Geography and climate
Sierra Leone is situated on Africa’s west coast, mostly between the latitudes of 7° and 10°N (with a tiny region south of 7°) and longitudes of 10° and 14°W. Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west border the nation.
Sierra Leone’s total area is 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi), split into 71,620 km2 (27,653 sq mi) of land and 120 km2 of water (46 sq mi). There are four different geographical areas in the nation. The plateau in eastern Sierra Leone is studded with high mountains, including Mount Bintumani, which rises to 1,948 meters (6,391 feet), the country’s highest peak. In the south of this area lies the upper portion of the Moa River’s drainage basin.
Sierra Leone’s central region is a lowland plains region with woods, bush, and agriculture that covers approximately 43 percent of the country’s geographical area. The World Wildlife Fund has classified the northern portion as part of the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic ecoregion, whereas the southern section is rain-forested plains and agriculture.
Sierra Leone has a 400-kilometer (249-mile) Atlantic coastline in the west, which provides abundant marine resources as well as great tourism potential. Low-lying Guinean mangrove swamps may be found along the coast. Freetown, the country’s capital, is located on a peninsula along the coast, adjacent to the Sierra Leone Harbour, the world’s third biggest natural harbor.
The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season, which runs from May to November, and the dry season, which runs from December to May and includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in from the Sahara Desert, and nighttime temperatures can drop to as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F). The average temperature is 26 degrees Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit), with temperatures ranging from 26 to 36 degrees Celsius (78.8 to 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year.
By the 1990s, economic activity had slowed and economic infrastructure had deteriorated significantly. The country’s civil conflict devastated most of the official economy during the following decade. Massive inflows of foreign aid have helped Sierra Leone begin to rebuild after the end of the war in January 2002.
Much of the recovery will depend on the government’s ability to curb official corruption, which many believe was the primary cause of the civil war. The efficiency of the government’s diamond industry management will be a crucial metric of success.
Unemployment is widespread, especially among the young and ex-combatants. Authorities have been sluggish to execute civil service changes, and the pace of the privatization initiative has slowed as well, despite donor pressure.
The leone is the local currency. The Bank of Sierra Leone is the country’s central bank. Foreign currencies may be exchanged at any commercial bank, recognized foreign exchange bureaux, and most hotels in Sierra Leone, which operate on a floating exchange rate basis. At Sierra Leone, credit cards are not widely accepted, but they are accepted in certain hotels and restaurants. In Freetown, ProCredit Bank has a few globally connected automated teller machines that take Visa cards.
Sierra Leone’s official population projection for 2013 is 6,190,280 people, with a growth rate of 2.216 percent per year. The country’s population is mainly youthful, with 41.7 percent of the population under the age of 15, and rural, with 62 percent of the population residing outside of cities. The population is growing increasingly urban as a consequence of migration to cities, with an estimated rate of urbanisation growth of 2.9 percent per year.
Sierra Leone’s population density varies considerably. The population density of the Western Area Urban District, which includes Freetown, the capital and biggest city, is 1,224 people per square kilometer. Koinadugu, the physically biggest district, has a considerably lower population density of 21.4 people per square kilometer.
English is the official language, and it is used in schools, government offices, and the media. The Sierra Leone Krio language (derived from English and numerous indigenous African languages, and spoken by the Sierra Leone Krio people) is the most commonly spoken language in the country. Because the Krio language is spoken by 90% of the country’s people, it unifies all of the country’s ethnic groupings, particularly in commerce and contact. In December 2002, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone designated Bengali as an honorary “official language” in appreciation of the contribution of 5,300 Bangladeshi soldiers to the UN peacekeeping mission.
Sierra Leone had 8,700 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2007, according to the World Refugee Survey 2008, released by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Over the course of 2007, almost 20,000 Liberian refugees went home willingly. Liberians made up almost all of the surviving refugees in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is nominally a secular state, although the country’s two major faiths are Islam and Christianity. Sierra Leone’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, and the government of Sierra Leone usually upholds this right and does not allow its abuse. The government of Sierra Leone is prohibited by law from creating a state religion.
