Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi) and has a population estimated at 4.2 million. The country is a former British Colony and is now a constitutional republic comprising three provinces and the Western Area, which are further divided into fourteen districts.
The country has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests. Freetown is the capital, largest city and economic center. The other major cities are Bo, Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni. English is the official language, spoken at schools, government administration and by the media. However, the Krio language (a language derived from English and several African languages and native to the Sierra Leone Krio people) is the most widely spoken language in virtually all parts of the country. The Krio language is spoken by 97% of the country's population and unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. Despite its common use throughout the country, the Krio language has no official status.
The years after Doomsday saw a seemingly endless series of dictators rise to power, only to be deposed very quickly (sometimes within hours of taking power) by the equally weak successor. In 1990 the APC managed to seize control of the government, and a tyrannical rule that would last about a decade started.
In October 2000, due to mounting pressure from both within and outside the country for political and economic reform, President Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission's recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by the exclusive APC Parliament by a 60% majority vote, becoming effective on October 1, 2001. By November 2001, political opposition became active once again in Sierra Leone. In late November 2001, President Momoh proposed a multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in the country in October 2002.
There was great suspicion that president Momoh was not serious about his promise of political reform, as APC rule continued to be increasingly marked by abuses of power. The APC was also alleged to have been hoarding arms and planning a violent campaign against the opposition parties ahead of multi-party general elections scheduled for late 2002. Several senior government officials in the APC administration like Dr. Salia Jusu Sheriff, Dr. Abass Bundu, J.B. Dauda and Dr. Sama Banya resigned from the APC government respectively to resuscitate the previously disbanded SLPP. While other senior government officials like Thaimu Bangura, Edward Kargbo and Desmond Luke resigned from the APC and formed their own respective political parties to challenge the ruling APC.
Civil war broke out, mainly due to government corruption and mismanagement of diamond resources and abuse of power by various governments since independence from Britain (Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Report). There was savage fighting in most cities of the nation, with city blocks being repeatedly gained and lost by both sides. After six years of brutal fighting, the war was over. The tyrannical President Momoh was seized by his own exhausted forces and court martialled. He was found shot in his cell before the verdict could come out.
Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The current system of government in Sierra Leone, established under the 1991 Constitution, is modeled on the following structure of government: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
Within the confines of the 1991 Constitution, supreme legislative powers are vested in Parliament, which is the law making body of the nation. Supreme executive authority rests in the president and members of his cabinet and judicial power with the judiciary of which the Chief Justice is head.
The president is the head of state, the head of government and the commander-in-chief of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Sierra Leone Police. The president appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers, which must be approved by the Parliament. The president is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two five-year terms. The president is the highest and most influential position within the government of Sierra Leone.
The Military of Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), are the unified armed forces of Sierra Leone responsible for the territorial security of Sierra Leone's border and defending the national interests of Sierra Leone within the framework of its international obligations. The armed forces were formed after independence in 1961, on the basis of elements of the former British Royal West African Frontier Force present in the country. The Sierra Leone Armed Forces currently consist of around 15,500 personnel, comprising the largest Sierra Leone Army, the Sierra Leone Navy and the Sierra Leone Air Wing. The president of Sierra Leone is the Commander-in-Chief of the military, with the Minister of Defence responsible for defense policy and the formulation of the armed forces. The current Sierra Leone Defense Minister is Ret. Major Alfred Paolo Conteh. The Military of Sierra Leone also has a Chief of the Defence Staff who is a uniformed military official responsible for the administration and the operational control of the Sierra Leone military. Brigadier General Alfred Nelson-Williams who was appointed by president Koroma succeeded the retired Major General Edward Sam M’boma on 12 September 2008 as the Chief of Defense Staff of the Military.
Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas.
Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top ten diamond producing nations in the world. Mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export.
Annual production of Sierra Leone's diamond estimates range between 250–300 million ANZC pounds. Some of that is smuggled, where it is possibly used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. Formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil war with efforts to improve the management of them having some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities' stake in the legal diamond trade.
The Sierra Leoneans have established strong relations with the West African Union. However, they have been refused entry into the organization due to the continued political instability following the civil war. It is slowly fading, but will take at least another couple of years to fade sufficiently enough for the Sierra Leoneans to join the WAU.