Posts Tagged 'Sierra Leone'

Africa Snapshot: Sierra Leone

Located in West Africa, Sierra Leone is nestled between Liberia and Guinea on the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Population: According to the CIA Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 is 5,485,998.


English is the official language of Sierra Leone, but the regular use of it is limited to the literate minority.  Mende is the vernacular in the south, and Temne is the vernacular in the north.  Krio, an English-based Creole, is spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who settled in Freetown.  It is understood by 95% of the population.

Religion: 60% of the country is Muslim, 10% are Christians.  30% of the population practice indigenous beliefs.

History: The first slaves were brought into North America from Sierra Leone in 1652. Their rice-farming skills were in great demand by plantations in Georgia and South Carolina during the 18th century.  In the 1780s, the British returned 400 freed slaves from various parts of the world back to Sierra Leone. They settled in an area they called “Province of Freedom,” which is now the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Britain colonized Freetown in 1792. Thousands of returning Africans, who were originally from all over Africa, settled in Freetown. They came to be known as Krio.

During the 19th century, Sierra Leone become a prime spot for education in West Africa. Modeled after European universities, Fourah Bay College was established in 1827. It became the foundation of the present-day University of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone achieved independence from Britain peacefully in April 1961. Controversial elections in 1967 led to multiple coups.  Finally, in April 1968, Siaka Steven, the Freetown mayor and All Peoples Congress party leader, become the prime minister and the constitution was restored. Steven was the head of state until 1985, when Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power.

Under Steven’s leadership, the constitution was changed to ban all political parties except the All Peoples Congress. The multi-party system was restored in 1991, a Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power. , who practiced many abuses of power.  Eventually, a coup forced Momoh into exile in Guinea, leaving a new group, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority.

The 1990s saw much turmoil over the control of the country, including coups. A group called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took over much of the countryside by the mid-90s and repeatedly tried to overthrow the government. Eventually, in 1999, President Kabbah and the RUF leader signed a peace agreement that included an international peacekeeping force. Fighting, though, continued into the 21st century, prompting help from Guinean troops.

In January 2002, President Kabbah declared the end to the civil war. He was re-elected in May 2002. The UN peacekeeping mission wrapped up in 2005.

Ernest Koroma was elected president of Sierra Leone in 2007. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2012.

Economy: Sierra Leone relies on other countries for financial assistance. Nearly half of the country’s exports come from alluvial diamond mining. Almost half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture.

Relationship with the United States: The United States established an embassy when Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961.  Assistance from the U.S. focuses on health education, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS, human rights and the development of human resources.

Sources: CIA Factbook , State Department Background Note – Sierra Leone , Britannica Online, the University of Sierra Leone


June 2010: Engaging with Partner African Militaries

By Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM Senior Enlisted Leader

June 2010 has been a very busy and rewarding month.

Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka, United States Africa Command

Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka, United States Africa Command

I just returned from my final June 2010 trip to Africa. The month started in Morocco with a visit to Exercise African Lion, followed by my first return visit to Liberia since Operation Onward Liberty began in January 2010. In the latter part of June I participated–along with United States Army, Marine Forces, and Air Forces Africa Command Senior Enlisted Leaders–in a Warrant Officer Leader Development Program for the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). I returned to our headquarters briefly only to travel to Cape Verde to embark on the USS JOHN L. HALL as it transited from Cape Verde to Dakar, Senegal in support of African Maritime Law Enforcement Program and a Search and Rescue Exercise.

Exercise African Lion in Morocco is an annual exercise promoting training interoperability and integration of Royal Armed Forces of Morocco and US Marine Forces. This is my second visit to African Lion. Last year I visited the command post exercise in Agadir; this year I visited the field training and live fire exercise in Tan Tan. Each year the exercise builds on the preceding year’s activities which are what our partner nations are asking us to do in our exercise programs–improving operational capacity. Kudos to Marine Forces Africa for another successful exercise.

