U.S. Relations With Sierra Leone

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
August 13, 2018

More information about Sierra Leone is available on the Sierra Leone Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States established diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone in 1961, following its independence from the United Kingdom. The U.S. and Sierra Leone enjoy a warm and cordial relationship. The two countries are linked by the history of slavery in the United States, an institution that would send a large number of African slaves from present-day Sierra Leone to the then-colonies of Georgia and South Carolina. Today, thousands of Sierra Leoneans and their descendants reside in the United States. Notably, many descendants of former slaves still reside in the same region and have maintained their unique culture known as Gullah. Further, nearly two percent of Sierra Leone's population is of Krio heritage, a group of freed slaves historically known for returning to Sierra Leone beginning in the late 1700s from Great Britain and North America. In early 2014, the United Nations hailed Sierra Leone as a success story due to its remarkable post-conflict transition following a brutal civil war (1991-2002), which destroyed the country’s infrastructure and hampered it’s political, social, and economic development. The Special Court for Sierra Leone closed after convicting former Liberian President Charles Taylor of fueling the conflict and conscripting child soldiers. Sierra Leone held two successful elections in 2007 and 2012, declared itself open for foreign investment, and sent peacekeepers to Darfur and Somalia. Sierra Leone joined the Open Government Partnership in 2013.

Sierra Leone’s positive trajectory was interrupted in May 2014 when the deadly Ebola epidemic struck and quickly overtook the country’s fragile health care system. As of August 2015, over 8,000 Sierra Leoneans have contracted Ebola with over 3,500 deaths. The economy, which had experienced a high growth rate before Ebola, contracted due to the outbreak and global drop in prices for its major iron ore exports. Stringent restrictions were put on the operation of markets and businesses, leading to increased unemployment. The outbreak was declared contained in November 2015. Since, the government launched an ambitious recovery plan that has received significant donor support.

Sierra Leone has had four successful post-war elections. General elections were held in Sierra Leone on March 7, 2018, to elect the President, Parliament, and local councils. Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma did not run for another term, as he was constitutionally ineligible, having served the maximum ten years in office. No presidential candidate received the 55% of the vote required to win in the first round, meaning a second round of voting was held on March 31, between the top two candidates, opposition leader Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party and Samura Kamara of the ruling All People's Congress; the two were separated by under 15,000 votes in the first round. Bio was subsequently elected with 51.8% of the vote.

U.S. Assistance to Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone relies on significant amounts of foreign assistance from both bilateral and multilateral donors. The United States is among the largest bilateral donors, with emergency assistance spiking due to the Ebola crisis. Mission partners comprised of the State Department, Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Peace Corps, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation totaled an estimated $600 million in the fight against the outbreak. Longstanding U.S. Government support for the Lassa Fever program and laboratory at Kenema Government Hospital helped facilitate testing of Ebola samples in the region. Since August 2014, CDC and the USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has deployed over 650 personnel to Sierra Leone to provide expertise, laboratory support, and data collection assistance to Response Centers. OFDA also provided non-medical supplies including personal protective equipment, training for health care workers, and over $100 million in support for five Treatment Units, servicing over 1,500 patients.

Post-Ebola programming is aimed at strengthening the health care system, bolstering infection prevention procedures, and enhancing supply chain accountability. The CDC is working closely with the government to set up a public health institute to enhance the government’s ability to better predict and combat Ebola and other diseases like malaria. There are also plans to staff a permanent CDC office in the country.

The Mission administers a small grants program for local community initiatives in conjunction with ongoing programs supporting trafficked persons, women’s empowerment, judicial strengthening, police training, agriculture development, military peacekeeping operations, and HIV/AIDS prevention. The Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of Sierra Leone are also implementing a $44.4 million threshold program to improve access to clean water and reliable electricity, and to support reforms designed to limit opportunities for corruption.

Bilateral Economic Relations

U.S. exports to Sierra Leone include transportation equipment, agricultural products, machinery, and chemicals, while its imports from Sierra Leone include minerals, metals, machinery, and agricultural products. Sierra Leone is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The two countries do not have a bilateral investment treaty. On September 17, 2012 senior officials for both countries signed an Open Skies air services agreement.

Sierra Leone's Membership in International Organizations

Sierra Leone and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone is Maria E. Brewer. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261.

More information about Sierra Leone is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Sierra Leone Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Sierra Leone Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Sierra Leone Page
History of U.S. Relations With Sierra Leone
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Millennium Challenge Corporation: Sierra Leone
Travel Information