Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political violence erupted in March 2009 between supporters of the two main political parties, but party leaders were quick to condemn the violence and participate in conciliatory dialogues. Also during the year, the Special Court for Sierra Leone sentenced three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front rebel group for crimes committed during the civil war, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched its reparations program.
Sierra Leone has vast natural resources, including diamonds, minerals, and unexploited off-shore oil wells. However, due to the legacies of war, the country remains one of the least developed in the world. Its large jobless population includes many former combatants, and some 42 percent of the country’s inhabitants are under age 15, raising concerns about the potential for a return to violence. In December, Parliament adopted a law that will facilitate the establishment of a National Youth Commission to address issues of youth unemployment and the associated threats to peace.
Sierra Leone is an electoral democracy. International observers determined that the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections were free and fair, and power was transferred peacefully to the opposition. Of the unicameral Parliament’s 124 members, 112 are chosen by popular vote and 12 are indirectly elected paramount chiefs. Parliamentary and presidential elections are held every five years, and presidents may seek a second term. The APC, SLPP, and PMDC are the main political parties.
Freedoms of assembly and association are constitutionally guaranteed and generally observed in practice. Workers have the right to join independent trade unions, but serious violations of core labor standards occur regularly. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civic groups operate freely, though a 2008 law requires NGOs to submit annual activity reports and renew their registration every two years.