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The factors that determine Sierra Leone's foreign policy

Heart, Love, Flag, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone foreign policy refers to the external relationship the West African country has established and maintained with other countries, including their neighbours and those far away. After independence from Britain, their colonial masters, Sierra Leone adopted a political diplomacy to establish its political footprints on the world stage. Today, Sierra Leone is pushing economic diplomacy to develop its shattered economy after the protracted Civil War. Several factors have been identified which have influenced its foreign policy.

Economic reasons
One of the factors that determine the foreign policy of Sierra Leone is its quest for economic development. For that reason, there is so much effort directed toward economic diplomacy. After the devastating Civil War during which a lot of the country’s infrastructure was completely destroyed, the country needed to rebuild and fast too. This called for the attraction of money which the country did not have enough of. Sierra Leone’s foreign policy has been to attract foreign direct investment into the country. A case in point is the country’s relationship with China to bring in much needed cash. Between 2000 and 2011, China has injected so much money into the Sierra Leonean economy. For example, the granting of a debt relief of $22 million, the financing of the Charlotte Hydropower project and a concessional loan of $16.6 million to finance part of the Sierratel CDMA project.

Alliance and treaties
Another factor that has influenced the foreign policy of Sierra Leone are alliances and treaties. As a member of ECOWAS, Sierra Leone is a signatory to the ECOWAS Protocol and derives a lot of benefits from its membership of the West African Bloc. In fact, during the Civil War in Sierra Leone, the ECOWAS Monitoring Group was instrumental in restoring calm to the country. Sierra Leone is a signatory to other charters like that of the United Nations. Apart from these, the country also has other bilateral alliances with agencies of many other countries. For example, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are the agencies through which japan and South Korea respectively channel funds for specific projects in Sierra Leone.

Current internal factors
Also, the current internal situation of Sierra Leone has influenced its foreign policy. After the Civil War, most of the country’s economy was in shambles and needed to be revamped. There was a problem with internal security. There was a problem with how to deal with child-soldiers who had missed the opportunity to get a good education. There was the issue of getting the country's democratic credentials back on tract and to repair the various institutions of state. All these were injected into the foreign policy approach of the subsequent governments.

Sierra Leone Butterfly Insect Africa Flowe
Sierra Leone butterfly
Military factors were also key in the foreign policy of Sierra Leone. The country needed to rebuild its shattered army. Should the rebels be incorporated into the national army, how is the army going to be provided with the equipment needed to stand on its feet. The dire need for military hardware to protect the country was very instrumental in Sierra Leone foreign policy.

Common historical bonds
As a former colony of Britain, Sierra Leone was obliged to join the Commonwealth of Nations, which is made up of former colonies of the former British Empire. As a signatory to the treaty underlying the Commonwealth of Nations, Sierra Leone’s foreign policy is also geared toward meeting the requirements of membership as it relates to relationships with other countries.

The geographical location of Sierra Leone is also a major factor of its foreign policy. Sierra Leone is a member of the Mano River Union (MRU) which was created in 1973 but died and was only revived in 2008. It comprises Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. The Union was named after the Mano River which begins in the highlands of Guinea and forms a natural border between Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to information gathered about the Mano River Union, “The Organization aims to strengthen the capacity of Member States to integrate their economies and coordinate development programs in the areas of peace building, as a prerequisite to any development, trade promotion, development of industry, energy, agriculture, natural resources, transport and telecommunications, monetary and financial affairs in short, all aspects of economic and social life of the Member States. 

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