From the hot, dry desert in Morocco, I proceeded to the hot, steamy environs of Liberia. This is probably my 6th or 7th trip to Liberia over almost three years–during that time USAFRICOM has been supporting the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) under a Security Sector Reform (SSR) Program with US Department of State in the lead. US Department of Defense has been supporting–and continues to support–SSR via Defense Sector Reform focused activities in Liberia. In January 2010 Department of Defense, i.e. USAFRICOM via Marine Forces Africa, established Operation Onward Liberty (OOL). OOL consists of 45-52 US military personnel who partner with the AFL in order to build institutional, operational, and human capacity in the AFL. It’s still too early to attempt measure or assess results but from my discussions with AFL leaders, the OOL cadre is making a difference. We must be patient.

Toward the latter part of the month I departed again to Africa. This time to Sierra Leone to participate in the first WO Leader Development Program sponsored by the Navy Security Assistance Office in Pensacola, Florida. The three week professional military education (PME) program was held at the Horton Academy on the International Military Assistance Training Team (IMATT-UK led) compound in Freetown. Heretofore the Horton Academy hosted only officer PME. What was most profound was to see the WO Leader Development Program and the LTC-MAJ Staff Officer Program come together for several modules of instruction and guest presentations. This integration of officer and WO PME does not occur often, if at all, in Africa. I applaud the RSLAF for agreeing to this initiative; clearly, this could be an example for many to follow. We–the command senior enlisted leaders of US Army, Marine Forces, Air Forces, and AFRICOM–had the privilege of delivering guest presentations to the consolidated classes. These kinds of activities and engagements allow us to improve human/ leadership capacity in partner nations. We should be doing more of these types of engagements.

Finally, I closed out the month’s activities underway on the USS JOHN L. HALL, FFG 32. Each year I attempt to spend dedicated time with each of USAFRICOM’s service components in Africa. Throughout the year during my travels and engagements with partner nation leadership, I often meet US Army, Marine, and Air Force personnel conducting meaningful operational and human capacity building activities in Africa–on land. I don’t normally meet too many Sailors unless I intentionally focus on the maritime domain. So this was my time to focus my energy on our Shipmates. The result–AWESOME. The leaders and crew of the USS JOHN L. HALL FFG 32 out of Mayport, Florida were dedicated, motivated, and professional. We departed Mindelo, Cape Verde and were underway until Dakar, Senegal where I disembarked. While underway the ship conducted limited gunnery and helo operations. I continue to have the greatest admiration and respect for the USN. The Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Program (AMLEP) was abbreviated in Cape Verde but the Search and Rescue Exercise in Senegal was executed. In addition to me, the USS JOHN L. HALL also had two ship-riders from the Cape Verde Coast Guard. I was proud to be considered a Shipmate during our days underway. Here again, another program that improves and builds operational and human capacity in partner nations.

By now, anyone who has been following my blogs knows what guides me during all my engagements with partner nation military forces. It hasn’t changed.

In Africa:

1. Personal relationships are crucial. Everything is personal and this means being on the ground in Africa among Africans.
2. Listen, listen, listen. Talk is cheap. Listening is golden.
3. It’s for the long-term, not short term rotations or arbitrary timelines. Nothing happens quickly in Africa. Much will go wrong. Commitments and perseverance are essential.
4. Understand that actions speak louder than words. The image of America in much of Africa is that of a 20 year old Peace Corps volunteer who lives among the Africans, learns their language, earns little, and is eager to learn.

Look for my next blog in August.

(Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka became United States Africa Command’s senior enlisted leader in November 2007. He previously served as command sergeant major of United States Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Command Sergeant Major Ripka holds the highest-ranking enlisted position in the command, serving as the principal enlisted advisor to the commander. You can learn more about CSM Ripka at

This blog is also on U.S. Africa Command’s AFRICOM Dialogue at

U.S. AFRICOM-related news stories for May 14, 2010 (From the Beltway/From and About Africa)

Recent Publications on Morocco,  DR Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, Angola,Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Mozambique.

Morocco, U.S. Marines conduct major exercise (World Tribune)

(Morocco) Morocco and the United States have completed preparations for a major military exercise.

U.S. Congress Clears Anti-LRA Bill (IPS)

(United States) The U.S. Congress has cleared legislation requiring President Barack Obama to devise a strategy over the next six months to help capture the leadership of the Lord’s Revolutionary Army (LRA) and protect the civilian population in four eastern and central African countries from its rampages.

