In the latter half of 2007, Rev Themi was encouraged by his faith to help the peoples of the poorest parts of Africa; this desire led him to look to West Africa.
Fr Themi’s work in Nairobi, Kenya had been closely followed by a Mr Abdul K. Kargbo, Deputy Consul-General, Consulate-General of Sierra Leone, who urged him to consider Sierra Leone, and made some very persuasive arguments. (today Abdul, is Rev Themi’s and PK4A’s close friend and strong supporter, always ready to help and do his part in the growth of the mission for his country).
In January 2008, in consultation with PK4A, Rev Themi packed all that he had (one suitcase, one computer and a dozen or so boxes of books) and relocated to Freetown, Sierra Leone
On arriving with a PK4A representative in Freetown, Rev Themi had nothing prepared but one meeting with the President and faith that could move mountains.
Sierra Leone, in West Africa, emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002, with the help of Britain, the former colonial power, and a large United Nations peacekeeping mission.
More than 17,000 foreign troops disarmed tens of thousands of rebels and militia fighters. Several years on, the country still faces the challenge of reconstruction.
A lasting feature of the war, in which tens of thousands died, was the atrocities committed by the rebels, whose trademark was to hack off the hands or feet of their victims.
A UN-backed war crimes court was set up to try those, from both sides, who bear the greatest responsibility for the brutalities. It completed its work at the end of 2009. Its remaining case, the trial of Charles Taylor, continues in The Hague.
Sierra Leone has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, although poverty and unemployment remain major challenges.
In September 2010, the UN Security Council lifted the last remaining sanctions against Sierra Leone saying the government had fully re-established control over its territory, and former rebel fighters had been disarmed and demobilised.
Economic recovery has been slow partly because the reconstruction needs are so great. Around half of government revenue comes from donors.
The restoration of peace was expected to aid the the country’s promotion as a tourist destination in the long term. Sierra Leone boasts miles of unspoilt beaches along its Atlantic coast, and hopes to emulate its neighbour Gambia in attracting tourists.
Sierra Leone is also rich in diamonds and other minerals. The trade in illicit gems, known as “blood diamonds” for their role in funding conflicts, perpetuated the civil war. The government has attempted to crack down on cross-border diamond trafficking.
Sierra Leone has a special significance in the history of the transatlantic slave trade. It was the departure point for thousands of west African captives. The capital, Freetown, was founded as a home for repatriated former slaves in 1787.
A chronology of key events
1787 – British abolitionists and philanthropists establish a settlement in Freetown for repatriated and rescued slaves.
1808 – Freetown settlement becomes crown colony.
1896 – Britain sets up a protectorate over the Freetown hinterland.
1954 – Sir Milton Margai, leader of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, appointed chief minister.
1961 – Sierra Leone becomes independent.
1967 – Military coup deposes Premier Siaka Stevens’ government.
1968 – Siaka Stevens returns to power at the head of a civilian government following another military coup.
1971 – Sierra Leone declared a republic, Stevens becomes executive president.
1978 – New constitution proclaims Sierra Leone a one-party state with the All People’s Congress as the sole legal party.
1985 – Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh becomes president following Stevens’s retirement.
1987 – Momoh declares state of economic emergency.
War and coups
1991 – Start of civil war. Former army corporal Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) begin campaign against President Momoh, capturing towns on border with Liberia.
1991 September – New constitution providing for a multiparty system adopted.
1992 – President Joseph Momoh ousted in military coup led by Captain Valentine Strasser, apparently frustrated by failure to deal with rebels. Under international pressure, Strasser announces plans for the first multi-party elections since 1967.
1996 January – Strasser ousted in military coup led by his defence minister, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.
1996 – Ahmad Tejan Kabbah elected president in February, signs peace accord with Sankoh’s rebels in November.
1997 – Peace deal unravels. President Kabbah deposed by army in May. Major Johnny Paul Koroma, in prison awaiting the outcome of a treason trial, leads the military junta – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Koroma suspends the constitution, bans demonstrations and abolishes political parties.
