Freetown

Freetown

[free-toun]
Freetown, city (1995 est. pop. 519,500), capital of Sierra Leone, W Sierra Leone, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. Located on the Sierra Leone peninsula, Freetown is the nation's administrative, communications, and economic center, as well as its main port. The city's economy revolves largely around its fine natural harbor, which is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels and which handles Sierra Leone's main exports. Industries include food and beverage processing, fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes, paint, shoes, and beer. Lebanese play a major role in local trade, especially wholesaling. Roads and a railroad link Freetown with the interior of the country and the city is served by an international airport in nearby Lungi. Guma Dam provides water and hydroelectric power for Freetown. The area was settled in 1787 by freed slaves sent from England by British abolitionists, including Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, who started the Sierra Leone Company. In 1792, Freetown was founded by former slaves from Nova Scotia sent out by the company. Freetown was used by the British as the base for creating (1808) the Sierra Leone Crown Colony, and from 1808 to 1874 it served as the capital of British West Africa. In 1893 it was made the first British colonial municipality in Africa, with the right to elect a mayor. During World War II, Britain maintained a naval base at Freetown. Although they constitute only a minority today, descendants of the freed slaves, called Creoles, play a leading role in the city. Freetown is the site of the Univ. of Sierra Leone (1967), which incorporates Fourah Bay College (1827) and Njala Univ. College (1963), and also of a technical institute.

Capital (pop., 1999 est.: metro. area: 822,000) and largest city of Sierra Leone. Located at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River, it has the best harbour in western Africa. It was founded in 1787 by an English abolitionist, Granville Sharp, as a haven for freed African slaves from England. Later more freed slaves from Nova Scotia and runaway slaves from Jamaica settled there. Their descendants, known as Creoles, are now outnumbered by Mende and Temne immigrants from the interior. In 1821 Freetown became the seat of government for Britain's West African possessions. Incorporated as a municipality in 1893, it became Sierra Leone's capital in 1961. It is the nation's commercial, educational, and transportation centre. The city sustained extensive damage during the civil war that wracked the country in the 1990s and has seen an increase in population due to the war.

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Freetown is the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone, and a major port on the Atlantic Ocean. The city is located in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Freetown is the hub of the nation's administrative, financial, educational, communications, cultural and economic center. The city had an estimated population of 1,070,200.

The city of Freetown was founded in 1787 by Britain as a settlement for freed African Americans and West Indians slaves that arrived in the city from 1787 to about 1885. Their descendants, known today as the Krio still live primarily in Freetown and its surrounding Western Area.

Freetown's economy revolves largely around its harbor, which is the largest natural harbor in Africa, and the third largest natural harbor in the world. The Freetown Harbor is a major commercial shipping port and handles Sierra Leone's main exports. Industries include fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes.

Freetown is home to Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827. The university not only played a key role in Sierra Leone’s colonial history, but also a key role in English speaking West African nations' colonial history.

History

The area, said to have previously been a slave market, was first settled in 1787 by 400 freed slaves and Black Americans sent from England, under the auspices of British abolitionists. They established the 'Province of Freedom' on land purchased from local Koya Temne subchief King Tom and regent Naimbana, a purchase which was to cede the land to the new settlers "for ever." The established arrangement between Europeans and the Koya Temne did not include provisions for permanent settlement, and some historians question how well the Koya leaders understood the agreement. Disputes soon broke out, and King Tom's successor, King Jimmy, burnt the settlement to the ground in 1789.

The London based Sierra Leone Company made a second attempt in 1792 and resettled Freetown with 1,100 American slaves en route from Nova Scotia, many of whom were born in the United States, led by former slave Thomas Peters. These American slaves gave Granville Town the name "Freetown". Around 500 free Jamaican Maroons joined them in 1800.

It survived being pillaged by the French in 1794, and the indigenous inhabitants revolted in 1800, but the British retook control, beginning the expansionism that led to the creation of Sierra Leone. From 1808 to 1874, the city served as the capital of British West Africa. It also served as the base for the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron which was charged with halting the slave trade. Most of the slaves liberated by the squadron choose to settle in Sierra Leone, and Freetown in particular, rather than return home; thus the population includes descendants of many different peoples from all over the west coast of Africa. The city expanded rapidly as many freed slaves settled, accompanied by African soldiers who had fought for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. During World War II, Britain maintained a naval base at Freetown. Descendants of the freed slaves, called Krios, play a leading role in the city, even though they are a minority of the population.

The city was the scene of fierce fighting in the late 1990s. It was captured by ECOWAS troops seeking to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1998, and later it was unsuccessfully attacked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.

Historical attractions

Freetown has an abundance of historically significant landmarks that link the legacy of West Africans with African-Americans and West Indians. A truly famous landmark in the center of the east of Freetown is the "Cotton Tree" which is a treasured symbol of the city. It was originally planted by the resettled American slaves with the founding of Freetown.

