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 center for operations against slave traders. The large inland territory was not declared a protectorate until 1896. Sierra Leone achieved independence within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961 but was suspended from the organization in 1997 following military coups in 1992 and 1997. National elections were held in 2002, and UN peacekeepers withdrew in 2004, but the situation remained unstable
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