Sierra Leone is a mostly Muslim nation with a sizable Christian minority. According to Pew Research Center estimates from 2010, 78 percent of Sierra Leone’s population are Muslims, mainly Sunni Muslims; 20.9 percent are Christians, mostly Evangelical Protestants; and 1% are Traditional African Religion or other faiths. According to the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, 77 percent of Sierra Leone’s people are Muslims, 21% are Christians, and 2% are traditional African religionists. According to a 2009 assessment, 71.3 percent of Sierra Leone’s population is Muslim, 26.7 percent is Christian, and 1.9 percent is either animist or has no religious views. The majority of Sierra Leone’s ethnic groupings, including the country’s two biggest ethnic groups, the Mende and Temne, are Muslim.
Sierra Leone is often recognized as one of the world’s most religiously tolerant nations. Muslims and Christians work together and communicate in a friendly manner. In this nation, religious violence is very uncommon. Even the country’s eleven-year civil war (1991–2002) had nothing to do with religion, and individuals were never targeted for their faith throughout the civil war. In politics, the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, regardless of their religious views, support candidates. Despite the fact that Muslims constitute the majority in Sierra Leone, the bulk of the country’s leaders have been Christians.
The Sierra Leone Inter-Religious Council, which is made up of Christian and Muslim religious leaders, works to promote peace and tolerance throughout the nation. Sierra Leone celebrates the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Maulid-un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) as national holidays, as do the Christian holidays of Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday, and Easter.
In reality, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Sierra Leone follow the Sunni ideology. There are large numbers of Ahmadi, non-denominational Muslims in Sierra Leone, as well as a small number of Shia Muslims. The majority of Islamic schools of thought in Sierra Leone are Sunni-based.
The United Council of Imams is Sierra Leone’s highest-ranking Islamic religious organization, made up of imams from all across the country. Shekh Alhaji Yayah Deen Kamara is the president of the United Council of Imam. The Freetown Central Mosque and the Ghadafi Central Mosque in Freetown are the two biggest mosques in Sierra Leone. Sheikh Alhaji Umarr S. Kanu, one of Sierra Leone’s most influential Sunni muslim scholars; Sheikh Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Sillah, the chief Imam of the Freetown Central Mosque and a highly influential spiritual leader of Shia Muslims in Sierra Leone; and Sheikh Alhaji Saeedu Rahman, the leader of the Shia Muslims in Sierra Leone, are among the most prominent Sierra Leonean muslim scholars and preachers.
The majority of Sierra Leonean Christians are Protestant, with the Wesleyan-Methodists being the biggest denomination.
Presbyterians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventist Anglicans, Lutherans, and Pentecostals are among the other Christian Protestant groups having considerable presence in the country. The Council of Congregations is a Christian religious organization in Sierra Leone made up of Protestant churches.
Non-denominational Christians make up a significant portion of the Christian community in Sierra Leone. Catholics make up the majority of Sierra Leone’s non-Protestant Christians, accounting for about 8% of the country’s population and 26% of the Christian population. The two most notable non-Trinitarian Christians in Sierra Leone are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who make up a tiny but substantial percentage of the Christian community. In the capital, Freetown, there is a tiny Orthodox Christian community.
Sierra Leone has about sixteen ethnic groupings, each with their own language. The Temne, with approximately 35 percent of the population, and the Mende, with about 31 percent, are the biggest and most powerful. The Temne people live mostly in Northern Sierra Leone and the regions around Sierra Leone’s capital. In south-eastern Sierra Leone, the Mende are the majority (with the exception of Kono District).
Temne is mostly Muslim, with just a tiny Christian minority. The Mende are mostly Muslim, with a sizable Christian minority. The rivalry between the north-west, controlled by the Temne, and the south-east, dominated by the Mende, is at the heart of Sierra Leone’s national politics. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is supported by the overwhelming majority of Mende, whereas the All People’s Congress is supported by the vast majority of Temne (APC).
The Mende, who are said to be descendants of the Mane, inhabited the Liberian hinterland at one time. In the eighteenth century, they started gently and amicably settling in Sierra Leone. The Temne are believed to have originated in Futa Jallon, which is now part of Guinea. Ernest Bai Koroma, the current president of Sierra Leone, is the first ethnic Temne to be elected to the position.
The Limba, who make up approximately 8% of the population, are the third biggest ethnic group. Sierra Leone’s Limba people are indigenous to the country. They have no known ancestors and are said to have existed in Sierra Leone since before the European contact. The Limba live mainly in Northern Sierra Leone, especially in the districts of Bombali, Kambia, and Koinadugu. Muslims and Christians are almost evenly split among the Limba. The Limba are strong political friends of the Temne, who they share a border with.
