Sierra Leone (/siˌɛrə liˈoʊn, -ˈoʊni/, UK also /siˌɛərə-, ˌsɪərə-/), 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. It is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature, the Parliament. Its capital and largest city is Freetown (population 1,050,301). The second largest city is Kenema (population 200,354) located about 200 miles from Freetown. The country's other major cities with a population above one hundred thousand are Bo, Koidu Town and Makeni. 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. 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.
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. Upon Margai"s death in 1964, his party, The SLPP remained in power under his younger brother Albert Margai"s leadership until 1967 when the party lost the election to the main opposition APC. From 1967 to 1985, Sierra Leone was ruled by Siaka Stevens in an authoritarian style in which he was very intolerance of oppositions and critics of his government. Sierra Leone was a one party state from 1978 to 1985, in which Stevens" APC was the only legal political party in Sierra Leone. Stevens retired from politics after eighteen years in power; and he handed power to his personal hand picked successor retired Major general Joseph Saidu Momoh, a loyalist of Stevens, who headed the military under Stevens" rule. The current constitution of Sierra Leone, that include reestablished multi party democracy was adopted in 1991 by the government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, though it has been amended several times.
In 1991, a rebel group known as the Revolutionary United Front lead by former Sierra Leone army Corporal Foday Sankoh launched a brutal civil war against the Sierra Leone government. In 1992 the military toppled Momoh from power and the military held on to power until 1996 under Captain Valentine Strasser leadership. In 1996 Strasser was ousted from power by his deputy Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio. under the military government of Julius Maada Bio, multi party democracy and the 1991 constitution was reestablished. Brigadier Maada Bio also handed power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP after his victory in the 1996
From 1991 to 2002, the civil war devastated the country. The 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 Mende. The Temne are predominantly found in the northwest of the country, 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 nations 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.