Sierra Leone (/siˌɛrə liˈoʊn, -ˈoʊni/, UK also /siˌɛərə-, ˌsɪərə-/)also known informally as Salone, among Sierra Leoneans in the Krio language officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the northeast, Liberia to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests. The country has a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and a population of 7,075,641 (based on the 2015 national census).It is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature known as Parliament.
Sierra Leone is made up of five administrative regions: the Northern Province, North Western Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area. These regions are subdivided into sixteen districts, Each district has its own directly elected local government, though with very limited powers, as most of the powers are held by the central government in Freetown. Freetown (population 1,050,301), located in the Western Area, is Sierra Leone’s capital and largest city. Kenema (population 200,354) is Sierra Leone’s second most populous city and is located in the east of the country, 200 miles from Freetown. The other three major urban municipal cities in the country are Bo, Koidu Town, and Makeni.
Sierra Leone became independent from the United Kingdom on 27 April 1961, led by Sir Milton Margai, who became the country’s first Prime Minister. The current constitution of Sierra Leone was adopted in 1991, though it has been amended several times. Since independence in 1961 to present, Sierra Leonean politics has been dominated by two major political parties; the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All People’s Congress.
From 1991 to 2002, the Sierra Leone Civil War was fought and devastated the country. The proxy war left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed and over two million Sierra Leoneans displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries. In January 2002, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah fulfilled his campaign promise by ending the civil war, with the help of the British government, the Economic Community of West African States (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 heavily impacted economic growth. The country has an extremely low life expectancy relative to other countries, 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 southeast. Comprising a small minority about 2% are the Krio people, who are descendants of freed African American and West Indian slaves. The Krios are overwhelmingly found in the capital Freetown and its surrounding countryside.
Although the English language is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, the Krio language, an English-based creole, 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 Muslim majority country, with the overall Muslim population at 78% ; though there is an influential Christian minority at 21%, mainly of various Protestant denominations, and a significant Catholic 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 very peacefully in Sierra Leone. Religious violence is very rare in the country. The major Christian and Muslim holidays are officially public holidays in the country, including Christmas, Easter, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. In politics, the vast 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 these natural wealth, 70% of its population 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.
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