Along with the Mende, the Limba have had a strong influence on Sierra Leone’s politics since independence. The All People’s Congress (APC) is the political party supported by the overwhelming majority of Limba. Siaka Stevens and Joseph Saidu Momoh, Sierra Leone’s first and second presidents, were both ethnic Limba. Alfred Paolo Conteh, Sierra Leone’s current Defense Minister, is of Limba ethnicity.
The Fula, who make up around 7% of the population, are the fourth biggest ethnic group. They are descendants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Fulani migrant immigrants from Guinea’s Fouta Djalon region, and they reside mainly in Sierra Leone’s northeast and west. The Fula are almost entirely Muslim. The Fula are mostly merchants, and many of them live in middle-class households. Fulas may be found in almost every region of the nation as a result of their trade.
The Mandingo are the other ethnic groupings (also known as Mandinka). They are descended from Guinean merchants who arrived in Sierra Leone in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Mandika are mostly located in the country’s eastern and northern regions. They are concentrated in the country’s major cities, including Karina in the Bombali District in the north, Kabala and Falaba in the Koinadugu District in the north, and Yengema in the Kono District in the east. The Mandinka, like the Fula, are almost entirely Muslim. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Sierra Leone’s third president, and Sorie Ibrahim Koroma, Sierra Leone’s first vice president, were both Mandingos.
The Kono, who reside mainly in the Kono District of Eastern Sierra Leone, come in second in terms of population. The Kono are descendants of Guinean migrants, and their employees are mostly diamond miners today. The Kono ethnic group is mostly Christian, with a significant Muslim minority. Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, Sierra Leone’s current Vice-President, is of Kono ethnicity.
Approximately 3% of the population are Krio descendants (descendants of liberated African American, West Indian, and Liberated African slaves who arrived in Freetown between 1787 and about 1885). They mostly live in Freetown, the capital, and the neighboring Western Area. Krio culture reflects the Western culture and values from where many of their ancestors came; they also maintained strong connections with British authorities and colonial government throughout the development years.
The Krio have long controlled Sierra Leone’s judiciary and the elected city council in Freetown. They have historically been selected to posts in the public service, starting during the colonial years, being one of the first ethnic groups to get educated according to Western norms. They continue to wield power in the government. The overwhelming majority of Krios are Christians, although there is a sizable Muslim population.
The Kuranko, who are connected to the Mandingo and are mostly Muslims, are another minority ethnic group. Around 1600, the Kuranko are said to have arrived in Sierra Leone from Guinea and settled in the north, especially in the Koinadugu District. The Kuranko are mainly farmers, and several of their leaders have held high military posts in the past. Kaifala Marah, Sierra Leone’s current Finance Minister, is of Kuranko descent.
The Loko of Sierra Leone’s north are indigenous people who are said to have resided in the country since the arrival of Europeans. The Loko, like the neighboring Temne, has a Muslim population. The Susu and their Yalunka relatives are merchants who live mainly in the extreme north, in the Kambia and Koinadugu Districts, near to Guinea’s border. The Susu and Yalunka are both descendants of Guinean migrants and are almost entirely Muslim.
The Kissi reside in the south-eastern part of Sierra Leone, farther inland. They are mostly found in the Kailahun District’s major town of Koindu and its neighboring regions. Kissi Christians make up the overwhelming majority of the population. The Vai and Kru peoples live mainly in the Kailahun and Pujehun Districts, close to Liberia’s border. In the capital Freetown’s Kroubay neighborhood, the Kru are the majority. The Vai are mostly Muslim, while the Kru are predominantly Christian.
The Sherbro are located on the seashore in the southern district of Bonthe. They are Sierra Leoneans who have lived on Sherbro Island since its inception. The Sherbro are mainly fishermen and farmers who live largely in the Bonthe District. The Sherbro are almost entirely Christian, and its paramount rulers have a long tradition of marrying British colonists and merchants.
A tiny percentage of Sierra Leoneans are of Lebanese origin, descended from merchants who arrived in the country in the 19th century. Sierra Leonean-Lebanese is their native name. The Sierra Leonean-Lebanese population is mainly made up of merchants who reside in middle-class families in metropolitan areas such as Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Koidu Town, and Makeni.