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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sierra Leone

There was a time, not so long ago, when Sierra Leone attracted some 100,000 tourist arrivals a year, mainly Europeans. They came to enjoy the country’s unique natural beauty, to sit on secluded white sandy beaches, to climb through unspoilt rainforests and to wade through refreshing waterfalls.In some ways, nothing has changed. The people are still as receptive as ever to outsiders and the landscape remains a lush tropical paradise. Yet most of the visitors have now gone because of the former war, and much of the tourism infrastructure needs rebuilding after years of conflict. Sierra Leone emerged from a decade of civil war in early 2002, with the help of the UK, the former colonial power, and a large United Nations peacekeeping mission. More than 17,000 foreign troops disarmed tens of thousands of rebels and militia fighters in the biggest UN peacekeeping success in Africa for many years.The government is starting from scratch, going back to basics to entice foreign travellers to return to this small corner of Africa. A new tourism development act has been put in place, modelled after the one in the Gambia. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture is looking to create a solid and stable tourism climate, highlighting the country’s unique cultural diversi