Sierra Leone became a British colony in 1808. In the First World War Sierra Leoneans were recruited by the British Forces. They took part in the invasion of German East African Territories, and in campaigns to capture the German Cameroons.
Leading up to their independence, a division between separatists and loyalists emerged. When Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961, the new government campaigned for harmony between these factions.
Building resentment in the provinces regarding the unequal allocation of resources, and legacies from the colonial era, led to an extreme class divide. This hostile environment eventually resulted in the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
Initiated by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the war quickly became an arena for thousands of human rights violations. All factions turned to targeting civilians rather than combatants, and to recruiting child soldiers.
When the war finally ended, after 11 years in 2002, the country was in a state of total devastation. Now one of the poorest economies in the world, their focus has been on reconciliation between those who committed human rights violations and those who experienced them.
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Reviewed 15 April 2021