U.S. Relations With Sierra Leone

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
October 17, 2016

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. U.S.-Sierra Leone relations are warm and cordial. The two countries are linked by history: A large number of Africans from present-day Sierra Leone were sold as slaves and sent to the then-colonies of Georgia and South Carolina to grow rice, a skill at which they excelled. Many of their descendants still live in the same region and have maintained their unique Gullah culture. Further, about two percent of Sierra Leone's population are Krio, the descendants of freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone beginning in the late 1700s from Great Britain and North America and from slave ships captured on the high seas. Today, many thousands of Sierra Leoneans reside in the United States.

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 and became eligible for assistance from the Millennium Challenge Corporation due to improved governance indicators.

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 Ebola outbreak and global drop in iron ore prices, a major export. Schools were closed for almost a year and stringent restrictions were put on the operation of markets and businesses, leading to increased unemployment. The government launched an ambitious post-Ebola recovery plan that has received significant donor support.  The Ebola outbreak was declared contained in November 2015.

Currently, a Constitutional Review process, national census, and preparations for the next election in early 2018 are underway. President Ernest Bai Koroma has publicly stated that he will not run for a third term. The two main political parties, the ruling All Peoples’ Congress and opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party, will become increasingly active in coming months in preparation for the elections. Sierra Leone has had three successful post-war elections. In 2012, 87% of the population voted in the election with Koroma winning with 58% 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. U.S. emergency assistance spiked dramatically due to the Ebola crisis and has totaled $300 million for the emergency response with an additional $100 million (approximate) allocated for post-Ebola recovery programs. Longstanding U.S. Government support for the Lassa Fever program and laboratory at Kenema Government Hospital facilitated testing of Ebola samples in the region. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) provided in-country Ebola response support beginning August 2014. Since that time, CDC has deployed over 650 personnel to Sierra Leone to provide expertise, laboratory support, data collection, and assistance to the National and District Ebola Response Centers. CDC’s laboratory tested over 22,000 samples or one-third of the total number of samples tested for Ebola. In conjunction with CDC, OFDA provided over $100 million in support for five Ebola Treatment Units, which treated over 1,500 patients. OFDA also provided medical and non-medical supplies including chlorine and personal protective equipment, support for quarantined homes and the reopening of schools, and training for health care workers on infection prevention and control procedures. Other U.S. Government agencies contributed emergency vehicles, laboratory support, public diplomacy messaging, and food assistance for affected areas.

Post-Ebola programming is aimed at strengthening the health care system, bolstering infection prevention and control procedures, and enhancing logistics and supply chain accountability. CDC, which is planning to staff a permanent office, will work closely with the government to set up a public health institute to enhance the government’s surveillance activities to better predict and combat Ebola, malaria and other diseases.  From 2014-2017, U.S. Mission partners comprised of the State Department, Department of Defense, USAID, CDC, Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation donated an estimated $600 million in the fight against Ebola for the emergency response and recovery in Sierra Leone.  

Other ongoing programs include support for trafficked persons, women’s empowerment, judicial strengthening, police training, agriculture development, and assistance for the military’s professionalization of peacekeeping operations and HIV/AIDS prevention. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is working with the government on developing a threshold program focusing on strengthening the regulatory environment for the water, sanitation, and power sectors. The Mission administers a small grants program for local communities.

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 John F. Hoover. 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: Sierra Leone
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 Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Millennium Challenge Corporation
Travel and Business Information