Kabbah flees to Guinea to mobilise international support.
1997 July – The Commonwealth suspends Sierra Leone.
1997 October – The UN Security Council imposes sanctions against Sierra Leone, barring the supply of arms and petroleum products. A British company, Sandline, nonetheless supplies “logistical support”, including rifles, to Kabbah allies.
1998 February – Nigerian-led West African intervention force Ecomog storms Freetown and drives rebels out.
1998 March – Kabbah makes a triumphant return to Freetown amid scenes of public rejoicing.
1999 January – Rebels backing Revolutionary United Front leader Foday Sankoh seize parts of Freetown from Ecomog. After weeks of bitter fighting they are driven out, leaving behind 5,000 dead and a devastated city.
1999 May – A ceasefire is greeted with cautious optimism in Freetown amid hopes that eight years of civil war may soon be over.
1999 July – Six weeks of talks in the Togolese capital, Lome, result in a peace agreement, under which the rebels receive posts in government and assurances they will not be prosecuted for war crimes.
1999 November/December – UN troops arrive to police the peace agreement – but one rebel leader, Sam Bokari, says they are not welcome. Meanwhile, Ecomog troops are attacked outside Freetown.
2000 April/May – UN forces come under attack in the east of the country, but far worse is in store when first 50, then several hundred UN troops are abducted.
2000 May – Rebels close in on Freetown; 800 British paratroopers sent to Freetown to evacuate British citizens and to help secure the airport for UN peacekeepers; rebel leader Foday Sankoh captured.
2000 August – Eleven British soldiers taken hostage by a renegade militia group called the West Side Boys.
2000 September – British forces mount operation to rescue remaining UK hostages.
2001 January – Government postpones presidential and parliamentary elections – set for February and March – because of continuing insecurity.
2001 March – UN troops for the first time begin to deploy peacefully in rebel-held territory.
2001 May – Disarmament of rebels begins, and British-trained Sierra Leone army starts deploying in rebel-held areas.
2002 January – War declared over. UN mission says disarmament of 45,000 fighters is complete. Government, UN agree to set up war crimes court.
2002 May – Kabbah wins a landslide victory in elections. His Sierra Leone People’s Party secures a majority in parliament.
2002 July – British troops leave Sierra Leone after their two-year mission to help end the civil war.
2003 July – Rebel leader Foday Sankoh dies of natural causes while waiting to be tried for war crimes.
2003 August – President Kabbah tells truth and reconciliation commission that he had no say over operations of pro-government militias during war.
2004 February – Disarmament and rehabilitation of more than 70,000 civil war combatants officially completed.
War crimes trials
2004 March – UN-backed war crimes tribunal opens courthouse to try senior militia leaders from both sides of civil war.
2004 May – First local elections in more than three decades.
2004 June – War crimes trials begin.
2004 September – UN hands control of security in capital over to local forces.
2005 August – UN Security Council authorises opening of a UN assistance mission in Sierra Leone from 2006, to follow departure of peacekeepers in December.
2005 December – The last UN peacekeeping troops leave Sierra Leone, marking the end of a five-year mission to restore order.
2006 March – Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor is arrested in Nigeria and handed over to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone which indicted him.
2006 December – President Kabbah says 90% of the country’s $1.6bn (£815m) debt has been written off after negotiations with international creditors.
2007 June – Start of former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in The Hague, where he stands accused of instigating atrocities in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s special war crimes court in Freetown delivers its first verdicts, finding three militia leaders guilty.
2007 August – Presidential and parliamentary polls. Ernest Bai Koroma wins the presidency and his All People’s Congress, formerly in opposition, wins a majority in parliament.
2008 January – Former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in The Hague resumes after a six-month delay.
Rev Themi arrives….
