Sierra Leone ( ( listen)), 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. 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 / parliament.
Sierra Leone is made up of five administrative regions: the Northern Province, Northwestern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area, which are subdivided into sixteen districts. Each district has its own directly elected local government, though with limited power, 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, largest city and its economic centre. Kenema, located 160 miles (260 km) from Freetown, is Sierra Leone's second largest city. Sierra Leone third largest city by population is Bo (population 175,000), located 140 miles from Freetown. Sierra Leone's fourth largest city is Koidu Town (population 126,000), located 270 miles from Freetown. Sierra Leone's fifth largest city is Makeni (population 126,000), located 85 miles from Freetown.
Sierra Leone became independent from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 27 April 1961, led by Sir Milton Margai who became the country's first Prime minister in a parliamentary government. Sierra Leone became a democratic republic on April 19, 1971 under president Siaka Stevens
From 1968 to 1985, Sierra Leone was ruled by Siaka Stevens of the All People's Congress, after he had narowly defeated Sir Albert Margai of the Sierra Leone People's Party In the 1967 Sierra Leone national elections. The APC dominated parliament of president Stevens declared Sierra Leone a one party state in 1978, and from 1978 to 1991, all other political parties including the main opposition SLPP were banned from holding political office throughout Sierra Leone.
The current constitution of Sierra Leone, which includes the reestablishment of multi party democratic system, was established in 1991 by the government of president Joseph Saidu Momoh, a hand picked successor of president Stevens, though the constitution has been amended several times since. At the start of the civil war, Momoh was ousted by the Sierra Leone military from power. The military held on to power for four years from 1992 to 1996. The military finally gave up power and returned the country back to a democratic government in 1996 under Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who was elected president with 59% of the votes and his political party, the Sierra Leone People's Party won majority of seats in parliament in the 1996 elections. Since independence to present, Sierra Leonean democratic politics has been dominated by two major political parties; the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the All People's Congress (APC).
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. Kabbah won reelection in the 2002 general election for his final term as president, with 70% of the vote. However, in the 2007 Sierra Leone presidential election, opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC party was elected president with 54% of the votes, he defeated the incumbent vice president Solomon Berewa of the ruling SLPP party.
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 significant minority are the Krio people, who are descendants of freed African American and West Indian / slaves.
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% of the population though there is an influential Christian minority of various denominations at about 21% of the population. 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. 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 overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans vote for a candidate without regard to whether the candidate is a Muslim or a Christian. Sierra Leone has a large population of people with more secular lifestyles, both Christian and Muslim.
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 population live in poverty.
Sierra Leone is a member of many international organisations, including the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union, the British Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Empire), the African Development Bank and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).