Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north-east, Liberia to the south-east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south-west. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Sierra Leone has a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and a population of 7,075,641 (based on 2015 national census).
Sierra Leone is officially comprises of four geographical regions: the Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area, which are subdivided into fourteen districts.
Freetown (population 1,050,301), located in the Western Area, is the capital, largest city and its economic and political centre. Bo (population 306,000), is the second largest city, and is located in the Southern Province, about 160 miles from Freetown. Kenema (population 200,354), located in the Eastern Province, is the third largest city and is about 190 miles from Freetown. Koidu Town (population 128,074), located in the Eastern Province, is the fourth largest city, and is about 275 miles from Freetown. Makeni (population 126,058), located in the Northern Province, is the fifth largest of Sierra Leone”s five major cities, and is about 85 miles from Frertown.
Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. Sierra Leone became an independent Nation on 27 April 1961 from Britain, led by Sir Milton Margai, who was elected by landslide as the first prime minister of the new nation under parliamentary government.
The current constitution of Sierra Leone was adopted in 1991 during the presidency of Joseph Saidu Momoh, though it has been amended several times. Since independent to present, Sierra Leone politics has been dominated by two major political parties; the Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP) and the All People’s congress (APC). The current president of SIerra Leone is Ernest Bai Koroma, a member of the APC party, who was elected in 2007 and won reelection for his final term as president in 2012.
From 1991 to 2002, the Sierra Leone civil war was fought and devastated the country. This proxy war left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries. In January 2002, then Sierra Leone’s president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, fulfilled his campaign promise by ending the civil war, with help by the British Government, ECOWAS and the United Nations.
More recently, the 2014 Ebola outbreak overburdened the weak healthcare infrastructure, leading to more deaths from medical neglect than Ebola itself. It created a humanitarian crisis situation and a negative spiral of weaker economic growth. The country has an extremely low life expectancy at 57.8 years.
About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. The Temne are predominantly found in the north of the country, while the Mende are predominant in the south-east. Although English is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, the Krio language is the most widely spoken language across Sierra Leone and is spoken by 97% of the country’s population. The Krio language unites all the different ethnic groups in the country, especially in their trade and social interaction with each other.
Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country, though with an influential Christian minority. Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully. Religious violence is extremely rare in the country. In politics, the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans vote for a candidate without regard to whether the candidate is a Muslim or a Christian.
Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold, and has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone is home to the third-largest natural harbour in the world. Despite exploitation of this natural wealth, 70% of its people live in poverty. Sierra Leone is a member of many international organisations, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Development Bank, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.