2008 August – Local elections are marred by violence between the supporters of the two main parties
2009 April – Three former senior leaders of rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) sentenced to long jail terms for civil war atrocities.
2009 October – UN-backed Special Court winds down after seven years investigating civil war atrocities. Its remaining case, trial of Charles Taylor, continues in The Hague.
2010 May – Head of anti-corruption commission quits.
2010 September – UN Security Council lifts last remaining sanctions against Sierra Leone – an arms embargo and a travel ban for rebels.
2011 April – Sierra Leone marks 50 years of independence from Britain.
This country profile was published in November 2011 in our annual ‘Africa in 2012’ issue. The next edition, ‘Africa in 2013’ will be on sale in November 2012.
Ten years since the end of the civil war, but with an election due in 2012, political temperatures are running high.
Heat plus iron ore
Adding to the warmth is the prospect that the winner will take the helm just as substantial mining revenues start arriving into the treasury. Political support remains split along regional and ethnic lines with President Ernest Bai Koroma’s ruling All People’s Congress (APC) strong in the west and north, and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in the south and east.
Thanks to a notably partisan press, the political rhetoric could get vitriolic in the lead-up to the polls, which are expected in November. The Political Party Registration Committee has been charged with mediating, but so far has lacked real authority. Violence broke out in September in Bo following the election of former junta leader Julius Maada Bio as the SLPP’s presidential candidate from a field of 19 contenders. Maada Bio suffered a head injury in the violence, which led to an indefinite ban on all political rallies.
Many within the SLPP believe the party was robbed of victory in the 2007 election vote that saw Bai Koroma elected and do not trust the National Electoral Commission chief Christiana Thorpe. The office of national security has warned that politicians could use ex-combatants from the 11-year civil war as security during the campaign. Bai Koroma said he would ask the International Criminal Court to prosecute anyone who incites violence.
Political corruption remains rife, but high-profile cases are moving through the courts. In October, Anti-Corruption Commissioner Joseph Kamara indicted nine members of the committee that planned the country’s 50th anniversary celebrations in April 2011, including its chair, Dr William Konteh.
As the next election will be fought along the usual regional and ethnic lines, a close eye will be kept on those who resort to violence
A huge surge in economic growth is forecast for 2012, thanks to the imminent start of iron-ore exports. The IMF forecasts growth at 5.1% in 2011, jumping to 51.4% in the coming year. Ahead of this, the main concerns have been a rise in inflation – reaching 21% in mid-2011 following food and fuel price increases and expansionary monetary policies in 2010 – and a rise in non-concessional government borrowing.
The extractive sector is back in business. London Mining and African Minerals are fully committed to their iron-ore export projects. China’s Shandong Iron and Steel Group is investing $1.5bn in African Minerals’ Tonkolili project and will take 25% of production, subject to approval by the Chinese government. In the diamond sector, Koidu Holdings, part of the Israel-based Beny Steinmetz Group, expects a $150m expansion of its plant at Koidu to be ready in early 2012. As offshore oil exploration continues, a Petroleum Directorate is being established, as well as a state oil company – the Sierra Leone National Petroleum Company. Anadarko and Lukoil are already active, while Chevron, Tullow and Repsol have expressed interest in bidding for new licences.
Corporate tax holidays for miners will slow the arrival of revenues in government hands. Following civil society criticism of the tax breaks, the government has renegotiated with London Mining to get a better deal. An independent National Minerals Agency is planned to handle all natural-resource contracts revenue management. A target of December 2012 has been set for compliance with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.
Signs of restored confidence include the resumption of Air France and KLM flights to Freetown (via Conakry) and plans to re-open the Cape Sierra Hotel by 2014. The government has reached an agreement with China for an undisclosed sum to help build a new international airport on the mainland, so visitors no longer have to hop across the bay to Freetown from the airport on the Lungi peninsula.
Read the original article on Theafricareport.com : Country Profile 2012: SIERRA LEONE  | The Africa Report.com
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