An area of British influence from the late 18th century, the district around Freetown on the coast became a colony in 1807, serving as a centre for operations against slave traders. The large inland territory was not declared a protectorate until 1896. Sierra Leone achieved independence within the Commonwealth in 1961 but was suspended from the organization between 1997 and 2001 following military coups in 1992 and 1997
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