In downtown Freetown is the Con Naught Hospital, which was the first hospital modeled after western medical practices in West Africa. Nearby is "King's Gate" which was erected in stone with a statement inscribed which reads "any slave who passes through this gate is declared a free man" hence the name of Freetown was derived. Down by the Naval Wharf are slave steps carved out of stone. It was here that the Portuguese slave traders bought and sold many Africans and from which their last footsteps on African soil were made.

Freetown is home to Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827. The university played a key role in Sierra Leone’s colonial history. The college’s first student, Samuel Adjai Crowther, went on to become the first indigenous Bishop of West Africa.

Next to the college is the little-visited National Railway Museum, whose prize exhibit is a coach built for the state visit of Elizabeth II in 1961. The Big Market on Wallace Johnson Street is the showcase for local artisans’ work and the place to pick up a bargain souvenir.

The Freetown peninsula is ringed by long stretches of white sand. Lumley Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, forms a focal point for local parties and festivals.

Freetown is the seat of St John's Maroon Church (built around 1820), St George's Cathedral , St George's Cathedral, completed in 1828), Foulah Town Mosque (built in the 1830s). Also in Freetown are assorted beaches and markets, and the Sierra Leone Museum featuring the Ruiter Stone

Economy

Freetown is the economic, financial, cultural and education center of Sierra Leone. The country's national television and radio stations the Sierra Leone Broadcasting services is primarily based in Freetown, although it also has regional headquarters in the country's other primary cities of Bo and Kenema. Freetown is home to dozens of radio stations and newspapers. Freetown is home to one of the country's two main Universities, the Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827.

Many of the country's largest corporations locate their headquarter's home offices in Freetown as well as the majority of international companies. The city's economy revolves largely around its fine natural harbor, which is the third largest natural harbor in the world. The Freetown harbor is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels and handles Sierra Leone's main exports. Industries include food and beverage processing, fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes, paint, shoes, and beer. the Fula and Sierra Leonean-Lebanese play a major role in local trade in the city. The city is served by the Lungi International Airport, located in the city of Lungi, across the sea from Freetown.

Climate

Like the rest of Sierra Leone, Freetown is of tropical climate with a rainy season - May through October, the balance of the year representing the dry season. The beginning and end of the rainy season is marked by strong thunder storms. This is a Tropical Savanna Climate.

Freetown's high humidity is some what relieved November through February by the famous Harmattan, a gentle wind flowing down from the Sahara Desert affording Freetown its coolest period of the year. Average temperature ranges in Freetown are from 21 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) all year.

Government

Freetown is governed by a city council, which is headed by a mayor, in whom executive authority is vested. The mayor is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws are enforced. The mayor is elected directly by the residents of Freetown.

The current mayor is Herbert George-Williams, a member of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party. He replaced his fellow member of the Krio ethnic group, Winstanley Bankole Johnson on January 17, 2008. Johnson was appointed mayor in July 2004 and was a member of the APC. Johnson came to power as the APC swept 2004 Western Area municipal elections.

Industry

Freetown has a cement works.

Neighborhoods

Freetown is officially divided into three geographical regions:

  • East End Freetown

The East End of Freetown is located in the eastern part of the city. The East End is the most populous of the three geographical regions of Freetown and with by far the highest poverty rate in the city. The East End is also well known for having by far the highest crime rate in Freetown. Most of the violent crime committed in Freetown is concentrated in the East End. Several of Freetown's top football clubs come from the East End.

  • Central Freetown

Central Freetown is located in the central part of the city, and includes Downtown Freetown and the central business district. Most of the tallest and most important buildings in Sierra Leone are based in Central Freetown, as well as most of the foreign embassies in Sierra Leone. The country's national stadium is also located in Central Freetown, as is the informal housing settlement of Kroo Bay.

Demographics

Freetown is the capital, largest city and economic center of Sierra leone. The city has an estimated population of 1,070,200 (about 16.1% of Sierra Leone's total population).

Freetown is home to significant numbers of all of the country's ethnic groups. The Krio people (descendant of freed African Americans and West Indians slaves that landed in Freetown between 1787 and about 1885) form the single largest ethnic group in the city at about 29% of the total population and 5% of Sierra Leone's population in total.

Like in virtually all parts of Sierra Leone, the Krio language (a native language of the Krio people who only make up 5% of country's population) is by far the most widely spoken language in the city. The language is spoken at home as a first language by 90% of the population and is spoken as a lingua franca by the entire population in the city.

Crime

Since the end of civil war in 2002, Freetown has experienced an increase in robberies, murders, carjacking, home invasion and assault. This effect is most pronounced in the east end of Freetown, which has a higher crime rate than other parts of the city. Over the past year, criminal exploits have become more brash and aggressive. Increasingly operating in numbers and while heavily armed, like in most West African countries, local criminals target expatriates due to their perceived wealth.

Pickpocketing of cell phone and purses are the most common crimes in Freetown.

