Sierra Leone/History

< Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone was discovered by Portuguese sailors who gave the country its name (Portuguese: Lion Mountains). The country was a British colony and became independent in 1961 with Sir Milton Margai (1895-1964) as the first prime minister. Since 1991, civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A peace agreement, signed on 7 July 1999 in Lome (Togo), offers a dim hope that the country will be able to terminate the diamond-powered conflict, and rebuild its devastated economy and infrastructure. As of late 1999, up to 6,000 UN peacekeepers were in the process of deploying to bolster the peace accord.