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by kenn on 8/22/2005 12:29:00 PM

Sierra Leone?

Source: Wikipedia


The Republic of Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north and Liberia on the southeast, with the Atlantic Ocean on the southwest. The name Sierra Leone was adapted from the Spanish version: Sierra León, and in turn, from the Portuguese Serra-Leão, which stands for "lioness mountains." It was an important centre of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Much like neighbouring Liberia, it was founded by freed slaves, who in 1791 founded the capital, Freetown. In 1806, Freetown become a British Protectorate (as did the remainder of the country in 1896), reaching independence in 1961. From 1991 to 2002, the country has suffered greatly from a devastating civil war.

The written history of Sierra Leone begins in 1462, when Portuguese explorers first landed and named the country "Lion Mountains". Europeans used the land as a source for slaves, but in 1787 Freetown was established as a city for former slaves living in London.

In 1808, Sierra Leone became a British Crown Colony, which it remained until halfway through the 20th century, when the process of de-colonisation was commenced. This culminated in independence on April 27, 1961. Sir Milton Margai (1895-1964) was its first prime minister.

The republic—briefly a one-party state in the early 1980s—became involved in a civil war in 1991, with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Foday Sankoh rebelling against the government. This resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A military coup on May 25, 1997 replaced then President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah with Major Johnny Paul Koromah. Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998, after the junta was ousted by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces.

A peace agreement, signed on July 7, 1999 in Lomé, Togo offered a slight hope that the country will be able to terminate the diamond-powered conflict, and rebuild its devastated economy and infrastructure. As of late 1999, up to 6,000 UNAMSIL peacekeepers were in the process of deploying to bolster the peace accord.

In May 2000, the situation in the country deteriorated to such an extent that British troops were deployed in Operation Palliser to evacuate foreign nationals. They stabilised the situation, and were the catalyst for a ceasefire and ending of the civil war.

Although there has been a significant amount of news coverage of the war in Sierra Leone, a comprehensive review of the conflict based on extensive field research—using a method known as Conflict Mapping—is available here.


Map of Sierra LeoneMain article: Geography of Sierra Leone

Much of Sierra Leone's coastline consists of mangrove swamps, with the exception of the peninsula on which the capital city Freetown is located. The rest of Sierra Leone is mostly plateau (about 300 m above sea level) covered by forests, with mountains in the east of the country (highest point Loma Mansa, 1,948 m). The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from May to December.

Major cities are the capital Freetown, Koidu (Sefadu), Bo, Kenema and Makeni.

Main article: Economy of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. In fact, it has the lowest average income in the world. It does have substantial mineral and fishery resources and agricultural potential. However, the economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development, following a 10-year civil war. About two-thirds of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market.

Economic development has always been hampered by an overdependence on mineral exploitation. Successive governments and the population as a whole have always believed that "diamonds and gold" are sufficient generators of foreign currency earnings and lure for investment. As result large scale agriculture of commodity products, industrial development and sustainable investments have been neglected by governments. The economy could thus be described as one which is "exploitative" and based on the extraction of unsustainable resources or non reusable assets

There are plans to reopen bauxite and rutile mines shut down during the conflict. The major source of hard currency consists of the mining of diamonds. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad.

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