Sierra Leone (, UK also ), 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. It 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 as of the 2015 census. Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. Sierra Leone has a dominant unitary central government. The country's capital and largest city is Freetown (population 1,050,301). The second most populous city is Kenema (population 200,354) located 200 miles from Freetown. Sierra Leone is made up of five administrative regions: the Northern Province, North West Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area. These regions are subdivided into sixteen districts, which are further divided into 190 chiefdoms.Sierra Leone was a British colony from 1808 to 1961. 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. In May 1962, Sierra Leone held its first general elections as an Independent nation, and Sir Milton Margai"s Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won most seats in parliament. The main opposition leader Siaka Stevens" All People's Congress (APC) defeated the ruling SLPP under Sir Albert Margai"s leadership in the closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone parliamentary election. Stevens ruled Sierra Leone from 1968 to 1985. While in office, Stevens suppressed oppositions and critics of his government. In 1971, Stevens abolished Sierra Leone"s parliamentary government system and declared Sierra Leone a presidential republic. In July 1975, Over a dozen senior military and government officials convicted of planning to overthrow president Stevens, were executed. Sierra Leone was a one party state from 1978 to 1985, in which Stevens" APC was the only legal political party in the country. The current constitution of Sierra Leone, that includes multi party democracy was adopted in 1991 by the government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, Stevens' hand picked successor.
In 1991, a rebel group known as the Revolutionary United Front led by former Sierra Leone army Corporal Foday Sankoh launched a brutal civil in the country. In April 1992 a group of Junior military officers toppled Momoh from power and a twenty-five year old Captain Valentine Strasser became the head of State. In January 1996 Strasser was toppled from power by his deputy Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio. Bio returned the country to multi party democracy and the 1991 constitution was reestablished. Bio handed power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP after his victory in the 1996 Sierra Leone presidential election. In May 1997, the military overthrew president Kabbah. However, in February 1998, a coalition of West African Ecowas armed forces lead by Nigeria removed the military Junta from power by military force and president Kabbah was reinstated as president. In 1998, the leaders of the coup were executed after they were convicted and sentenced to death by a court martial in Freetown. Sierra Leone has had an interrupted democracy since 1998 to present. In January 2002, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah fulfilled his campaign promise by officially ending the civil war as the rebels were defeated by military force with the help and support of Ecowas, the British Government, the African Union, and the United Nations.
About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and Mende. The Temne are predominantly found in the northwest of the country, and 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 English is the official language, used in schools and government administration, Krio, 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.
Sierra Leone is a Muslim-majority country, with the overall Muslim population at 78%; though there is an influential Christian minority at 21%. Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant states in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other very peacefully, and religious violence is very rare. 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 this natural wealth, 53% of its population lived in poverty in 2011. 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.