Forgotten World (98): Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone was a British colony until 1961 and the location of one of the most brutal civil wars in Africa’s history from 1991-2002 when some 50,000 died and many had limbs hacked off. More than 17,000 British and UN troops helped to stop the conflict. However, most of the problems that existed before the war – poverty, bad governance, corruption, massive unemployment and a disillusioned youth – remain.
Nevertheless, in August 2007, the country of just 7 million set a new course with the largely peaceful elections of a new president and a new parliament. Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds and, whereas the trade in illicit gems (known as “blood diamonds” for their role in funding conflicts) perpetuated the civil war, now diamond exports have helped to buoy the post-conflict economy.
British troops may no longer be in action in the country, but the UK remains the largest donor and has introduced substantial debt relief.