Sudan Peacekeepers Vow to Defend Themselves (AllAfrica)

United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers have warned that they will react in self-defence if they are attacked in the western Sudanese troubled region of Darfur. “We (UNAMID) are going to be very strict in terms of a robust position so that people will be discouraged from even attempting to attack us,” Prof. Gambari, who is also the AU-UN Joint Special Representative in Darfur, told a UN Radio on Tuesday.

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USAFRICOM-related news stories for May 12, 2010 (From the Beltway/From and About Africa)

Recent Publications on Mali, Rwanda, Somalia, Darfur, Tanzanian, Guinea, DR Congo, Libya, Sudan, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Uganda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria

U.S. Threatens Severe Consequences (New Democrat – Monrovia)

A United States official has warned of severe consequences if funds donated here are not used for their intended purposes, noting that the U.S. would like to see a positive impact on the lives of citizens in ensuring accountability and transparency.

U.S. Warned Not To Pressure Morocco

Washington, D.C. – The United States has been urged not to press Morocco to grant independence to the disputed territory of North Africa. The Foreign Policy Research Institute said in a report that independence for Western Sahara could result in a failed state dominated by Al Qaida. The report, authored by Harvey Sicherman, the institute said the status quo on Western Sahara could mark the best interim solution.

US considering designating TTP as terror outfit

The US is looking into legal formalities of designating Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan as a foreign terrorist organisation with a probe pointing to its involvement in the failed Times Square bombing, as clamour grows for recognising the outfit as a terrorist body. “We are considering the question of designating the Pakistani Taliban (as a terrorist outfit). Now it is the matter of meeting the legal requirements,” Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley said.

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USAFRICOM-related news stories for April 30, 2010 (From the Beltway/From and About Africa)

Recent Publications on Chad, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Tanzania, CAR, Somalia, Uganda, DR Congo, Sudan, Cameroon

Africom not setting base in Africa-US commander (Mmegi Online)

Addressing a press conference yesterday, US commander of the African Command, General William Ward said while there has been speculation that the US intends to set up a military base in Africa through Africom, this is not true.

US gives $7.5M more for Taylor war crimes trial (Associated Press)

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – The United States is giving an additional $7.5 million to help pay for Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial.

North Africa: US Counter Terrorism Plan Hits a Snag (

The Algerian military flawed plans to secure the Sahel region has more to do with portraying an image of Algeria as the regional power house in North West Africa than setting up an effective military and political entity capable of countering an ever menacing enemy that continues to strike at whim.

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USAFRICOM-related news stories for April 19, 2010 (From the Beltway/From and About Africa)

Recent Publications on Horn of Africa, Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar, CAR, Mali, Darfur, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria, DR Congo, Sierra Leone

To fight pirate scourge, follow the money: US admiral (AFP)

WASHINGTON — International efforts against pirates off the Horn of Africa need to target the money extorted from commercial ships, a senior US Navy officer said on Thursday.

Zimbabwe Marks 30 Years of Independence (Associated Press)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe on Sunday marks 30 years of the rule of President Robert Mugabe, swept to power during the country’s heady and optimistic independence in 1980.

Navy looks for answers after Seebee dies from malaria (Stars and Stripes)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Although scores of U.S. troops are infected every year by malaria — 60 were diagnosed last year, and about 150 were diagnosed in 2003 — Joshua Dae Ho Carrell is just the second to die of the disease in more than a decade, according to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

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USAFRICOM-related news stories for April 8, 2010 (From the Beltway/From and About Africa)

Recent Publications on Senegal, Algeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya

Al-Qaeda Turns to Extortion as Funds Cut, U.S. Says (Bloomberg)

Al-Qaeda has been so weakened financially that the terrorist group’s affiliates have turned to drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping to raise money, a U.S. Treasury Department official said today.

US, Algeria Sign Legal Treaty (Voice of America)

The United States and Algeria have signed a legal treaty boosting cooperation in the fight against terrorism and crime, the first law enforcement agreement between the two countries.

US reports harassment and rape of gays in Zimbabwe (Associated Press)

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Gay Zimbabweans face widespread harassment and some have even been raped by those intending to convert their sexuality, the U.S. State Department said in a discussion of its annual human rights report in Zimbabwe.

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