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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is the present-day country from whose territory the Amistad Africans were abducted. A country of roughly 4.7 million residents, Sierra Leone is situated on the west coast of Africa. Its neighbors are Liberia and Guinea, and its capital is Freetown.

The population of Sierra Leone is almost entirely made up of 13 native African tribes. The major religion is animism, but there are also Christians and Muslim citizens. The constitutional language of Sierra Leone is English, though Mende (the language of the Amistad Africans), Temne, and Creole are also used.

The primary economic resource of Sierra Leone is its large diamond deposits. Crops include cocoa and coffee.

A troubled history and a troubled present

During the slave trading period, Sierra Leone was a safe haven for freed slaves, founded by British philanthropists. For over two centuries it was a British colony. Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961, at the beginning of the African decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Since independence, Sierra Leone has been politically troubled. After seventeen years of political turmoil, it was reorganized as a one-party state in 1978. In 1985, President Siaka Stevens resigned, naming Gen. Joseph Momoh the new president.

Momoh agreed to establish a multi-party democracy, and a new Constitution was ratified in 1991. However, before elections could be held, Major Valentin Strasser ousted Momoh in a military coup. His aide, Maada Bio ousted Strasser shortly thereafter.

In 1996, elections finally occurred. On March 29, 1996, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah took office. But in May 1997, he fled the country after another coup.

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  • Sources: Statesman's Yearbook 1997 and Europa World Year Book