Term Paper: Population Change in Sierra Leone From 1990 Present

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Sierra Leone

Over the last several decades, Sierra Leone has been subject to vast population changes due to a violent civil war, the murder of local inhabitants by the R.U.F., rampant disease, low life expectancy, infant mortality, and other major factors. In recent times, however, the population of this war torn country has seen improvement in both conditions as well as population increase. This paper will discuss these population changes in terms of decreased mortality, and increased migration. Further, this paper will discuss the shifts in political parties that have made such a population explosion possible,

First, it is important to examine the history of the country to comprehend the decimation of Sierra Leone's population in the past due to mortality and migration, and the reasons behind such a reduction. European slave traders in Sierra Leone were among the first in west Africa. By 1652, slaves were being shipped from the area to the United States in vast numbers. However, in 1787, the British assisted 400 freed slaves in resettling the Sierra Leone area in what they called the "Province of Freedom." The plan, however, was nearly destroyed as disease and hostility from the local inhabitants nearly eliminated the entire population. The area survived, however, and became known as "Freetown" by 1792.

By the 19th century, Sierra Leone had become home to thousands of freed slaves, or Krio. Their experiences with slavery and with British customs and traditions made their assimilation into the area difficult. To add to the problems, Freetown also became home to the British governor ruling the Gold Coast, as well as to the only English-speaking university on the West Coast. Over time, the Krio attempted to ease relations between the indigenous people of Africa and the British, but to no avail. The native population came to see the Krio as agents of Britain, while Britain came to see these individuals as ungrateful and pretentious.

While there was certainly animosity and contempt in Sierra Leone during the first part of the 20th century, violence was minimal. By 1951, a constitution provided the framework for independence of Sierra Leone, which came in stages under the majority of the country. Independence was secured in 1961 under a parliamentary system, led by Sir Milton Margai's "Sierra Leone Peoples Party" (S.L.P.P.).

Problems began during the elections of 1967. The All Peoples Congress won the majority, and thus Siaka Stevens, the a.P.C. leader, was announced as Prime Minister. Within hours, however, coups were staged by the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces. It was not until April of 1968 that Stevens took office. Stevens, during his position until 1985, managed to amend the constitution to ban all political parties other than the a.P.C..

Following the a.P.C.-led election of 1985, the rise of the R.U.F., or the Revolutionary United Front, began, and population decreases were the primary result. The R.U.F. claimed to demand free and fair elections along with social and economic justice. By this time, Sierra Leone had fallen to the bottom of the U.N. human development index, which measures a country in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living. However, it soon became clear the R.U.F. was not only intent on stopping the flow of power to the government, as their attacks were on the civilians of Sierra Leone.

It is important to note that the high mortality rate of Sierra Leone by 1991 was not due primarily to the R.U.F. revolt, although that would be a factor over the next decade. In 1991, however, Sierra Leone had nearly 4.5 million people. The life expectancy within Sierra Leone was only 45 years, with an infant mortality rate of 154 even 1000 births. The total budget for health care at the time was less than three percent, a drop in nearly four percent over a ten-year period. This is in comparison to the 80% budget expenditure for salaries and benefits for ruling a.P.C. leaders. Further, nearly 66% of doctors and nurses in Sierra Leone served only 10% of the total population, or those in the western area. Nearly all health facilities were also located solely in the western area of the country, so that nearly 37% of the population had no access to health care. Those health institutions that were operating for the general populace had such disrepair and horrible conditions they were often unable to provide any service, and were, in some cases, responsible for the spread of disease. Further, all power to provide service was in the hands of the majority, or the a.P.C..

Clearly, the situation in Sierra Leone had progressed to nearly catastrophic under a.P.C. rule. The corruption and severe lack of health care had already taken a toll on the population of Sierra Leone. Rampant disease, poor health care, poverty, and horrible living conditions had prepared the country for civil war, which, as we will see in the next section, had an even more profound effect on population decrease.

The R.U.F. sought first to attack the border regions of Sierra Leone, which had been nearly abandoned already by the a.P.C. corrupt government. Due to a need to increase funding, the R.U.F. employed several hired Liberian fighters, whose knowledge extended to the movement of diamonds. In return for diamonds, the Liberian army provided weapons and needed resources to the R.U.F..

These Liberian fighters were well-known for brutality and vicious fighting tactics, and the result on the population of Sierra Leone was threefold. First, the simple brutality of the R.U.F. attacks caused many locals to flee to Guinea to escape the violence. In the four months following the initial attacks on the border regions, nearly 107,000 refugees had left the area. The R.U.F. And Liberian rebels became quickly well-known for physical mutilation and torture. Nearly 20,000 citizens in the border areas suffered amputations, disfigurement, and severe mutilation at the hands of the R.U.F.. While these individuals may not have perished, the result was a mass fleeing of local residents. Over the course of the war, which lasted until 2002, over half a million individuals had fled to neighboring countries, and almost half the population, over two and a half million people, have been displaced.

The second effect was the sheer number of individuals killed during the civil war. According to some estimates, nearly 75,000 were killed, and even those estimates are considered low according to government sources. While the R.U.F. certainly killed a great number of these individuals, the a.P.C. government killed a vast number, as well. Amnesty International estimates that a.P.C. attacks on rural and urban civilian areas in the hope of killing small bands of rebels number in the thousands.

The third effect on population was the recruitment, and resulting death, of many female and male children of Sierra Leone. As the R.U.F. captured small villages and rural populations, they abducted and trained thousands of youths. Uneducated and poverty stricken, many of these children saw the R.U.F. As a survival tactic. Still others, however, found themselves homeless and orphaned, with no alternative. Some estimates report nearly 40,000 R.U.F. fighters were under the age of 14. Further, the regular army units of Sierra Leone recruited several thousand soldiers under the age of 18.

In addition to the deaths of these child soldiers from combat, several thousand deaths can be attributed to illegal drug use. Often, the R.U.F. used marijuana, amphetamines, crack, cocaine, or a cocktail of these and other substances such as gunpowder to prepare the soldiers for combat. During such drug use, the rape, murder, and torture of soldiers and civilians alike occurred.

It is clear the population of Sierra Leone was, by the end of the civil war in 2002, severely diminished. With over half the total population displaced and tens of thousands of men, woman and children deceased, the country was in severe population crisis. However, following the civil war, the situation appears to be drastically improving. By the end of 2002, the population of Sierra Leone had grown to 4.8 million, and is estimated to reach over 6 million by the end of 2007. The birth rate has nearly doubled the mortality rate by November of 2007.

The population is expected to grow even higher as displaced citizens and refugees begin to return to the war-battered country. With a massive urban migration expected, equaling nearly half the existing population over the next ten years, access to health care should increase drastically. Further, with real GDP growth having increased nearly threefold from the year 2000, and with a more stable political structure aimed at national growth, the population can look to a brighter, healthier future. Agriculture, manufacturing, diamond mining, and bauxite and rutile mining have increased substantially since the end of the war, resulting in a higher GDP, more employment opportunities, higher health and education budgets, and assistance for rural areas.

As the nation receives aid to improve health conditions, the mortality rate of Sierra Leone is expected to decrease even more rapidly. Previously, malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia were the three primary… [END OF PREVIEW]

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