Some of the high profile victims of crime in the city included one of the most successful Sierra Leonean businessmen Alhaji Lamrana Bah, was shot and killed by armed men onboard his Mercedes Benz on February 16, 2008 in an apparent car-jacking along the Old Main Motor Road at Cola Tree, Allen Town in the East-End of Freetown. All shops and businesses owned by the Fula community in Freetown were closed for several days in protest of the Freetown Police failure to bring down crime in the city.

FannyAnn Eddy, the founder of Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, who was murdered by a group of at least three men who broke into her office in Freetown, raped her, stabbed her, and eventually broke her neck. Her murder occurred on September 28, 2004, shortly after she gave a speech to the United Nations in New York, about the threats of violence faced by lesbians and gays in Sierra Leone, where homosexuality is illegal.

Another high profile victim of crime in the city was Kenneth Moore, a government building inspector, who was despatched by the ministry of lands to demolish illegal structures erected on government property was attacked and murdered in a guest house in central Freetown by drug dealers. His case still remains unsolved.

Education

Like the rest of Sierra Leone, Freetown has an education system with six years of primary school (Class 1-6), and six years of secondary school (Form 1-6); secondary schools are further divided into Junior secondary school (Form 1-3) and Senior secondary school (Form 4-6). Primary schools usually start from ages 6 to 12, and secondary schools usually start from ages 13 to 18. Primary Education is free and compulsory in government-sponsored public schools.

Freetown is home to one of the country's two main universities, the Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827.

Notable secondary schools in Freetown

School Founded
Albert Academy 1904
Annie Walsh Memorial Girls Secondary School 1849
St. Edward's Secondary School 1925
Prince of Wales Secondary School 1921
Methodist Boys High School 1874
Ahmadiyya Muslim Secondary School 1965
Congress Boys Secondary School 1975
Kankalay Islamic Secondary School 1978
Sierra Leone Grammar School 1845
Saint Joseph's Secondary School

Transportation

Air transportation

Lungi International Airport is the international airport that serves Freetown and the rest of the country. It is located in the city of Lungi, across the river from Freetown. It serves as the primary airport for domestic and international travel to or from Sierra Leone. The airport is operated by Sierra Leone Airports Authority. Freetown also has a heliport on Aberdeen Island, connecting the city with the airport. There is a frequent helicopter, hovercraft and ferry-service to Lungi.

Transfers to Freetown

Passengers have the choice of hovercraft, ferry or a helicopter to cross the river to Freetown. Ferry is the cheapest option. Hovercraft and ferry operations have at times been suspended due to safety concerns.

Access by sea

Sierra Leone has the third largest natural harbor in the world where shipping from all over the globe berth at Freetown's famous Queen Elizabeth II Quay. Passenger, cargo and private craft also utilize Government Wharf nearer to central Freetown.

Recent important investment has seen the introduction of high tech cargo scanning facilities operated by Intertek/ Port Maritime Security International (PMSI). This facility is a clear indication of the Sierra Leone Government's commitment for significant improvement, security and expansion of port facilities. Through the services provided, Sierra Leone has not only addressed its international obligations in keeping with future changes but also allows the country to trade freely with the important US export market of minerals including rutile and bauxite.

100% inspection of containers arriving and departing Freetown is today the norm, placing Sierra Leone ahead of all other countries throughout West Africa in security.

Sports

Like the rest of Sierra Leone, football is the most popular sport in Freetown. The Sierra Leone national football team, popularly known as the Leone Stars play all their home games at Freetown's National Stadium, the largest stadium in Sierra Leone. Eight of the fifteen clubs in the Sierra Leone National Premier League are from Freetown, including two of Sierra Leone's biggest and most successful football clubs, East End Lions, and Mighty Blackpool. A match between these two teams is the biggest domestic football clash in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone National Premier League clubs from Freetown

Club City
East End Lions Freetown
Mighty Blackpool Freetown
Ports Authority Freetown
F.C. Kallon Freetown
Old Edwardians Freetown
Central Parade Freetown
Golf Leopards Freetown
Mount Aureol Freetown

Notes of interest

The city hosts since the We Are the Future center, a child care center giving children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The center is managed under the direction of the mayor’s office, and the international NGO Glocal Forum serves as the fundraiser and program planner and coordinator for the WAF child center in each city. Each WAF city is linked to several peer cities and public and private partners to create a unique international coalition. Launched in 2004, the program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and Mr. Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies.

2007 Freetown explosion

A major explosion occurred on Free Street in downtown Freetown which killed at least 18 people on 20 December 2007.

It was believed that the explosion was caused by the combination of a gas leak and fire inside a Nigerian-owned clothing store just off the main street of Freetown. Killing at least 17 people, the explosion also trapped a significant number of people underneath the rubble. The explosion damaged a fire engine which was on the scene to battle the fire inside. The Connaught hospital was reported to have struggled in caring for the wounded. Both President Ernest Bai Koroma and Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana visited injured people in the hospitals intensive care unit.

References

External links

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