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Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It shares its south-eastern border with Liberia and is bordered by Guinea to the north. With a land area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq. mi), Sierra Leone has a tropical climate and with a variety of environments ranging from savannas to rainforests. According to the 2015 census, Sierra Leone has a population of 7,092,113, with Freetown serving as both the capital and largest city. The country is divided into five administrative regions, which are further subdivided into 16 districts.


Sierra Leone is governed as a presidential republic, with a unicameral parliament and a directly elected president. Sierra Leone is a secular state with the constitution providing for the separation of state and religion and freedom of conscience, encompassing freedom of thought and religion. Muslims constitute three-quarters of the population with a significant Christian minority. Notably, religious tolerance is very high, reflecting a social norm and part of the nation’s cultural identity.


Sierra Leone’s current territorial configuration was established by the British Empire through two historical phases: initially, the coastal Sierra Leone Colony was founded in 1808 to resettle returning Africans following the abolition of the slave trade; subsequently, the inland Protectorate was created in 1896 in the wake of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. This led to the formal recognition of the territory as the Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate, or British Sierra Leone. Independence from the United Kingdom was attained in 1961, with Sierra Leone transitioning into a Commonwealth realm as the Dominion of Sierra Leone under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).


Under prime minister Siaka Stevens of the All People’s Congress (APC), the country adopted a new constitution in 1971, transforming Sierra Leone into a presidential republic with Stevens as the inaugural president. After declaring the APC the sole legal party in 1978, Stevens was succeeded by Joseph Saidu Momoh in 1985. Momoh’s enactment of a new constitution in 1991 reintroduced a multi-party system. That year, a protracted civil war initiated, featuring the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, leading to significant turmoil. The conflict, characterized by multiple coups d’état, persisted for 11 years. Intervention by ECOMOG forces and later the United Kingdom resulted in the defeat of the RUF in 2002, ushering in a period of relative stability and recovery efforts. The remaining two main political parties are the APC and the SLPP.


Sierra Leone is a culturally diverse nation, home to approximately 18 ethnic groups, with the Temne and Mende peoples being predominant. The Creole people, descendants of freed African-American, Afro-Caribbean slaves and liberated Africans, constitute about 1.2% of the population. English is the official language, while Krio is the lingua franca, spoken by 97% of the population. The country is rich with natural resources, notably diamonds, gold, bauxite and aluminium. Sierra Leone maintains membership in several international organizations, including the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Commonwealth of Nations, among others.

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