a sorrowful country.
With harsh living conditions and barely any money to live with; nobody should have to live that way. Richer countries should help and aid the people so they can live happy as well. While they do things much different than those who live in America, providing medicine, clothes, and food would surely help those in this country. From my research I found that many world organizations like UNICEF, participate in helping the children of Sierra Leone. This organization helps with the development of children and women in poor countries.
I learned about the people and how different their lives are for me. For example, how little they get paid a day to support themselves and their family. I also learned more about the war; how it started, why it started, and the people involved. Not only was the country now in worse shape, the people were heartbroken and in dismay. There are always possibilities for us as the U.S to step in and help. Not to get involved in the ongoing disputes but the medical and living part of Sierra Leoneans lives. It is not fair that the people in Sierra Leone living in such treacherous conditions.
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